BCFC: A New Challenge

It’s not even close to the summer and already the rumours are flying about a potential sale of Jude Bellingham. The 16-year-old wonderkid has been scouted by what feels like every major club in Europe and the hype train seems to be in full throttle – which means a very different kind of summer challenge for the club and the board.

St Andrew's taken 26 December 2018

Before anyone asks, I don’t want to go into the wheres and wherefores of where Bellingham might go.

It’s only March and already the rumour mill has gone nuts – I’m not sure how pleasant another three months of it is going to be.

However, what I am interested in is how Blues will handle this challenge – and equally, the different kind of pressure the situation will exert on people like club CEO Ren Xuandong.

This summer will be quite a novel situation for Blues in comparison to the last few years.

While the accounts aren’t great, the club isn’t hurting for cashflow as much as it has in past years and the likelihood of a fire sale is very remote.

Even more novel is the situation Blues are in where they actually could have more than one player that could bring in decent money.

In past years, there have been times where Blues have had to rely on the sale of one good player to bring in some much-needed funds.

Because other clubs have known Blues were in a tough financial position with few options, it enabled those other clubs to make hardball offers for Blues’ prized assets.

This year, however, in addition to Bellingham there are at least three other players I can think of who could command a good fee.

Both Ivan Sunjic and Kristian Pedersen were subjects of large offers from Premier League clubs in the winter window. Blues rejected those offers but it wouldn’t surprise me if clubs came back in for either player in the summer.

I’d also throw Jeremie Bela into the mix. Since his signing in November, he’s been an outstanding player and it wouldn’t surprise me if clubs have looked at Bela as someone who could play in a higher league.

This is a happy situation for Blues. What it means is because the club is not in a position where it has to sell, it can be a lot more aggressive in what fees it asks for players.

In the case of Bellingham, once he has signed his pro deal (and I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t) this means that Blues can hold out for an astronomical fee.

This in turn could help to ensure that Blues aren’t so reliant on funding from Hong Kong / China to maintain operations.

If Blues do sell players – then there is the small matter of bringing in new ones.

A lot of people have referred to Brentford’s model of player trading as one that Blues should aspire towards.

Essentially, Brentford have made their name known for scouting for players intensely, finding good ones and then selling them at a profit, to buy more cheap players and repeat.

The hard part is obviously scouting for the players to come in to replace the ones sold – the even harder part is to get those players in cheap while other clubs know that you might have money burning a hole in your pocket.

Assuming that Blues will sell players this summer, there will be pressure on people to bring in the replacements to improve the squad that the club has now.

Last summer was mixed. The Spanish experiment seemingly failed, with Fran Villalba and Alvaro Gimenez already back in Spain while Dan Crowley hasn’t quite lived up to the early promise.

However, Sunjic has showed that the money laid out on him was worth it – especially with clubs chasing him in January, while the loan signing of Jake Clarke-Salter has ensured that the club has three good centre-halves to pick from.

Replacing Bellingham if he does go is going to be very difficult, if only because Bellingham is a generational talent.

If Blues can bring in figures like the £30million quoted in the press in the last week, then it’s entirely possible Blues could bring in a few players and have a bit of change left over.

The key is going to be just how well Blues can scout out new players, and how well they can negotiate a fee which is good for the club.

Get this right, and Blues could not only have a squad that is truly capable of a promotion tilt, but also be a club that is on more secure financial ground.

That means the big question this summer could be if Kristjaan Speakman and Ren Xuandong are up to the challenge