Conor Gallagher has worn the Chelsea captain’s armband on a number of occasions this season, most recently in the Christmas Eve game at Wolves. He’s trusted by Mauricio Pochettino, and he’s been getting regular game time for the team.
So why is the midfielder so often linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge?
As the January transfer window approaches, more stories are touting Gallagher for a possible switch, after he came close to joining Tottenham on the final day of the summer window. In spite of his apparent importance to Pochettino’s rebuild, it’s beginning to feel likely that Gallagher may be playing his football elsewhere in 2024.
The Sporting News explores Gallagher’s future, Chelsea’s January transfer business in general, and why all roads could indicate an exit for the 23-year-old Blues academy product.
Why would Chelsea sell Conor Gallagher?
Many might have been surprised to see the Daily Mail report that Chelsea are considering putting Gallagher up for sale in January, given he’s played 20 times for them in all competitions this season.
But they’re not the only outlet to report that, and with Gallagher’s Chelsea contract due to expire in 18 months, the next two windows offer a chance for the club to cash in for a fee somewhere between £35 million and £45 million ($45m-$57m).
Despite shining in previous loans to Crystal Palace and Swansea City, Gallagher has often seemed an unnatural fit in the first team at Chelsea and he divides opinion among the fans.
Selling him could make a certain amount of sense, especially considering Chelsea’s other priorities, both in terms of their other needs on the pitch and their off-field issues. The latter show little sign of going away.
🗣 Fabrizio Romano on Conor Gallagher: “I think for January, it would take an important proposal to sell Conor Gallagher, but if it’s something more than £35million then Chelsea could be open to discussing it.” [@caughtoffside] pic.twitter.com/kECGcFXoNy
— CFC-Blues (@CFCBlues_com) December 19, 2023
Why selling Conor Gallagher could unlock Victor Osimhen deal and ease financial fears
According to that Daily Mail report, “some Chelsea figures are understood to be arguing that it makes financial sense” to sell Gallagher because of the club’s need to “comply with Premier League spending rules and deficiencies elsewhere in the squad”.
It goes on to claim Pochettino wants to sign a striker, amid concerns over Nicolas Jackson’s suitability to play as an out-and-out No.9, with Ivan Toney and Napoli’s Victor Osimhen reportedly on the club’s transfer radar.
Chelsea have spent more than £1billion in the past three transfer windows since Todd Boehly acquired the club and are at risk of breaching the Premier League’s Profit & Sustainability Rules. In short, they may have to sell to buy in January.
Given that Gallagher is an academy product, the fee Chelsea got for him could be marked down as pure profit on a balance sheet — something that could serve as a major benefit when it comes to toeing the financial fair play line.
Pochettino was recently asked about the prospect of selling Gallagher and hinted he could have little say in the player’s future, suggesting he’d prefer to keep the midfielder. “I don’t need to talk too much because it’s clear it’s not my decision,” said the Chelsea boss.
“Of course he loves the club and he’s very committed. You can see on the pitch he runs, he play, he fights. He does everything to try to win. I think he is a really important player.”
If Pochettino is serious about signing a new striker, cashing in on Gallagher may hold the key. Osimhen signed a new Napoli contract in December, but the deal is said to include a release clause of around £113m ($143m). Selling Gallagher could offset some of that cost.
Who could Chelsea sign in the January transfer window?
As stated, it seems a striker is Chelsea’s top priority in the transfer market — if they can afford it.
Ivan Toney looks to be a potential target for a few clubs, having also been linked with Manchester United and Arsenal. The Brentford striker is allowed to play football again from January 16 after being banned for breaking FA rules on betting.
Victor Osimhen has been linked with Chelsea for time but has proven too expensive for Premier League clubs to sign. However, having signed a new Napoli contract that includes a release clause, a move in 2024 is looking more likely.
ESPN have also named Feyenoord’s Santiago Gimenez as another player Chelsea are considering in January.
As well as Gallagher, the club could look to offload Trevoh Chalobah, Ian Maatsen and Noni Madueke either on loan or permanent exits, in an effort to balance the books. Armando Broja could also leave if Chelsea’s pursuit of a striker is successful.
A lot will depend on Jackson and the form of summer signing Christopher Nkunku as he finally makes his entry into the squad after a long injury. That, too, could have a knock-on effect on Gallagher’s own future.