Welcome to the Soft Cap – Summer Shopping for Manchester City, United, and Chelsea

Matthew Lewis

Starting next season, English Premier League teams are limited to salary increases of £4M/£8M/£12M over the next three seasons. This could have a serious impact on their ability to sign and play new players. What might this summer hold for the big 3?

"One of the things I have been casually looking at recently is expiring contracts for EPL. While they don’t have the same impact in football as they do a place with a hard salary cap like the NBA, they still give a good indicator of which clubs have substantial salary money to spend each summer."

That intro was written last week, before the PL submitted the new soft cap system, whereby teams are limited to salary increases of £4M/£8M/£12M over the next three seasons respectively with a whole lot of caveats. These caveats include a clause where extra commercial revenue or match day revenue merits you extra spending space. And the cap only comes into play if your annual wage bill is already over £52M. And if your team employs clever accountants none of this likely matters. But it LOOKS like it matters right now, so I’m going to treat it that way.

[Note: Presumably the new cap does not hit managerial salaries, which means Roman Abramovich is free to continue his firing fetish without any interference from the FFB enforcers.]

Long story short, instead of being indicative of potential summer activity, expiring contracts are suddenly super interesting. Today I’m going to look at expiring money for the top 3 clubs to see who frees up salary to make run(s) at players during the summer window. I’m also taking note of players whose contracts expire in 2014, as those players are often sold in the summer if a new deal can’t be reached.

Manchester City


Player


Pos


Salary/£wk


Kolo Toure

CB

90,000

Roque Santa Cruz

F

90,000

Wayne Bridge

LB

90,000

Michael Johnson

MC

40,000

2014


Carlos Tevez

F

Gareth Barry

MC

Joleon Lescott

CB

Kolo-toure-shower_medium

This summer City will see £310,000/week wiped free of their books. Add in the roughly £80K/week from the soft cap and City have nearly £400,000/week they could use on player salaries. This is roughly the equivalent to paying wages for two shiny, new Carlos Tevezs. This also assumes they won’t re-sign the rejuvenated Kolo Toure on a one- or two-year deal at half his current rate. (Let’s face it, even a measly 45k/week is better than he could make as a used car dealer.) A cynic would suggest Kolo’s rejuvenation has only come when he is in a contract year, and that most of his time in Manchester has been dreadful. An optimist might note that if you sign him to rolling one-year deals, he will always be in a contract year from this point forward, and Toure has been good enough during his appearances this season that management may want to keep him around, especially since Yaya probably enjoys having him around.

Awkward thought for City fans: Roque Santa Cruz is still playing in the Champions League. Manchester City is not.

Needs

Given the fact that Mancini seems to find Joleon Lescott unreliable, City really do need another center back to pair with Kompany and Nastasic. The bigger need, however, comes from a general lack of performance in the wide areas. David Silva should be fine after a much-deserved rest, but his best performances often involve a floating role that starts in the center of the pitch and then sees him flit wide at will. The other wide players on City’s squad are James Milner, Samir Nasri, and Scott Sinclair, who together represent the proverbial mixed bag.

Milner is an excellent player, who works hard and can surprise you with the quality of his crossing, but despite his transfer fee, he’s more of a squad player and less of a star. Sinclair is still young, and may end up good enough to be a squad player at City, but his first season has been a total blank, which brings us to Samir Nasri.

When Nasri is good, he is a joy to watch. He terrifies defenders by dribbling at them and he’s good at the quick passing game. However, about the time he moved from Arsenal, reports started coming out that he viewed himself as a central midfielder. Having watched Nasri perform for club(s) and country the last five years, I am relatively certain he’s best on the wing, and both Mancini and Wenger have used that way. That said, this season his total return on 17 league games is 1 goal and 3 assists, numbers that simply aren’t good enough to stay in the starting lineup. A stroppy Nasri that is unhappy being played outside of his perceived position isn’t good for anyone.

Anyway, the point of this is that City are short at least one and possibly two wide players right now. With Balotelli sold (at this point I’m not certain how much of his wages count as freed for next season – presumably half?), I fully expect them to buy at least one superstar this summer. Regardless of what happens with the strike force (with Tevez only having one year left on his deal and Dzeko the source of constant speculation despite a decent return on goals, Aguero is the only one who is guaranteed to be in Manchester next season), they need at least one player who is both comfortable and willing to play on the wing.

With a minimum of £400k/week to play with, City should be able to sign world class players to fill these needs, even without selling any of the current squad to do it.

Manchester United

Player


Pos


Salary/£wk


Rio Ferdinand

CB

125,000

Ryan Giggs

MC

80,000

Paul Scholes

MC

80,000

2014


Nani

RW

90,000

Nemanja Vidic

CB

Michael Carrick

MC

Patrice Evra

LB

Federico Macheda

Forward

Fabio

Def

Manchester City are fairly stable at the moment, with most of their expiring deals coming from the (generally awful) signings during the post-takeover reign of Mark Hughes. Ah Robinho… those were the days. Their Manchester neighbors, however, have literally half of their aging starters coming to the end of their deals either this season or next. Of the list above, I figure Carrick and Evra will likely get sorted out this summer and stay at the club. Giggs and Scholes have to retire at some point, right? And though Rio has had a decent season, keeping a 34-year old (35 early next season) with a poor injury history around for anywhere near his current salary would be folly.

The two interesting items on United’s summer agenda are the likely sale of Nani, and the question of what to do with Vidic? I’m assuming Nani is off, which is why I included his salary above - the only real question there is how much they will get for him. At 26 and in the prime of his career, but with only one year left on his deal, I can’t think any clubs would be willing to stump up more than £10-15M for him. Additionally, while I think he can be quite good, it’s hard to believe he will improve much on the 90K/week United allegedly pay him.

