Chelsea F.C. have been in a major rut as of late and were handed a bigger blow on Friday when FIFA ruled that the club had violated youth player rules and would be banned from signing new players for the next two transfer windows.
The ban means that Chelsea would not be able to sign new players until the summer of 2020.
For fans of the United States men’s national team, the obvious question is: How does this affect the transfer of Christian Pulisic, who was sold to Chelsea this January for a fee of $73 million, and is scheduled to join the club this summer?
Let’s dive into it all.
What rules did Chelsea break?
Chelsea was found guilty of violating FIFA rules regarding the signing of underage players. This was a rule introduced last year, but Rule 19.1 of FIFA’s transfer rules states clearly “International transfers of players are only permitted if the player is over the age of 18.” There are exceptions if parents move to a country for non-soccer reasons or have citizenship there, but international signings of minors is no longer supposed to be allowed.
Chelsea apparently did not take this rule change seriously, and is accused of violating this rule with the cases of 29 minor players. They say most of these violations were with players on short-term trials and were not actually signed, but FIFA apparently didn’t buy that excuse.
What the transfer ban means
Chelsea can not buy or sign new players until the summer of 2020. They can, however, release players or bring back players that are out on loan.
This could prove huge for Chelsea, as the club has made a habit of signing young players and sending them out on loan, and there is plenty of talent that they own playing elsewhere they can bring back into the fold to add depth to their roster. This includes USMNT defender Matt Miazga, who is currently out on loan at Reading.
Chelsea can appeal this decision as well, though it’s not clear yet if they will.
Can they still sign Christian Pulisic?
Yes. The transfer of Pulisic is a done deal. Right now he is technically owned by Chelsea and is being loaned back to Borussia Dortmund, a creative bit of business that allows him to delay joining Chelsea until the summer.
His signing might also point to Chelsea expecting this FIFA decision to come. Their hurried buying of him in the January window might have been a move they wanted to get in before a potential transfer ban.
Is this good or bad for Pulisic on the field?
Who knows? If Chelsea don’t appeal, it might bode well for Pulisic in that the club will almost be forced to be patient with him.
The club has notoriously not waited around long for young talent to develop, either choosing to loan players out or sell them off. This cutthroat approach has yielded good results with some players, but also resulted in a world where Chelsea once had Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Mohamed Salah, and Felipe Luis all on the books, among many other big name players, and decided all were surplus to requirements. That’s a staggering amount of talent to no longer have.
With a transfer ban, Chelsea might just have to give Pulisic the time to adjust to the Premier League and find his stride. There’s still enough talent within the vast Chelsea loan network to push him and challenge him, but Chelsea will be eager to hold on to the players it has for the next year and a half, and Pulisic will be a part of their plans.
What will determine his future more, I would argue, is whoever is the manager for Chelsea. It doesn’t look like it will be Maurizio Sarri for long.