Chelsea made a loss of almost £100 million ($130 million) last year despite owner Roman Abramovich pouring nearly a quarter of a billion pounds into the Premier League club, their figures for 2018/19 released on Tuesday show.
Amongst their expenditure was yet another payout to a sacked manager — this time £26.6 million to Italian Antonio Conte.
The 50-year-old — who is now at Inter Milan — had a year left on his contract when he was fired just a season after guiding them to the Premier League title.
“Exceptional items in the current year of £26.6million relate to changes in respect of the men’s team management and coaching staff, together with associated legal costs,” read Chelsea’s latest set of published accounts, for the year ending June 30, 2019.
The club has spent £90 million in compensation to Conte and his predecessors since Abramovich took over in 2004.
Conte was replaced by compatriot Maurizio Sarri, who left the club for Juventus in the summer of 2019, one year into a three-year contract.
The club also invested £280.6m in their playing squad during 2018-19, with the acquisitions of Kepa Arrizabalaga, Christian Pulisic, Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho all included in their latest figures.
In all Abramovich, who has at times been rumoured to be disenchanted and looking to sell, put in £247 million of his own money over the course of the year — ending in June 2019 — with the club still ending £96.6m in the red.
However, their sale of Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard to Real Madrid for 100 million euros last summer should make the next set of accounts happier reading, especially as the outgoings of the club in the most recent close season were zero thanks to a transfer ban.
That has since been lifted allowing manager Frank Lampard to invest in the transfer market in January.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hit back at criticism of his management style from former Red Devils striker Robin Van Persie, saying: “I’m not in medieval times.”
The Dutchman felt Solskjaer appeared too upbeat in the aftermath of the 2-0 defeat to Arsenal on New Year’s Day that left United five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea in the Premier League.
Van Persie said Solskjaer “seems like a really nice guy” but that the Norwegian needed to be more “mean at times” and “more angry” and added: “You need to have fear as well for your coach.”
Solskjaer, who is also having to handle fresh speculation surrounding the future of star midfielder Paul Pogba, said Van Persie was not in a position to judge his methods.
“I don’t know Robin and Robin doesn’t know me,” he said ahead of his side’s FA Cup third-round tie away to Wolves.
“He probably doesn’t have a right to criticise my management style and I won’t change. That’s definite. Robin took my number 20 (shirt) and that’s probably all he’s going to take from me as well. Because I’m not in medieval times.”
The “medieval times” remark was perceived to be Solskjaer defending his man-management methods, which appear far removed from the more autocratic approach of his old United boss Alex Ferguson.
Solskjaer was also asked about criticism of the club in general from Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola.
The Italian is reported to have told La Repubblica he would stop sending his clients to United, saying they would “ruin” even a great player.
Coming in the context of a fresh injury setback for Pogba, who will be out for three to four weeks after surgery to remove bone fragments from his ankle, the comments have been interpreted by some as Raiola seeking to engineer a move away from Old Trafford for Pogba.
“Paul Pogba is our player and agents are hired by players, not the opposite way around. It’s not ‘agents’ players’, it’s ‘our players’,” said Solskjaer.
“What me and Paul are talking about I don’t have to talk to you about. That will be between us.”
United travel to Molineux on Saturday to take on the team that knocked them out in last season’s quarter-finals.
Aston Villa goalkeeper Tom Heaton and forward Wesley have been ruled out for the rest of the season, the Premier League club announced on Friday.
Record signing Wesley and Heaton were injured during the New Year’s Day 2-1 win at Burnley.
It has since been confirmed that both players have suffered knee ligament damage and Heaton appears certain to miss England’s Euro 2020 campaign.
Heaton, 33, and Wesley were both in their first seasons as Aston Villa players following their summer arrivals from Burnley and Club Brugge.
Wesley 23, has scored six goals in 22 appearances in all competitions and earned himself a call-up to the Brazil squad.
Villa boss Dean Smith will hold transfer talks with chief executive Christian Purslow after losing the players.
