Alamy Stock Photo Chelsea manager Frank Lampard reacts during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg.
talking point
Toothless Chelsea's €350 million worth of benchwarmers says it all
A season of chaos and excess for the English side effectively ended on a fitting note tonight.

A LOOK AT Chelsea’s bench tonight provided a telling reminder of how badly mismanaged the club have been of late.

An astounding €357.2 million (going by reported transfer fees) worth of superstars were held in reserve.

The following 12 players featured among the substitutes: Raheem Sterling (€54 million), Christian Pulisic (€65 million), Denis Zakaria (€33 million), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (homegrown), Joao Felix (€10.2 million), Mykhailo Mudryk (€100 million), Édouard Mendy (€25 million), Carney Chukwuemeka (€22 million), Mason Mount (homegrown), Hakim Ziyech (€40 million), Cesar Azpilicueta (€8 million) and Lewis Hall (homegrown).

The likes of Benoit Badiashile (€37 million),  Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (€11 million) and David Fofana (€11 million) were not even deemed worthy of inclusion in Chelsea’s 25-man Champions League squad, while Kalidou Koulibaly (€37 million) missed out through injury.

It has been well-documented that Chelsea have spent over €600 million in the past two transfer windows alone, yet just three of the countless players recruited since the Todd Boehly era began last May made the starting XI this evening — Wesley Fofana (€85 million), Marc Cucurella (€68 million), and Enzo Fernández (signed for a British transfer record of €121 million),

Instead, the English club largely relied on a mixture of homegrown talent (Conor Gallagher, Trevoh Chalobah, Reece James) and players whose time at the club even preceded Frank Lampard’s first spell in charge (N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovačić, Kepa Arrizabalaga).

BT Sport noted that Chelsea’s starting XI had managed 17 goals between them this season — less than a third of the 53 goals Erling Haaland has registered in all competitions since the start of the campaign — the perfect metaphor if any were needed of the stark contrast between how two of English football’s biggest clubs have been run behind the scenes in recent times (albeit there are lingering questions over the legality of City’s methods utilised in rising to the top).

And despite the two-goal deficit they required to rescue from the first leg, Chelsea’s approach was as tentative as their highly conservative lineup suggested — Kai Havertz as the lone forward with Kante and Gallagher the most advanced players behind him suggested a team afraid of getting beat rather than one going for broke in their last truly important game of the season.

While Chelsea did keep Madrid’s star-studded attack relatively quiet in the first half apart from one gilt-edged chance missed by Vinícius Júnior as the 22-year-old Brazilian failed to properly connect with Luka Modruic’s inch-perfect cross, it wasn’t until the 44th minute that Chelsea themselves created a clear-cut opportunity that Cucurella failed to convert.

Frank Lampard’s men did carve out some chances after the break, but it was hardly a night that saw their former goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois unduly tested.

The Blues, at last, unleashed the cavalry in the 67th minute, as Mudryk, Sterling and Felix replaced Gallagher, Fernandez and Cucurella.

However, by then, the hosts faced a near-impossible task, as Madrid led by three goals on aggregate, as Chalobah failed to show the appropriate cynicism and chop down the onrushing, counter-attacking Rodrygo and was duly punished as the youngster opened the scoring moments later following a return pass from Vinicius.

18th-april-2023-stamford-bridge-chelsea-london-england-champions-league-football-quarter-final-second-leg-chelsea-versus-real-madrid-chelsea-owner-todd-boehly-in-the-directors-box-before-the Alamy Stock Photo Chelsea owner Todd Boehly in the directors box before the game Alamy Stock Photo

Once that goal was scored, the tie was effectively over and the arrival of a second Madrid goal to put the icing on the cake was hardly a surprise.

Chelsea were in disarray long before the final whistle — as they have been for much of this season — and Madrid’s supreme confidence was signalled by the fact they were comfortable taking off Ballon D’Or winner Karim Benzema as early as the 71st minute.

With the Blues already out of both domestic cup competitions and a top-four finish no longer viable as they sit in 11th with seven dead rubbers to play, the remainder of the season looks set to be a painful slog for their coterie of beleaguered flops.

It was claimed Frank Lampard had nothing to lose by taking the manager’s job on a temporary basis, but the club legend will not have done his reputation any favours by presiding over this masterclass in incompetence led by Boehly and co.

For Chelsea, it seems, a new season, a new coach, and perhaps a new spending splurge can’t come soon enough.

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