Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel offers to drive team to match in France as club deals with sanctions fallout

LONDON — Thomas Tuchel is ready to do what it takes to help shepherd Chelsea through a turbulent period in their history … even if that means driving his players to Lille six at a time.

Sanctions placed on Roman Abramovich by the United Kingdom have plunged Chelsea into chaos and they are only able to play due to a license agreement that is the subject of ongoing talks with the British government. As well as blocking the sale of the club for the time being, the license applies numerous cost controls to the European champions, who are not able to sign new players or contracts, sell extra tickets to games or spend more than $26,300 on travel for any away match.

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That may yet prove to be a headache for Chelsea in the Champions League and indeed some of the further afield matches in the Premier League with the average cost of an away trip estimated to be at least 50 percent higher. Wednesday’s trip to Lille in the round of 16 (which you can watch live on Paramount+) will not be affected as travel arrangements had already be made. But should any issues emerge at the 11th hour Tuchel is prepared to do whatever it takes to get his club to the match.

“My last information is we are getting a plane,” he said after his side’s 1-0 win over Newcastle on Sunday. “So we can go by plane and come back by plane. If not, we’ll go by train. If not, we’ll go by bus. If not, I’ll drive a seven-seater. Honestly, I will do it. You can mark my words, I will do it to arrive there.

“If you asked me 20 years ago, 30 years ago, if I would join a Champions League match at the sideline and what I was willing to do, I’d say, ‘OK, where do I have to be and when?’ Why should this change?

“I will be there and we will be there. Of course, organization-wise, there are some negotiations going on and talks, but it doesn’t influence me. That’s what I mean, we have brilliant guys who organize the travel and we have, in every department, such committed people that at the moment things feel pretty normal.”

Those committed people included Tuchel, who said there was “no doubt” he would stay until the end of the season. Such a pronouncement will be welcome news for interested parties as maneuvering to secure the club continues. A consortium headed by Los Angeles Dodgers owner Todd Boehly and Swiss businessman Hansjörg Wyss is among the leading contenders whilst British property developer Nick Candy has publicly declared his interest.

“There’s no doubt I’ll stay until the end of the season,” said Tuchel. “Absolutely. We just have to wait and we still have to go day-by-day because everything can change.

“As you know the situation is clear, the club’s for sale, and hopefully, it will go through to sort things out and give us a perspective. But it’s pure speculation and I have no further information than you already have.

“That’s what I meant with day-by-day, which is anyway a good way to live your life, and now we are forced to do it because there are some circumstances we cannot influence, and at some point it’s not so nice because we have no strings to pull and no actions to do to help.”

The German acknowledged that so far his job has not been unduly affected by the uncertainty around Chelsea, who were put up for sale last week before Abramovich was sanctioned due to his ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Sunday’s meeting with Newcastle United was the first home game the club had played since with Havertz scoring in the 88th minute, propelling the Blues to their eight win in their last nine games.

In the away end visiting supporters held up Saudi Arabia flags the day after the country’s government announced that 81 people had been executed. Asked for his view on these events, Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said: “I’m just going to answer questions on the game and on football. I’m still bitterly disappointed about the defeat. It’s only right I stick to football.”

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