“We’ve got business planned, that’ll continue, I’m sitting down tonight with Christian and (sporting director) Suso to see what this changes for us. It’ll hasten what we do in the market,” said Smith, ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup third-round trip to Fulham.
“The recruitment side won’t change from what we were looking at before.”
Villa are currently 17th in the Premier League, just one point clear of the relegation zone.
The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) should only overturn on-field decisions when there has been a “clear and obvious” error, according to one of football’s leading international rules officials.
VAR has proved highly controversial since it was introduced into the Premier League this season.
A particular source of concern has revolved around offside calls.
Last weekend saw Norwich, Brighton, Sheffield United, Wolves, Brighton and Crystal Palace all have goals disallowed by marginal VAR rulings amid doubts over whether the available technology is accurate enough to make such fractional calls.
Players and managers have also questioned whether the system should not be used to reverse an on-field decision that appears correct to the naked eye, a view that received support on Monday from the general secretary of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) — the sport’s ultimate rule-making body.
Lukas Brud, while not addressing specific incidents in English football, said IFAB guidance advises VAR should only be used to correct clear errors also applied to offside.
“Clear and obvious still remains — it’s an important principle,” Brud said in comments reported by the British media.
“There should not be a lot of time spent to find something marginal.
“If you spend minutes trying to identify whether it is offside or not, then it’s not clear and obvious and the original decision should stand,” he added.
Wolves captain Conor Coady was frustrated when his side were denied what seemed a legitimate equaliser just before half-time against runaway league leaders Liverpool on Sunday when Pedro Neto’s effort was chalked off because wing-back Jonny was deemed to be offside in the build-up.
Wolves eventually lost 1-0 at Anfield and Coady told the BBC afterward: “A lot of people are going to tell me that they have come to the right decision and they might have. But what is it, an armpit that’s offside, or a toe, or something like that?”
Meanwhile, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder was annoyed after VAR denied his side a goal against champions Manchester City — the fifth time it has happened to the Blades this season.
“Yet again we had another goal disallowed by VAR,” he said.
“That’s about eight or nine over the weekend, this is not a situation helping the game.”
Even City manager Pep Guardiola, whose side won 2-0, said VAR was “a big mess”, with the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss adding: “Hopefully next season it can do better.”
But the introduction of VAR into Scottish football cannot come quickly enough for Glasgow giants Rangers.
Sunday saw Steven Gerrard’s side win 2-1 away to arch-rivals and reigning champions Celtic as they moved to within two points of the Scottish Premiership leaders.
Gers boss Gerrard’s lone criticism of referee Kevin Clancy centered on the official not sending off Celtic defender Christopher Jullien in added time in an incident that saw Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos see red for a second yellow card.
Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson, while insisting he was not criticising referees, said Monday the pace of the modern game made it “extremely difficult to make split-second calls with the degree of certainty required”.
He added: “We believe the introduction of VAR would help referees enormously and reduce the number of wrong decisions which sometimes have a dramatic effect on the outcome of matches.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists the European champions must build on a “brilliant” 2019 to turn a 13-point lead at the top of the table into a first Premier League title in 30 years.
Klopp’s men were not at their flowing best and needed the help of two VAR reviews to continue their relentless march towards the title with a 1-0 win over Wolves on Sunday.
Liverpool have now won 18 of their first 19 league games of the season and lost just once in the calendar year in the league, on top of winning the Champions League, Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup.
“2019 was brilliant but it’s not important because we count seasons, not years, so the 2019/20 season is not over,” said Klopp.
“We are halfway there, we still have 19 games to play and probably 18 or 19 of them will be like this tonight, for different reasons.
“Who cares about points in December? We just created a basis which we will work with from now on, that’s all.”
Fuming at VAR
Wolves were angry even before the VAR controversies as the Premier League Christmas scheduling meant they travelled to Anfield just 45 hours after a thrilling 3-2 win over Manchester City.
In the match they were left fuming at the two calls that went against them in quick succession towards the end of the first half.
