New Escape Routes as Cole Palmer transfer value gives smart FFP escape routes

New Escape Routes as Cole Palmer transfer value gives smart FFP escape routes

Tim Sherwood was slammed just three weeks ago for his comments about Cole Palmer and Chelsea. Given that Mykhailo Mudryk, Nicolas Jackson, and Malo Gusto had all just stood out alongside the former Manchester City academy ace during a 3-2 win over Newcastle, they seemed misjudged and misguided to the point of offensive.

Palmer’s response mirrored his play: measured, calm, but with a sense of arrogance and knowing. “Yeah, there is a lot of quality there,” he said, shrugging off a surprise gambit from his interviewer like he would roll a tackle on the right wing. “Not just me. We have got loads of other players but hopefully, the team can gel a bit more.”

Against Burnley on Sunday Palmer would have been justified in wishing that there was a bit more quality around him. Chelsea played like a side full of Enzo Fernadez’s. The Argentine had arrived back in the country from the international break less than two days before the game and did so having jetted across the world to get there off the back of two high-altitude 90-minute matches.

That he was unable to carve open even a 10-man Burnley side is unsurprising. The worry is that Palmer and his teammates played with a different level of arrogance here. Whilst Chelsea’s players struggled to bring themselves to speed with the reality that they were about to drop points in the most embarrassing fashion possible, Palmer channelled that in the right way.

His outlook was to take advantage of the quality advantage on show, firing in shots at every opportunity, creating angles, floating crossing, seeking passages through the block and playing ambitious passes to express superiority and make it count. Those around him often looked to be sitting back, waiting for the side in 19th to implode, to hand the game over. Chelsea were the side that collapsed, yet again.

This has been the difference between Palmer and those he lines up with. Never afraid to take the ball or to try something spectacular, Palmer is looking to seek control of every situation rather than wait for it. At Manchester City there would be less tolerance for the long-range missiles he darts in, or the third attempt at a wonderball. At Chelsea, it is a genuine tactic.

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It’s a big reason why he has already bettered the first league seasons of both Eden Hazard and Juan Mata at Stamford Bridge. The pair of attackers are the gold standard for signings at the club in the past 15 years and took to life in England quickly. Mata recorded six goals and 13 assists in a stellar first season that included him winning the Champions League and club player of the year.

His overall campaign ended in 12 goals and 20 assists in all competitions from over 4,000 minutes. Palmer will do well to match that given he has just 10 league games and a maximum of two FA Cup fixtures left, but his impact has been undoubted. In the league, his 13 goals and eight assists is more than Mata or Hazard managed.

For £47.5million he is already looking a bargain and the sort of player that others must strive to match. As for Hazard, his debut campaign output has also been matched in the league. Nine goals and 11 assists from 2,700 minutes, Palmer is on course to go comfortably beyond that.

Without European football, he won’t be able to beat the sheer volume, but in terms of what he has done and how quickly it has happened, Palmer is currently above this pair. That is not to do any more than read numbers from a sheet, but the role Palmer already has even as a 21-year-old is both mesmerising and worrying.

“When you see the team struggle to find solutions, they give the ball to him to solve,” Pochettino admitted on Saturday. A credit to Palmer but not so much on his expensively assembled teammates. They cannot help the transfer value placed on them by the club but performances nevertheless remain inconsistent and often lacking.

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It is telling that other than Palmer, Gusto, and Djordje Petrovic – three of the more measured, relatively cheap, and successful additions – nobody’s transfer value is judged to have risen according to Transfermarkt. A simple tool that doesn’t reflect the real state of the market, the optics do reflect reality.

When Chelsea signed Palmer he was valued at around £15million by the stats site, an indication of the surprise when he cost triple that to bring in as a player without much experience. The quality was always there though, and it didn’t take Palmer long to become a mainstay.

The value has unsurprisingly gone through the roof since. By October and his first goals for the club it had risen to £25million. In December it was at £40million and now it is at £46million, basically equal to his true cost.

Palmer’s value will continue to shoot up as well. As he makes this team his own he is being viewed now as one of the very best despite his mid-table standing at Chelsea. CIES Football Observatory makes him the joint most highly valued player in the world born in 2002 – along with Jeremy Doku, Eduardo Camavinga, and Pedri.

Of those younger than Palmer only Jude Bellingham and Jamala Musiala are valued greater. It says a lot that the number on this site is at £85million. There is already an increasing feeling that Chelsea are lucky to have him.

They were fortunate to have Mata and Hazard too, special players after all, but had the weight of league titles and top-level competition to back it up. And this is the thread that leaves Chelsea fans proud but also scared of what is to come.

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How long can they reasonably hope to keep Palmer if results don’t improve? Currently, he is on a long-term contract that could keep him at SW6 until 2031 – “sign him up for eight more years,” the Chelsea fans sing – but that isn’t a defining factor.

The club have made their stance that everyone is available for sale very clear. There is a price on each player, from Conor Gallagher to Reece James, there will be no exceptions. This is how clubs make money and flip players. When the financial reaper is at the door there are only so many options. So when a sizeable offer or interest comes for Palmer, how do Chelsea react?

Nobody in the squad signed up to the coaching changes that have plagued the past two years or the lack of European football. There was no expectation that 28 games into this term they would be 11th. There is a feeling that Palmer is revelling despite Chelsea, not because of them.

If that is the case, and it would be only natural for a player of his quality and ambitious mindset to have even drifting thoughts of this, then keeping him won’t be as simple as it seems. At some point there will need to be help on the pitch.

Whether that is coming from significant individual development from his teammates, sheer time under Pochettino, or another coaching change finding the answer, if Chelsea wish to retain their prize asset then tangible improvement will be needed.

Either way, Chelsea have seen Palmer’s value extend beyond what they have paid for him. There is now an avenue for profit if they do receive an offer for him in line with his elevated standing in the coming seasons. That’s a financial boost for the owners but won’t come as much of a softening blow for those who see him as part of the next great team.

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