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Abramovich conspiracy? Forget that. We now know what's driving this Chelsea overhaul

COMMENT: Ah, so that's it...? This Chelsea. This newChelsea. The clearout. The overhaul. It's not about a new owner's ego. There's no conspiracy. Instead, the reason is simple. It's cold. Cynical. It's all about cash...

For this column, the more you hear from these owners, the less you want to. These guys aren't sportsmen, let alone football men. Chelsea FC is just an asset. A commodity. To gut. To exploit. They're not involved for the experience. For the competition. It's just profit. That's it.

Jose Feliciano was at it again this week. To be fair, the Clearlake co-owner gives us more on the motivations of these owners than his partners, Behdad Egbali and Todd Boehly. Every few months he pops up at a function or a grand get-together and let's it all hang out - just as he did in Paris at a private equity conference.

"We're taking a little bit of pain upfront," Feliciano admitted to attendees, stating the obvious.

"We have bought an asset that is very coveted by many other potential buyers," he added, before the kicker: "Ultimately, we are extremely aligned with that supporter and fan base because the best way to make our club more valuable is to win."

Such a claim, for this column, sums it all up. Indeed, it's a struggle to understand why such people get involved in football. This is basic stuff. You're in the game to compete. To win. It should be in your bones. Your DNA. Instead, to claim the sole motivation to win was to make the club more valuable does suggest that if the opposite were true, they'd do the same. As we say, it's all about money.

Which is where it really hit the fan as Feliciano expanded on their plans for the wage bill: “I think what we are trying to do is reduce the salary and essentially the opex [operating expenses] of the business by over $100m (£80.6m) per year."

Currently Chelsea's spend on player salaries stands at £150m annually. In other words, after the dismantling of the club's Champions League winning team over the past year, more departures are in the works. And - if Feliciano is in-sync with his partners - they'll be in the multiples. A further halving, or more, of their current wage-bill.

How do Chelsea compete with such a plan? Well, they don't. Indeed, afford us a little chuckle when considering the behind-closed-doors reaction to the Saudi Pro League's emergence this summer. You can bet Feliciano and co didn't see that coming. Yeah, they took advantage by sending the likes of N'Golo Kante and Edou Mendy on their way. But competing for talent at the elite end of the market - which is where Chelseashould be mixing - has just become even more difficult. Gabri Veiga is proof of that. But again, if we're to take Feliciano at face value, then Chelsea - at that level - will no longer be a presence.

Is this why Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia made the move to Stamford Bridge - and not Declan Rice? Is it why Dusan Vlahovic was rejected when offered by Juventus last month? Transfer fees. Huge transfer fees. Well that's one thing. But massive wages, particularly for the contract lengths Chelsea have been insisting upon, well that's a different investment altogether.

This column has long dubbed it 'a light touch'. That's all that was needed when Boehly and co were handed Chelsea over a year ago. A senior squad full of Champions League winners. An academy production line which had produced many of those European title holders. All that was needed for the team, for the club, was a 'light touch'. A slight change here. A quiet addition there. Just improve steadily, gradually, on what they had inherited from 20 years of Roman Abramovich's investment.

Yet, they chose to rip it all up. Start again. Players. Coaches. Staff. People at the peak of their careers. At the peak of their industry. They were all jettisoned. As Asmir Begovic, the former Chelsea goalkeeper, stated just last week, "For me it's odd, the whole thing is very odd... Honestly, I mean in the last 12 months… what has happened at Chelsea football club? It just beggars belief."

And it did. And it still does. But the conspiracy that the new board wanted to rid the club of every sign or memory of Abramovich can perhaps now be put to bed. Of course, given the way the club has been overhauled, such theories can gain traction.

But if we're to take on-board Feliciano's claims in Paris, it's actually more cynical than that. It's just money. Asset value. And for these owners it's placed above all other things. If losing games meant Chelsea's value increased, do you really think this lot would change course?

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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