Mane swept home his 14th goal of the season from Lallana’s knockdown with his shoulder and referee Anthony Taylor’s initial decision was overturned.
However, Wolves were unhappy that another claim for handball against Virgil van Dijk earlier in the move was not checked.
Wolves’ frustration was compounded in first-half stoppage time when Pedro Neto’s equaliser was ruled out.
Jonny was adjudged to be offside by the tiniest of margins in the build-up to add to a number of Premier League goals over the past two days ruled out for the most marginal of offside calls.
“Anfield is amazing but they were celebrating a non-goal. It doesn’t make sense. The referee should sustain his decision,” said Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo.
“The VAR referee is miles away taking decisions on a lot of things happening here. Who is inside the game? Who feels the intensity and the flow? The referee here.”
Nuno was booked among the Wolves protestations, but the Portuguese coach’s decision to start with top scorer Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore on the bench meant he had weapons up his sleeve come the second half.
Traore’s pace was unleashed on the hour mark and Jimenez followed shortly after, but only after Diogo Jota’s fierce strike forced Alisson Becker into a smart save.
The visitors had lost just once in their previous 14 league games to move into contention for a top-four finish and they did not go down without a fight in the final stages.
“If it would be easy to win that number of games a lot more teams would have done it,” added Klopp.
“It is not easy and you have to fight with all you have. Sometimes we have more and sometimes less and the boys do that all the time, so I couldn’t be more proud of what they did again. To get that result over the line is just impressive.”
Jimenez had the best chance to claim an equaliser, but was denied by a block from Joe Gomez before Joao Moutinho, Romain Saiss, Ruben Vinagre and Traore all fired off target.
Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford scored late in each half as Manchester United moved into fifth place in the Premier League with an impressive 2-0 win at Burnley.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have responded positively to disappointing 2-0 defeat to then bottom-of-the-table Watford less than a week ago to head into the new year with fresh belief they can secure a return to the Champions League next season.
If United are to achieve that goal, Martial and Rashford will be key and they again provided the goals for the Red Devils in a game of few clear-cut chances.
There were also positives for Solskjaer at the back as his side ended a club-record 14-match run without a Premier League clean sheet.
Burnley have not beaten United since 2009 and never looked likely to spring a surprise.
Rashford was first to threaten when he hit the outside of the post midway through the first half.
But Burnley were architects of their own downfall just before half-time when Charlie Taylor gifted possession to Andreas Perreira and he fed Martial to score his third goal in two games.
Phil Bardsley forced David De Gea into a fine save with Burnley’s only shot on target.
United finally got the second goal their performance deserved to add a shine to the scoreline deep into stoppage time.
Daniel James led a counter-attack down the right and Rashford slotted home his 16th goal of the season at the second attempt after slipping as he rounded Nick Pope.
A much-changed Leicester bounced back from a Boxing Day thrashing by Liverpool to beat West Ham 2-1 on Saturday as Tottenham’s charge towards the Premier League top four stalled in a 2-2 draw at Norwich.
Leicester had taken just one point from their previous three games to realistically end an unlikely title challenge, but remain second best in the table behind runaway leaders Liverpool after ending a three-game winless run.
Brendan Rodgers made nine changes to the side outclassed by the European champions two days ago with Jamie Vardy among those missing due to the birth of his daughter.
Kelechi Iheanacho and Demarai Gray made the most of their chance for a rare Premier League start by scoring either side of half-time, although Gray also saw an early penalty saved by Lukasz Fabianski.
The Foxes move 10 points behind Liverpool having played two games more and stretch their lead over Manchester City in second to four points.
Pablo Fornals levelled for the Hammers just before half-time, but they remain just one point above the relegation zone after a seventh defeat in nine games.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insisted he had never lost faith in Roberto Firmino when the Brazilian was worried by a lack of goals before scoring four in three matches including the Club World Cup final.
Firmino, known affectionately to Klopp as Bobby, met with Klopp after a worrying run of one goal in 16 appearances.
