Todd Boehly tried to rouse Chelsea’s players ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League final against Real Madrid by giving a dressing room speech after Saturday’s defeat to Brighton, with the American describing the club’s season as “a disgrace “.
The co-owner was joined by his fellow board members, Behdad Eghbali and Hansjörg Wyss, when he addressed the squad as Chelsea dropped out for a third successive place. Boehly, who was heckled by supporters during the Brighton game, waited for Lampard to finish talking to the players before arriving to make it clear that the hierarchy expected much better after his close to £600m spent on signings since he bought the club last summer.
About an hour passed before Boehly, Eghbali and Wyss were seen leaving the dressing room and while it’s not unusual for owners to talk to players, one insider said “the whole thing was weird”.
One senior player, who was signed for a big fee in the last 12 months, is understood to have been heavily criticized. The player, whose identity has not been revealed, is believed to be unhappy with the situation and has cut a restless figure in training ahead of Chelsea’s bid to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg against Madrid .
Although Boehly expressed his displeasure with the team’s form, his wider intention was to motivate the players ahead of the biggest game of the season. He said the Madrid game represented an opportunity for Chelsea, who are 11th in the Premier League and in danger of not qualifying for Europe, to save the campaign.
Kepa Arrizabalaga insisted that there was nothing unusual about Boehly’s speech. “Todd comes to the dressing room in every game,” said the Chelsea goalkeeper. “He had different conversations with us after different games. I’m not going to say what he said. It’s normal when it comes.”
Lampard insisted he had no problem with board members entering the dressing room. “Maybe there was some criticism of our old owner for not coming to games, not being around, and that wasn’t always true to be fair,” the interim head coach said. “But when an owner is invested in their interest in the team and wants to help and improve, they’re empowered to have the input they want. I remember the moments as the owner’s player first coming into the dressing room.
“It happened first at Chelsea. I remember being very happy that they were there. You could touch them, you could touch them and hear them and feel them. That’s not a bad thing in terms of club recognition and where you’re trying to get. There is no problem with it. I had my things to say after the game. If the owner comes in and wants to be positive and talk to the players, I think it’s his part to do that.”
Supporters were pictured rioting with Boehly during the Brighton game. “For the ownership and the fans, the passion goes both ways,” Lampard said. “The fans show passion and I don’t think the owners or anyone who comes to Chelsea and expect anything else. We are very fortunate that the club has been very successful over the last 20 years or so. That means you want more of it.
“The word passion is coming from both sides. These are passionate owners who want to bring a real vision to the club and we are probably at the early stages of the process in those terms. We can all be passionate together and work in the same direction.”
Arrizabalaga backed Chelsea’s incredible comeback. “It’s not a good season for us,” he said. “What we have to do is believe until the end. this stadium, remontadas [comebacks] can happen. It happened before. We must deliver. We want a big performance – maybe not for our lifetimes, but a big performance.”
Chelsea have done a lot of work since Boehly and Clearlake Capital bought the club from Roman Abramovich last year. They have spent a lot on transfers but have seen little of their investment on the pitch. Chelsea left both domestic cups early and the decision to install Graham Potter as head coach was overturned following the sacking of Thomas Tuchel last September. Potter lasted seven months before being released and Chelsea have since put Lampard in temporary charge.
The poor results are understood to have worried Chelsea’s financial situation. There are concerns about Financial Fair Play and there are suggestions that almost every player will be for sale this summer. Liverpool are stepping up their efforts to sign Mason Mount, who is out of contract at the end of next season. Mount has given no signs of extending his deal.
Other academy players such as Conor Gallagher, Trevoh Chalobah, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Levi Colwill and Callum Hudson-Odoi could leave. If they were sold, there would be a net profit in FFP terms. Chelsea have agreed a deal to sign French forward Christopher Nkunku from RB Leipzig.
Boehly also stole the headlines last week when he predicted that Chelsea would beat Madrid 3-0 at the Bernabéu. Carlo Ancelotti’s side made a mockery of that prediction thanks to goals from Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio. Chelsea lost Ben Chilwell to a red card and Kalidou Koulibaly to a hamstring injury which will keep the centre-back out for several weeks.