Chelsea have reached a verbal agreement to sign Joao Felix on loan from Atletico Madrid for the remainder of the season, per David Ornstein of The Athletic. Arsenal had also been linked to a move for the out-of-favor Portuguese attacker but were reportedly put off by Atleti’s high loan fee demands on top of the requirement to cover his significant wages.
The Blues will pay nearly £10M for the loan plus £5.3M in salary for Felix. That’s less than the £18.6M Atleti were reportedly seeking but not by much. The Spanish side are undoubtedly trying to recoup as much of the club record £110M+ transfer fee they paid for Felix in 2019. They seem to have found a willing stooge in new Chelsea owner Todd Boehly, who is desperately trying to spend his way into relevance. The Blues are said to be negotiating for an option to buy in the move.
It’s quite the outlay from Boehly for a rental player who, while supremely talented and capable of the sublime, has had an inconsistent season and has clashed with his manager.
The L.A. Dodgers owner seems to be bringing U.S. sports strategies to the Premier League — longer contracts, rental players, etc. It remains to be seen whether those tactics work or if there is a reason you don’t see them in football. You’d think that if there was an edge to be gained by making relatively simple changes to how a club does business, somebody would have figured that out already.
It’s disappointing that Arsenal couldn’t have negotiated a better deal out of Atleti than the one Chelsea managed. Joao Felix undoubtedly would have helped the Gunners in their title push. But that large of a loan fee plus £350K per week in wages doesn’t make sense for the club. Arsenal have worked diligently under Edu and Mikel Arteta to spend wisely and get the wage bill under control. A loan move for Felix flies in the face of both of those squad-building accomplishments / aims.
From a footballing perspective, the move would have made more sense for Arsenal than it does for Chelsea. Felix would have helped shore up the Gunners’ attacking options with Gabriel Jesus on the shelf recovering from knee surgery. Felix provides a lot of the things that Jesus does — dropping deep to link up the play, combination passing in the attacking third, and scoring. He’s a bit more creator and a bit less finisher than the Brazilian, but you’re never going to find two players who bring exactly the same thing.
Felix doesn’t really fit with Chelsea’s attacking setup. Graham Potter has plenty of options but has yet to find the right formation and combinations to get the most out of what he has. Kai Havertz and Mason Mount are both guys who play centrally, score some goals, but aren’t really center forwards. Felix adds to the confusion more than he solves any of Chelsea’s problems.
Arsenal’s number one target in the January transfer window has been and remains Mykhaylo Mudryk. Edu and Mikel Arteta know they need attacking reinforcements to make a push for the Premier League title in the second half of the season. Hopefully they can make something happen. It just won’t be a loan for Joao Felix.