But the German told Firmino he was in the side for more than just his goals, since when he’s been on a spree.
FHe followed up his goals in the semi-final and final of the Club World Cup with a Boxing Day double in the Premier League leaders’ 4-0 rout of nearest challengers Leicester City.
Firmino’s goals against the Foxes led to an embrace with Klopp on the touchline at Leicester’s King Power Stadium.
“Journalists told me he hadn’t scored for a while, but the thing about Bobby is that I don’t think about scoring,” Klopp explained.
“I think about how important he is, so we had a little talk and I told him. For the first time he was a little bit concerned about that fact (he had not scored in so many games), and I told him I was not interested in that number.
“He is the connector for our team, he is so important for us. He is the only one who can play the position, and he plays the position in a very special way.
“He doesn’t have to come (for a hug) with every goal, but this time we had a little thing where, after being calm enough to leave him on the pitch in games that I never thought about (his lack of goals), he thought he would say thank you.”
Liverpool, bidding to be crowned English champions for the first time in 30 years, are 13 points clear at the top after thrashing Leicester.
They have now extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to 35 matches, with Liverpool’s last loss in the top flight a 2-1 defeat by Manchester City on January 3.
Liverpool stretched their Premier League lead to 13 points by outclassing second-placed Leicester in a 4-0 win on Boxing Day as Manchester United and Tottenham cut the gap on fourth-placed Chelsea.
Mikel Arteta got off to an underwhelming start as Arsenal manager with a 1-1 draw at Bournemouth, but Carlo Ancelotti had a more positive impact on his Everton bow as Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s brilliant diving header earned a 1-0 win over Burnley.
Chelsea beat Tottenham in a big win for Frank Lampard over his former mentor Jose Mourinho on Sunday, but the gap between the two is back down to three points as the Blues lost 2-0 at home to lowly Southampton.
Spurs came from behind to beat Brighton 2-1 thanks to goals from Harry Kane and Dele Alli, while United moved just a point further back in seventh as they too overturned a poor start to thrash Newcastle 4-1 with Anthony Martial scoring twice.
Liverpool lay down a marker
Liverpool’s trip to their closest challengers was the top billing of a busy Boxing Day card, but there was no contest as the newly crowned world champions showed their class.
Roberto Firmino’s header was scant reward for a dominant first half display as Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah wasted big chances.
However, three goals in seven minutes in the final quarter ensured the scoreline fairly reflected their control.
James Milner doubled the visitors’ lead before Firmino’s classy finish made it 3-0.
Trent Alexander-Arnold helped set up all of his side’s first three goals and rounded off a stunning individual display by drilling home the fourth from outside the box.
Tottenham, Man Utd close on Chelsea
After the highs of Sunday, Chelsea again struggled when faced with breaking down stubborn defensive opponents in Southampton.
The Blues have now lost to West Ham, Bournemouth and the Saints in their last four home league games.
“We are being asked a different question at home. At the moment we are not answering them,” said a frustrated Lampard. “We do not manage to pick up that final pass.”
Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl’s decision to rest in-form talisman Danny Ings paid off as his replacement Michael Obafemi scored just his second Premier League goal with a calm finish into the top corner.
The visitors then secured a second straight win to move up to 14th when Nathan Redmond prodded past the onrushing Kepa Arrizabalaga 17 minutes from time.
Spurs were still feeling the after-effects of that Chelsea defeat with Son Heung-min suspended and confidence low when Adam Webster headed Brighton ahead midway through the first half.
Kane swept home at the second attempt after his first shot was saved by Mat Ryan before Alli then delivered all three points with a delightful chipped finish from an acute angle.
“It’s an unbelievable finish,” Kane said admiringly of Alli’s winner. “The ball is cut back to him, comes to hit Kieran – rounds him so quickly and it’s a kind of scoop over the goalkeeper – it’s fantastic.”
United were also beaten 2-0 at bottom-of-the-table Watford on Sunday and another frustrating evening seemingly beckoned when Matty Longstaff scored his second Premier League goal – both of which have come against the Red Devils.
