Chelsea are facing the prospect of having to sell off one of their biggest stars if, as expected, they miss out on Champions League football next season, according to the Telegraph.
The Blues could still qualify for the competition by winning it, but the chance to qualify by conventional means – finishing in the Premier League's top four – is almost completely gone.
From a footballing perspective, it is manageable – they are unlikely to lose many fans and their global brand will be generally unaffected so long as they return for the 2017/18 season – but from a financial standpoint, it could be a nightmare.
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They will miss out on at least £40million in revenue, leaving them in a battle to balance to books and satisfy Financial Fair Play regulations. As a result, it leaves them vulnerable to sizeable offers for their best players.
Europe's elite will take full advantage of the situation by launching bids for the likes of Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois, both of whom have been courted by Real Madrid and/or Barcelona in the recent past. Diego Costa could be given the chance to return to La Liga with Atletico Madrid keeping a close eye on the situation.
Chelsea have found themselves in this precarious position because officials failed to insert clauses into player contracts that would see their wages automatically drop if they failed to qualify for the Champions League.
Such a clause is standard practice at Arsenal, for example, but Chelsea opted for a straightforward model, meaning most players earn the same regardless of where they finish. That means Eden Hazard would stay on a full £200,000-a-week even if European football is completely absent next season.
Pressure to sell
While Chelsea would not be under pressure to sell on the cheap, it would leave them unable to resist offers that they deem to be of good value. That explains why they sold Ramires for a reported £25m earlier this week.
For Hazard, that means a bid in the region of £80m is likely to be accepted. That one sale would be enough to balance Chelsea's books for the entire season, but it would, of course, see their best player leave for good.