Mykhailo Mudryk, formerly of Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk, has joined English club Chelsea for a transfer fee of $108 million. The 22-year-old Ukrainian international has joined on a seven-year contract. Despite the low perception of the Ukrainian league, Mudryk impressed in the UEFA Champions League, scoring thrice and assisting twice in six matches.
There are numerous intriguing elements in this deal. For months, it seemed that Mudryk was destined to go to Arsenal, a rival of Chelsea. He posted pictures of himself watching Arsenal games on his Instagram story numerous times in an attempt to get Shakhtar to let him leave the club. Fans and commentators alike believed that was destined to play for the Gunners. Yet, just a day before the transfer occurred, rumors circulated that Chelsea was outbidding Arsenal. They ended up winning the race, and a quickly contrived announcement post was made on Chelsea’s social media pages.
Interestingly, of the $108 million fee that Chelsea paid, the Shakhtar Donetsk President, Rinat Akmethov, donated $25 million to fund the war effort against the Russian invasion. Some critics believed that ‘politics must be kept out of football’ and decried the exorbitant fee as a political gesture by Shakhtar. Mudryk is one of the latest of Chelsea owner Todd Boehly’s shopping spree since he came to own the club in May 2022. Boehly has spent over $739 million on numerous players, with Mudryk being the second most expensive player, just after Enzo Fernandez from Benfica, who cost a Premier League record fee of $130 million.
This has led many to accuse Chelsea of breaking Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules. These rules were set in place so that a club could not suddenly outspend its competitors. While on the surface it appears that Chelsea is doing exactly that, Boehly has cleverly structured these contracts to be lengthy so that the upfront cost is minimal, sidestepping the guidelines. The contracts last for up to nine years in the case of Mudryk; however, with the prevalence of transfers, it is unlikely that all of Chelsea’s new recruits will stay for the entire contract length.
It is yet to be seen if UEFA will restructure FFP to prevent such loopholes that Chelsea exploited. In Mudryk’s first appearance, he was widely praised for his energy and skill. Fans can only speculate about the long-term success of this stunning move.