However, unlike when the Magpies beat Ole Gunnar Solskajer’s men 1-0 in October, the response from United was emphatic.
Martial fired in at the near post with the help of Newcastle ‘keeper Martin Dubravka before a thundering finish from Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford’s header made it 3-1 before the break.
Another defensive error then teed up Martial to dink over Dubravka for the fourth early in the second half.
Arteta’s slow start
Arteta got an early lesson in the flaws that have blighted Arsenal’s season as they were caught out trying to play from the back to concede the opening goal when Dan Gosling put Bournemouth in front.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang again rode to the Gunners’ rescue to equalise just after the hour mark, but a point leaves Arsenal still down in 11th.
“It was intense, I was so excited, I just wanted to pass that energy to the players and I really enjoyed it,” said Arteta.
Sheffield United are sixth, behind Tottenham only on goal difference, as they missed the chance to close to within a point of Chelsea in a 1-1 draw with Watford.
Gerard Deulofeu gave the Hornets an early lead, but that was quickly cancelled out by Oliver Norwood’s penalty.
Crystal Palace climbed up to eighth thanks to Jordan Ayew’s brilliant individual run and finish a minute from time to beat West Ham 2-1.
Aston Villa won the battle of two of the bottom three as Conor Hourihane’s fine strike was enough to beat Norwich 1-0.
Liverpool have made winning trophies a habit in 2019 and Jurgen Klopp’s side return to England and to their push for the Premier League title galvanised after being crowned world champions in Qatar on Saturday.
It is an honour the Anfield side had never before claimed but which is now theirs after Roberto Firmino’s extra-time goal secured a 1-0 victory over Flamengo in a hard-fought Club World Cup final in Doha.
The latest piece of silverware is Liverpool’s third in little over six months after they won the Champions League in June and began this season by winning the UEFA Supercup on penalties against Chelsea.
“The year 2019 for the club has been outstanding,” said defender Virgil van Dijk.
“But we shouldn’t be satisfied with it. We should keep going, keep striving for more, and keep wanting more trophies.”
Van Dijk returned against Flamengo after illness kept him out of the 2-1 semi-final victory against Monterrey and that determination to be back playing summed up Liverpool’s attitude towards the competition.
The Club World Cup is not held in the highest regard in Europe, coming in the middle of a busy club season.
That is in contrast to South America, with Flamengo’s huge support in Doha showing just how much Saturday’s game meant to them.
“It might have been different had we got beat, then maybe some people would have said we were wasting our time or whatever,” acknowledged Andy Robertson.
“But for us even if we did lose it was all worthwhile because we had a chance to win a trophy that the club had never won before.”
He added that “2019 has been incredible, we have won three trophies and hopefully in 2020 there is a couple more for us.”
Liverpool will continue their defence of the Champions League with a last-16 tie against Atletico Madrid in February, and host local rivals Everton in the FA Cup third round on January 5.
However, the Premier League is the one they really have in their sights as they seek a first English title since 1990.
As well as the trophies in 2019, Klopp’s team have not lost a league game since their very first outing of the year, at Manchester City. They have won 25 and drawn one of their last 26 in the Premier League.
There was more good news for them on Saturday as nearest rivals Leicester City lost 3-1 at Manchester City, leaving Liverpool 10 points clear at the top with a game in hand.
Klopp’s squad have little time for celebrations, however, as they return to England to prepare to visit Leicester on Thursday.
But while a week in Qatar might have seemed like an unwanted distraction for some in a busy schedule, Klopp was keen to point out that his team have still played the same number of games as their challengers.
“If we hadn’t played here tonight we would have played at West Ham, so the same number of games, the same situation, and the difference is the climate, even if it was not as warm as probably Europeans would have expected at the moment,” said the German.
“It is still something we have to adapt to. But that is the only thing that is special, so it’s all good, and we need to make sure that we come home safely, and recover in the plane already, and then prepare the Leicester game.”