The Vidic situation is tricky. My assumption is that United will let him play through his deal and then -if he manages to stay healthy for the bulk of the season- will look at offering additional one-year contracts. When he was healthy, Vidic was consistently the best center back in England. The problem is that he hasn’t been healthy for two years now. United has Evans, Smalling, and Phil Jones waiting in the wings, so it’s not as if they don’t have cover for either Rio or Vidic, but it would be worrying if they let Rio go this summer and Vidic gets injured again.

Needs

United’s central midfield is still short players. Scholes and Giggs will probably retire, Anderson can’t stay healthy, and nobody really knows what will happen with Darren Fletcher. Carrick and Cleverly are both studs and Kagawa seems to be settling well into the attacking role, but that’s about it. Nick Powell is on the squad list, but he’s 18 and has only played in the league twice this season, so who knows if he’s ready or not?

If Rio goes, United need another center back. If Nani goes – or even if he doesn’t – United could use both depth and star power on the wing. I still like Valencia, even if this season has been a bit up and down. On the other hand, I have no idea what to make of Ashley Young now that he has stopped falling over in the penalty box. Obviously United signed Wilfried Zaha in January to help provide in infusion of youth and talent, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see another player added in this position if Nani jets off.

The good news for United is that they are set in front of goal, and have literally the biggest sponsorship deal ever signed coming into play this summer. So not only do they get over 400K/week in wages + soft cap space, they also get to use all of their additional sponsorship money to buy and pay players. Fergie has been putting off significant squad replenishment for a couple of years now, but I get the feeling that this summer will see United jump into the market in a way they haven’t in quite some time.

Chelsea

Player


Pos


Salary/£wk


Frank Lampard

MC

150,000

Paulo Ferreira

Def

12,000

Florent Malouda

LW

80,000

Yossi Benayoun

LW

80,000

Hilario

GK

???

Ross Turnbull

GK

17,000

2014

Ashley Cole

John Terry

One of the surprising things I learned while researching this article is that Chelsea have an amazing number of players out on loan. Aside from Essien, the vast majority of the players on this list are both young, and highly talented. Loanees include one of the best goalies in Spain right now in Thibault Courtois, perhaps the best young striker in England in Romelu Lukaku, and an assortment of probable future internationals matched by few other clubs in the world. It inflates their wage bill, but it also probably means they will have to spend far less on high-profile transfers in the medium and long-term.

Looking at Chelsea’s expiring contracts, we know that Malouda, Ferreira, and Benayoun are gone. If reports are to be believed, Malouda and Ferreira have basically been banished from the team. Meanwhile, Yossi Benayoun is on loan at West Ham, where he is joined by the player he was signed to replace – Joe Cole! Both of whom previously played for West Ham. The two of them play with loanee Andy Carroll (still signed to Liverpool, where Cole transferred from), and loanee Marouane Chamakh (still signed to Arsenal, where he played with Benayoun last season). There are so many full circles in that team my head is spinning. You have to wonder if those guys have a constant sense of deja vu during training.

Uh… where was I?

Turnbull may get a renewal as a low-cost 3rd string keeper, but Hilario is 37 and won’t be coming back. That leaves Chelsea with 180k of wages or so, plus 80K of soft cap money to play with and one enormous, legendary question mark:

What do they do with Frank Lampard?

On the one hand, Lamps will be 35 years old this summer. On the other hand, he’s still producing at a rate that would make most players ten years younger jealous. 11 goals in 18 Premier League matches! Unless he wants to play forever, it would be dumb for Abramovich to let Lamps go anywhere else to end his career except Chelsea.

The problem here is Frank’s giant wage package. 150k/week is a lot for anyone, but it’s a ton for a guy whose performance is bound to keep dropping off every future season, right? But will Frank take less money? I guess we’ll find out.

Needs

Aside from the Lampard issue, Chelsea need a steady center back to replace John Terry (and/or allow David Luiz to act as defensive midfield cover). They also need a right back, another box-to-box midfielder, and right wing cover.

Oh, and a permanent manager. But at this point, it’s fair to make the assumption this will be the case every summer for an Abramovich-owned club.

Some people would point to the striker combination of Demba Ba and Fernando Torres and note that they are short-handed in that area of the pitch as well. Here are the minutes per goal numbers of Chelsea offensive threats this season (courtesy of Opta’s Duncan Alexander):

Sturridge

161

SOLD!

Mata

178

Ba

134

(213 with Chelsea)

Hazard

269

Torres

293

And

Romelu Lukaku

119

Lukaku has 10 goals – many of which came during substitute appearances – for a far worse offensive team in West Brom Albion. Replace Torres with Lukaku and Chelsea have two of the better forwards in the league. Sell/give away Torres, add someone like Falcao or Cavani, and Chelsea have a strike force to rival anyone in the world. Decisions, decisions…

Chelsea were one of the clubs notably not in favour of the new soft cap, but should they want to, creative accounting and/or new club sponsorship money should let them circumvent it at will. Regardless, I figure Lampard gets re-signed for maybe 100k/week, saving Chelsea 50k of wages a week, and estimate Hilario was making 10k/week. Add those figures to the expiring deals and the soft cap number and you end up with 315k of free wage space. That should be more than enough to sign a superstar and fill in their needs in the squad (though they would likely be better off doing this by promoting some of their loanees).

Later this week, I’ll examine the expiring deals of the clubs battling out for the last Champions League spot.

@mixedknuts on Twitter

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Bitter and Blue

You must be a member of Bitter and Blue to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bitter and Blue. You should read them.

Join Bitter and Blue

You must be a member of Bitter and Blue to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bitter and Blue. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9353_tracker