How every player sold in Chelsea’s £230m fire sale is faring now - including Real Madrid star and Man Utd flop
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A slightly stuttering start to the season means the new-look Chelsea haven’t looked all that different from the old one yet – and while it’s too early to judge Mauricio Pochettino’s team after a summer which saw a massive clear-out of old hands, we can at least see how smart most of those transfers look based on how former players are getting on at their new clubs.
No fewer than 17 senior players moved on from Stamford Bridge to pastures new, excluding loanees returning to their parent clubs like João Félix. Some were veterans reaching the natural end of their careers, or at least their primes, while others were in what should be their best years - and in total the sales raised around £230m to fuel Todd Boehly’s latest spending spree. So how are they performing, and were Chelsea right to let them all go? Let’s take a quick look at what all of Chelsea’s former players are up to now…
Ethan Ampadu – Leeds United
Highly touted as a teenager, Wales midfielder Ampadu failed to do enough in a string of loan spells at RB Leipzig, Sheffield United, Venezia and Spezia to convince the Stamford Bridge hierarchy that he was worth keeping around for the long term, and was sold to Leeds – where he’s immediately established himself as a key player, starting every match in the Championship and doing a great job of replacing Tyler Adams. Leeds are currently in the play-off places and Ampadu has been one of their steadiest and most effective players – it will be a while before we know whether Chelsea should have given him more of a chance, but so far he’s looked like a very effective player in the second tier.
Kepa Arrizabalaga – Real Madrid
One of the summer’s most surprising departures, Kepa has got off to a good start to life at Real Madrid, keeping five clean sheets in nine matches and boasting a very solid save percentage of 76% in La Liga. He has already displaced Thibaut Courtois from the line-up, seemingly for good, and hasn’t made any major errors as yet – and he’s bettering Robert Sánchez by most statistical metrics, although Chelsea’s new stopper is better at dealing with crosses at least. A slightly strange move that doesn’t seem much more sensible after a couple of months.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Marseille
Now 34, the Gabonese international had a torrid time during his brief spell at Chelsea and it was no shock that he was let go – and he hasn’t really provided much of an argument against his departure in France, scoring just once in eight Ligue 1 appearances. Some mitigation may be provided by the fact that his club is going through a very difficult time on and off the field, but the honest truth is that a once excellent player is probably just over the hill at this point.
César Azpilicueta – Atlético Madrid
Another veteran getting a little long in the tooth, Azpilicueta has started five La Liga games for Diego Simeone’s side and has been solid but unspectacular so far. All the indications are that one of Chelsea’s best defenders of the Premier League era still has something to offer a top club, but isn’t the dominant force that he once was. At 33, Chelsea perhaps said farewell at the right time, but the persistent injuries sustained by Reece James suggests that he would still have been a very useful squad player if he’d stayed.
Tiemoué Bakayoko – Lorient
It was hard to make a case for keeping Bakayoko back in the summer, and it isn’t any easier now. The midfielder has played just 45 minutes for his new Ligue 1 side, although a lack of match fitness makes up a large part of the reason. The underlying numbers behind his one half of football against Lyon suggest a distinctly average showing.
Kai Havertz – Arsenal
He may have scored the winner in a Champions League final, but the German had struggled for some time before being sold for £65m to Arsenal, and it’s increasingly looking like an excellent piece of business. Havertz has returned just one goal (from the penalty spot) and one assist in the Premier League for his new side and has not showed many signs of returning to the form that made him one of the hottest properties in the Bundesliga a few years ago.
Callum Hudson-Odoi – Nottingham Forest
Former England international Hudson-Odoi’s sale owes more to a string of serious injuries than any fault of his own, and while he enjoyed an outstanding debut against Burnley he hasn’t hit the same high notes since, failing to make much of a dent in his next three games. There have been flashes of the young tyro he once was, but he clearly needs more game time in his boots. It’s too early to judge, of course, but with his fitness issues you can understand Chelsea preferring to move on.