With several players already out, however, the downside was seeing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain go off hurt in the second half against Flamengo, and the midfielder may be set for another spell on the sidelines.
“When he was landing he got a kick and rolled over. It is far away from being perfect, but we will see if the ligament is only stretched, or ruptured partly,” Klopp said.
“It’s a big shadow again but that’s how it is in a contact sport.”
Manchester City hit back to beat Leicester 3-1 as the champions kept alive their faint hopes of catching Premier League leaders Liverpool, while Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta got a glimpse of the problems that lie ahead as Everton and Arsenal shared a dreadful 0-0 draw on Saturday.
City have been left trailing in Liverpool’s wake this term and a defeat against second-placed Leicester would have been a fatal blow to their bid for a third successive title.
But goals from Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus gave Pep Guardiola’s side a win that moved them within 11 points of Liverpool, who don’t play this weekend due to their involvement in the Club World Cup.
Jamie Vardy had punished City’s defensive weakness against the counter-attack with a breakaway opener in the 22nd minute.
But former Leicester winger Mahrez equalised with a deflected 30th-minute effort and Gundogan stroked home a 43rd-minute penalty after Raheem Sterling was tripped by Ricardo Pereira.
Jesus extended third-placed City’s lead from Kevin De Bruyne’s cross in the 69th minute to leave Leicester 10 points behind Liverpool.
Liverpool, chasing a first English title since 1990, have a game in hand to bolster their lead and also face Leicester on Boxing Day.
Elsewhere, former Napoli boss Ancelotti was confirmed as Everton’s new manager on Saturday morning, 24 hours after Arteta left his role as Manchester City assistant coach to take charge of Arsenal.
Both bosses were in the Goodison Park stands with Duncan Ferguson and Freddie Ljungberg in temporary charge of Everton and Arsenal for the final time.
And the lack of confidence of two sides struggling at the wrong end of the table was obvious in a match completely devoid of quality.
A point leaves Arsenal 11th and the Gunners have now won just once in their last 13 games in all competitions.
Everton move up to 15th but are only four points clear of the relegation zone.
Ferguson’s role in Everton’s impressive victory over Chelsea and draw at Manchester United in their last two league games was enough to ensure the Scot a role in Ancelotti’s backroom staff.
“What a fantastic performance we put in. I couldn’t have asked for any more from them, they’ve been incredible for me,” Ferguson said.
On Ancelotti, Ferguson added: “A guy of that pedigree coming here, I can’t wait to start working under him.”
Ljungberg, meanwhile, looks set to remain on the Gunners’ coaching staff and the Swede said: “I’ve been told by the club that they want me to stay.
“I was very happy. We put a very young side on the pitch and gave them a chance.”
– Saints alive –
Southampton climbed out of the relegation zone at the expense of Aston Villa, who have now lost their last four league games.
Danny Ings struck for Southampton in the 21st minute at Villa Park, the in-form striker pouncing after Shane Long’s shot was saved to net his 12th goal of the season and his sixth in his last seven games.
Jack Stephens doubled Southampton’s lead 10 minutes later with a header from James Ward-Prowse’s corner.
Ings wrapped up Southampton’s first win in three games when he punished Marvelous Nakamba’s poor defending in the 51st minute.
Jack Grealish’s fine 75th-minute strike was no consolation for Villa, who sit three points behind Southampton.
Despite having two goals ruled out after VAR reviews, Sheffield United climbed to within one point of the top four as Oli McBurnie’s 23rd-minute strike clinched a 1-0 win at Brighton.
Wolves moved into sixth place as they fought back for a 2-1 win at second-bottom Norwich.
Miguel Almiron bagged his first Premier League goal at the 27th attempt to seal Newcastle’s 1-0 win against Crystal Palace, before the Paraguayan earned a buzz-killing booking for taking off his shirt to celebrate the 83rd-minute strike at St James’ Park.
Jay Rodriguez’s 89th-minute goal handed Burnley a 1-0 win with their first shot on target at Bournemouth.