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Chelsea to curb spending

ESPN staff
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ESPN FC: Chelsea striking the wrong chord

Chelsea have said they need to keep their finances under control this summer as they seek to sign the "real strikers" Jose Mourinho says they desperately need.

For the first time since Roman Abramovich took over at Stamford Bridge in 2003, the club's wage bill for the 2012-13 financial year was lower than Manchester United's - recording a £176 million cost, £6m less than at Old Trafford. Manchester City's wage bill for the same season was £233m.

Chelsea's latest accounts said: "The introduction of UEFA's financial fair play regulations from the 2011/12 season provides a significant challenge.

"The football club needs to continue to balance success on the field together with the financial imperatives of this new regime."

Chelsea may find it tough to get £50m-signing Fernando Torres off their declining wage bill © Getty Images
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The increasingly-prudent approach reflects Chelsea's commitment to complying with UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules, which dictate that clubs in European competition can only record losses of £37.5m during the first two-year accounting period.

New Premier League rules also restrict wage bill increases, insisting any big rises have to be linked to new, profitable commercial deals.

Chelsea's new approach will make life complicated in the transfer market with Mourinho likely to have to sell players before he can buy the high-quality replacements he wants.

The manager continues to deride his misfiring strikeforce - with £50m flop Fernando Torres, unfancied Demba Ba and ageing Samuel Eto'o all set to leave in the summer - but may find himself on a collision course with the club's cost controllers over big-name signings such as £32m-rated Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid.

Romelu Lukaku is also heading for the exit after spending most of his Chelsea career on loan at other clubs and the combined revenue and cost savings from a clearout would be considerable - and would need to be.

However, all the departures are not forgone conclusions. While Ba accepts he should leave, Eto'o can claim another lucrative payday elsewhere and Lukaku has seldom seen eye-to-eye with Mourinho, Torres' reported £175,000-a-week wages and his original £50m fee will make him a tough prospect to move on.

The Spaniard's position - he has two years left on his contract - is such that there has been speculation he may need to be compensated by Chelsea to accept a lower-rate deal elsewhere - or the sale of valued players such as Eden Hazard and Oscar may have to be considered.

What is clear from Chelsea's most newly-released accounts - and Mourinho's repeated references to the constraints of FFP - is that they take, and will continue to take, the potential threat of punishments for breaching UEFA's new rules seriously.

Mourinho's first stint at Chelsea, from 2004-07, came at the start of the Abramovich era and was characterised by huge transfer spending - what Arsene Wenger likes to call "financial doping".

But in the Portuguese's time away from the club, the mood music has changed. The latest figure are in stark contrast to 10 years ago when Deloitte's annual football finance review estimated Chelsea's wage bill of £115million in 2003/04 as "almost certainly the highest in world football".

In that year, Abramovich's first full season of ownership of Chelsea, the club registered a 110% increase in wages.

Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa is coveted by Jose Mourinho but has a £32m release clause © Getty Images
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