Great Britain

Timo Werner transfer shows that Chelsea, not for the first time, are playing a different financial game to Prem rivals

IT would've been an eye-opener even in normal circumstances.

But the news Chelsea are on the brink of sealing a huge £106million deal for Timo Werner — while most Premier League clubs are reeling from the coronavirus  crisis — is even more stunning.

A day which demonstrated just why Premier League clubs are so keen to turn Project Restart into a bells and whistles reality ended with a huge Blues statement.

Not for the first time under Roman Abramovich, Chelsea might be playing a different financial game to many of their rivals.

Of course, a significant factor was the Fifa transfer ban which Chelsea were so angry about last year.

And the mountains of cash — £88m  — they banked from Eden Hazard’s transfer to Real Madrid which will allow Frank Lampard to land top target Werner — while the rest of the division face their greatest ever financial uncertainty.

That is why, as football-starved fans look forward to 36 games in the first 16 days of the great return, it is clear the prime mover is the financial necessity, the impetus for a collective punt  Covid-19 will not come back with a devastating second wave.

Indeed, the Prem clubs were still entangled in their latest virtual  meeting when the rationale behind the big gamble became clear.

If Spurs, arguably the country’s best-run club, need a £175m Government loan to help them over the crisis, then you can only imagine the state  many of the rest of them are in.

The agreed decision to kick the curtailment can down the road appeared odd — a case of shutting eyes, crossing fingers and hoping everything would be all right.

For years, the Prem has been the gold standard.

Even with their new £36m annual stadium repayment agreements in place, Daniel Levy’s stewardship has ensured Tottenham are one of the most stable clubs in the world, their £180m wage bill set against 2019  revenues of £460m.

But every week the Tottenham  Hotspur Stadium is shut, it is costing millions, the anticipated £6m matchday revenue from each game simply turning to dust.

Taking advantage of the Government loan scheme was a no-brainer — with an interest rate of 0.5 per cent, Spurs only have to pay back an additional £875,000 on top of the £175m in 12 months.

Yet Levy’s admission  he anticipates a huge £200m revenue drop by next June was an emergency beacon for the rest of the top flight.

Manchester United, the only other club that could have utilised the Covid loan facility, have already announced a £140m drawdown from the Bank of America.

At least four other clubs are believed to be discussing  significant loans.

The only way to ensure money starts coming back in, rather than only going out, is to play out this season and start the next one. Whatever it takes.

That reality brought the agreement to go  full steam ahead, with the question of what to do if the league cannot finish only coming back on the table IF it cannot finish.

As one club exec said: “What is the point of us spending hours arguing about what to do about a situation that may never arise?

“It’s time to be positive and trust that we can play out the rest of the season. If it happens and we have to stop again, we can think about it then.”

Yet the issues have not gone away.

Next Thursday’s scheduled meeting will agree the “Stage Three” return to play protocols.

Before then it is anticipated Prem  fake crowd noise will not, after all, be “piped in” to stadiums — although there may be sound effects to mark goals.

But there will be a FINAL virtual gathering on Monday June 15, 48 hours ahead of kick-off, to ensure all remaining overdue matters are agreed.

Cutting it a little bit fine.

Despite continuing good news from testing, some clubs remain angry at the expectation  they must play even if nine first teamers are ruled out because of the virus.

What really grates  is the idea teams  could end up being  relegated at the expense of Championship sides who might not complete their season.

That will not be acceptable and an increasing number of clubs envisage the final whistle on the campaign will be blown by a bloke in a wig ruling on a High Court challenge in August.

It is going to be messy. Very messy. For now, though, the course is set. The fixtures, too.

Operation Restart is less than a fortnight away. For too many clubs, it is a huge commercial imperative.

Chelsea may be immune to the battle for actual survival. But it remains critical for many.

Marina Granovskaia welcomes Chelsea at a hotel before Europa league final against Arsenal

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