The mythology of Abramovich tells us he was entranced by his first real taste of football, driven by Graeme Souness – he thought the former Liverpool manager was a chauffeur – to watch Manchester United against Real Madrid in the Champions League in 2003. Except this myth is reality. “He went there, watched the game start and within 10 minutes said ‘I want to buy a team’,” explained Avram Grant, sacked by Abramovich in 2008 despite remaining a personal friend. “He was almost in shock at the atmosphere, the theatre. He then needed to find the team he wanted to buy.”
Ronaldo at Old Trafford 2003
His success story never stops…The billionaire owner celebrates 10 extraordinary, trophy-filled years in charge today – a decade in which he has transformed the club and turned them into one of Europe’s powerhouses. Last year, Abramovich achieved his ultimate ambition as his club lifted the Champions League for a first time in the history. Chelsea have also won three league titles. But having brought back his most successful manager, Jose Mourinho, the owner wants more. The man who has won back-to-back titles for Abramovich when he was hired in 2004, is taking on the project all over again. The original £140m deal, back when Manchester United and Arsenal were dominant, took just 15 minutes to push through the fastest takeover of the entire football history. He had negotiations with Spurs and Fulham before settling on Chelsea, a club on the verge of a huge financial black hole, facing debts of £70million and imminent demands.
“There were two models for Roman to choose from,” explained one insider. “One was long-term, building the club. But he wanted to take Chelsea up to the level to compete with United and Arsenal.” Which left one option. In the space of just 47 days, Chelsea spent a staggering £103million, bringing in 11 players including Hernan Crespo, Juan Seba Veron, Joe Cole, Damien Duff, Adrian Mutu and Claude Makelele. “It was like playing fantasy football,” was how former Chelsea chief executive Trevor Birch has described it. The truth is that Abramovich only really trusts a few people, the inner circle comprised of long-term advisors Eugene Tenenbaum, Eugene Schvidler and the most recent addition to the Blues board, his former PA Marina Granovskaia.
Grant said: “He still wants to win but he wants to win big titles playing real football. Signing Oscar and Eden Hazard was about sending out a message. “From the first minute Roman had passion and that’s grown and grown. He has really tried to do everything perfectly. Look at the money he’s spent on the academy at Cobham, the best possible facilities. He finally added,” He wants Chelsea to win things in a way that makes them loved for their football. That’s why he’s bought a new generation of players.”
Roman wants to win everything again. He wants to win everything – even though he has already won everything
Keeper Petr Cech, who joined in 2004, said: “At the start people said that Mr Abramovich would spend two or three years at Chelsea, then leave. However, his passion now is the same as when I saw him for the first time and I think that’s something which is precious because you know the club is in good hands.”
Since that deal, 11 trophies have been won and 10 permanent managerial appointments have been made. It has been the most unprecedented transformation in British footballing history (dwarfing the achievements of other tycoons such as the late Jack Walker at Blackburn)
DID YOU KNOW?: Chairman Bruce Buck was just a corporate lawyer who was a season ticket holder back in 2003, but he suddenly found himself in at the heart of the negotiations.
The Blues have plashed out an eye-watering £103m on players on the summer of 2003 and since then, it has reached to £2billion and counting… A cool £90m was spent on new players in 2012 and Abramovich has not even got going yet this summer, with German forward Andre Schurrle in at a mere £19m. Along the way, managers have come and gone at bewildering speed, despite mostly winning things. The price of failure has been high. But the owner’s passion has, according to those closest to him, grown and he intends to build a legacy. The club have not won the Premier League title for three years and Mourinho has been hired to put the finishing touches to the team that began to be rebuilt last year, in order to put that right – but in the right style.
FACT: Abramovich went to see the Champions League quarter-final between United and Real Madrid and he was enchanted. He fell in love with football. He asked his advisors to find out what clubs in England were available. An investment bank was hired to see what was available. They came back with five clubs and among them were United, Chelsea and Spurs.
Today, it will be the 10th anniversary since Abramovich sealed a £140 million deal to take ownership of Chelsea and, although chief executive Ron Gourlay has hailed “a hugely successful decade”, new targets are also being set.
One criticism of the Abramovich years is that so few academy players have become established in the first team and, with Uefa and the Premier League introducing new rules that will limit spending, Gourlay has stressed the importance of home-grown talent. Abramovich has always invested heavily in the academy but the pressure for immediate success has arguably also discouraged managers from persisting with young players.
Ryan Bertrand, Josh McEachran and Sam Hutchinson are among the academy graduates who will be hoping to challenge for first-team football this season. “It has been a hugely successful decade for Chelsea Football Club since Roman Abramovich took control, with an unprecedented number of trophies in the last 10 years,” said Gourlay.
He said,“Mr Abramovich’s early investment in playing staff paid dividends in creating a team admired around the world, but to keep Chelsea among the elite we have always known we must produce our own world-class talent and we are beginning to see the benefits of our academy, which will help us meet our long-term objectives for Financial Fair Play.”
BEST SIGNING : Lampard and Drogba
WORST SIGNING : Andriy Shevchenko
BEST WORK DONE : Earning a profit for the first time!!!
WORST WORK DONE : -“The AXE Effect!!”
HOPPING IN THE NEAR FUTURE : A new and bigger stadium (bigger than Man Utd and Arsenal)