N’golo Kanté – Al-Ittihad
Now 32, Kanté has, unsurprisingly, quickly established himself as one of the best players in the Saudi Pro League, dominating games with his usual boundless energy and outstanding reading of the game – capping his form with an excellent 20-yard goal against Al-Fateh. Chelsea probably didn’t have a say in re-signing him once the Saudi money was on the table, but it looks like they maybe should have extended his stay at Stamford Bridge while they had the chance.
Kalidou Koulibaly – Al-Hilal
Koulibaly started well at Chelsea, scoring an outstanding goal against Spurs, before tailing off badly – few were especially sad to see the former Napoli man leave. He’s in the Saudi Pro League as well, now, and has been playing pretty well all told but hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. He did at least bag a goal against Al-Shabab recently. Signing him in the first place looks like a far worse decision than selling him on so far.
Mateo Kovačić – Manchester City
The combative Croatian hasn’t really hit his stride at City yet, and while he’s performed perfectly adequately for the most part he hasn’t replicated the attacking threat of the departed Ilkay Gündoğan, whose boots he was largely meant to fill. Probably should have been sent off at Arsenal, as well. Still, the £25m Chelsea got for him looks a little light, especially considering how little depth the Blues have in midfield right now.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek – AC Milan
Another player who could have been useful depth for Chelsea at the very least. He’s only played the full 90 minutes once in Milan, against Cagliari when he scored a screamer, and has generally been tidy, hard-working, but not especially effective. He’s playing at an 82% pass completion rate and losing the ball 7.6 times per game in Serie A, a relatively mediocre performance statistically. Still, the estimated £14m sale price doesn’t seem like much money for a player who could at least have done a job at multiple positions.
Romelu Lukaku – AS Roma
Lukaku tends to be unplayable one season and unwatchable the next, but he seems to like Serie A – since completing his move to Roma, he’s bagged five times off an xG of 2.53 in six league matches, added a couple more in the Europa League and been one of the best players in an underperforming team. It is, after all, Mourinho’s third season in charge, so we know what that means. Lukaku’s departure is of course a financial disaster for Chelsea, but understandable from a purely footballing perspective based on his previous struggles in West London. Would he have played this well again in the Premier League? We’ll probably never know.
Edouard Mendy – Al-Ahli
Mendy has had one or two really bad days at the office since moving to Saudi Arabia, especially when he shipped four goals against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr. There have been some better showings in the mix as well, but two clean sheets in nine games is probably not an unfair reflection of how he’s been going. Letting Kepa leave may well have been a mistake, but there is increasing evidence that Mendy may have lost a step or two.
Mason Mount – Manchester United
If Erik ten Hag ever plays Mount in a position he’s comfortable in, we might get a better idea of whether his departure is a good thing or not for Chelsea – as it stands he’s had a tough time adapting to life playing in a central midfield role at a club with a laundry list of problems. Yet to impress and yet to be played in the kind of areas he has thrived in in the past. A strange transfer all round, as it stands.
Christian Pulisic – AC Milan
Pulisic has had an up-and-down start to life in Milan, but the ups have been pretty impressive – he’s already bagged four goals from an xG of just 1.64 and added an assist as well. Playing mostly on the right wing, rather than on the left where Chelsea fans would be accustomed to seeing him, he started with goals in his first two games, went quiet for a bit, then bagged again in his most recent outings against Lazio and Genoa. Plenty of flashes of the talent that has made him America’s most popular player, but not yet the consistency that Chelsea fans badly wanted from him during his time in London.
Baba Rahman – PAOK Salonika
We’d be lying if we said we’d watched much Greek Superleague football this season, so we’ll have to go on the numbers for this one – and they’re very respectable for a left-back, albeit at a lower level compared to the Premier League. Probably a very decent player for PAOK, probably not good enough for Chelsea, although any fans from Thessaloniki who wish to contradict us are very welcome to do so.
Hakim Ziyech – Galatasaray
Ziyech has only managed three matches for the Turkish side so far thanks to a couple of injuries, so we can’t really pass judgement on whether the 30-year-old still has enough about him to have done a job at Chelsea. He did score a cracking left-footed volley against Istanbul Basaksehir, but until he’s played a full 90 minutes we’ll have to reserve judgement. Given that Paris Saint-Germain wanted him back in January, one would assume that he still has something about him.