Explained: Chelsea’s restructure and the roles of Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart

Although Chelsea have brought in 12 first-team players in Todd Boehly’s first two transfer windows and the ownership of Clearlake Capital for an initial commitment in transfer fees in excess of £500 million ($615 million), the division of responsibilities in the recruitment of their very active operation remains difficult to decipher for the whole football world.

Not anymore. At the end of the January window which saw seven new players arrive at Cobham and Lyon right-back Malo Gusto acquired ahead of the summer, Chelsea have moved to restructure their senior football management team as two of the widely reported hires are Laurence Stewart from the US Monaco and Joe Shields from Southampton, officially started work.

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Stewart and Paul Winstanley, who were initially recruited from Brighton & Hove Albion in November to serve as global director of talent and transfers, will be appointed joint sporting directors. The pair will take overall responsibility for driving Chelsea’s football operations, including transfers, talent identification and recruitment strategy.

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Reporting to Stewart and Winstanley is technical director Christopher Vivell, who will adopt a more global focus as Chelsea look to build a multi-club model in the coming years. The rest of the senior team under joint sporting director includes Shields, head coach Graham Potter trusted recruitment analyst Kyle Macaulay and long-serving head of data Matt Hallam. Head of youth development Jim Fraser will also be fully integrated as the club looks to focus most of its recruitment on elite young talent.

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Further recruitment is expected to be made in Chelsea’s data and scouting operation in the coming months, but Boehly and Clearlake co-founder Behdad Eghbali now believes they have their core team in place. Both men were involved in Chelsea’s first two transfer windows since the change of ownership, with Eghbali leading the club’s successful bid with Winstanley to sign Mykhailo Mudryk from under the noses of rivals Arsenal and Enzo Fernandez on deadline day.

Fernandez completed his move to Chelsea on deadline day (Photo: CARLOS COSTA/AFP via Getty Images)

Boehly and Eghbali each have large portfolios of business interests outside of Chelsea and while they are expected to remain owners actively involved in the sporting side, it is Winstanley and Stewart who will be empowered to shape the club’s approach to recruitment, from analyzing data and reviewing mechanisms transfer and contract negotiations.

That, of course, has not necessarily stopped agents and executives at other clubs from accepting direct transfer proposals to Eghbali and Boehly, who last year assumed the title of interim sporting director following the departures of Marina Granovskaia and Petr Cech. But hopefully, by clarifying their structure in this way, Chelsea will make Winstanley and Stewart the main point of contact for anyone interested in striking a deal with the club.

The two men are regarded internally as having different but complementary strengths: Stewart, whose previous role at Monaco was technical director, is more focused on player scouting and performance, while Winstanley has more experience in transfer negotiations and talent management. — a record track record he enhanced with a key role in Chelsea’s recruitment in a very busy January window.


Stewart joins after a spell with Monaco (Photo: AS Monaco FC)

Chelsea’s senior reshuffle is also intended to mark a significant shift in strategy. After breaking numerous records for transfer fee spending in the summer of 2022 and January 2023, Boehly and Clearlake want to invest more modestly in recruitment in the coming window. The claim is likely to be met with considerable skepticism outside Stamford Bridge, given the scale of their moves in the market so far, and actions carry more credibility than words.

But the idea – voiced both publicly and privately by many in the football world in recent weeks – that Chelsea have set out to disrupt and distort the transfer market is not supported by the club. The huge transfer fees agreed for the likes of Fernandez and Mudryk that have understandably dominated the headlines are only one aspect of the investment; all January players are thought to have reasonable wages and incentives designed, over time, to help Boehly and Clearlake bring the club’s overall wage bill down to a more sustainable level than it was in the Roman Abramovich era.

Chelsea are also likely to pursue longer-than-average contracts if appropriate, despite UEFA’s move to limit the length of time transfer fees can be amortized for financial fair play (FFP) purposes to five years from next summer. The reasoning is that this extended commitment benefits the club by protecting the resale value of young and (hopefully) improving assets while also benefiting the players, who gain a greater guarantee of income in the event of injury.

Stewart and Winstanley are now in a position to lead the conversation underpinning these strategic decisions, although Boehly and Eghbali are keen to maintain more of the collaborative culture they tried to create at Cobham following the departures of Granovskaia and Cech last year, ensuring everyone involved in the process has input.

Chelsea’s ownership group have been adamant since taking control of the club last summer that they want to build a world-class sporting organization and a winning team. With this structural change, they believe they have taken a big step towards achieving that goal.

(Top photo: Denis Lovrovic/AFP via Getty Images)


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