Buck will quit at the end of the month, though he will remain at the club in an advisory role. Director Marina Granovskaia, who held much of the responsibility for transfers, is also expected to leave west London, according to reports, in what is fast becoming an overhaul of Roman Abramovich’s key movers.
In the wake of government sanctions against the Blues’ former owner, whose assets were frozen in March, senior officials advised that Chelsea’s takeover would be an opportunity to cut all ties with, in the Foreign Office’s own words, a “pro-Kremlin oligarch”.
Both Buck and Granovskaia were appointed by the Russian-born billionaire, though it is not thought that any pressure was applied for their removal and the decision has been taken within the club.
Indeed at the time the takeover was completed on 30 May, it was not anticipated that Buck would depart. That comes after separate talks with Boehly and Clearlake Capital – the other leaders of the consortium which bought the club for £4.25bn.
Boehly said that Buck, 76, had “led Chelsea to the highest levels of international and domestic football, while also developing one of the most active social responsibility projects in sport”.
Under his tenure, Chelsea won more trophies than any other club in English football over nearly a two-decade period. The men’s team lifted 18 major honours, including five Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues, while the women’s team won 12 trophies, including six Women’s Super League titles and reaching the Champions League final in 2021.
However, Boehly has warned that the spending which defined the Abramovich era cannot be sustained. Speaking at a conference in Berlin last Wednesday, he said Financial Fair Play “is starting to get some teeth and that will limit the ability to acquire players at any price”.
“Uefa takes it seriously and will continue to take it seriously,” he added, alluding to “financial penalties and disqualification from competitions”.
Aside from player recruitment – Chelsea’s current squad has an estimated market value of between £700-800m – many of the foundations for future success have already been laid. Buck was instrumental in the development of the Cobham training ground, which opened in 2007.
Chelsea’s summer business is already in motion too. A centre-back will be prioritised with Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen leaving for La Liga. Sevilla’s Jules Kounde has been identified as first choice to replace them, but the deal has been complicated by the defender having to undergo surgery for an injury that flared up on international duty with France.
The imminent loan of Romelu Lukaku back to Inter Milan will be offset by the addition of another forward player, not necessarily in the same mould as the Belgian striker. An approach has been made for Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling.
This will be the first real shake-up of the squad since Thomas Tuchel took charge in January 2021 – and while a number of targets were hand-picked before the end of last season, it was not known how long sanctions would remain in place as takeover talks stalled over whether Abramovich would require a £1.6bn loan to the club to be repaid.
Boehly is keen to spend carefully, placing a new emphasis on data models which have contributed to surprise success at Leicester and Brentford. Both clubs have exemplified a strategy of using analytics to identify players early and gain an advantage over clubs who have historically been able to spend more freely. Data has also been central to the progress of the LA Dodgers, the baseball team Boehly co-owns.
In his leaving statement, Buck said that the new owners had a “compelling vision for Chelsea’s future, and I look forward to helping them achieve it in this new role alongside our incredible staff, players, coaches and supporters”.