Roman abramovich does not talk much. Not about money. Not about fubball. Certainly not about themselves. Nevertheless, there are numerous anecdotes circulating in london about the billionaire who died on 1 january. July 2003, he took possession of chelsea FC for the equivalent of 165 million euros.
A single man revolutionized fubball – and not just in the premier league.
Shortly before the takeover, when the heavily wealthy russian thought he was seeing the club’s stadium from his helicopter for the first time, he is said to have snapped at an employee: "what, we’re buying this crap for the sake of greedy returns??" but it was the home of fulham FC, which is located in west london not far from chelsea’s stamford bridge.
Wigan boss dave whelan says the oligarch’s only visit to the latics’ stadium was when he smudged the famous wigan pie and brought in his own water. Probably out of fear that they could be poisoned. He drove the few meters from the helipad to the stadium in his car. Bulletproof.
Chelsea’s ex-stormer franco di santo recalls the landing ten years ago with a twinkle in his eye. "He saw a lot more he wanted to buy then, but most of it belonged to queen."
Abramovich came out of nowhere. He was also unknown to chelsea officials. "I googled him but he did not appear. Nobody knew anything about him. I wasn’t sure if I was dealing with the hidden camera," ex-board member trevor birch recalled in the "standard" about the negotiations at the time. "We did the deal in ten minutes. It was the biggest change i have seen in fubball."
Chelsea was already a top club with foreign stars before the 46-year-old joined, but they had bought above their means. Under the leadership of ken bates, debts of 80 million pounds had been accumulated. In 2003, the team just about qualified for the champions league, but financially it looked more like a poorhouse than the royal league. The russian had not let the ruble roll, the bankruptcy had threatened.
"The previous summer we had signed enrique de lucas free of charge. In this we spent 150 million. It was as if we were playing soccer managers," birch said, explaining the dramatic change. "We had previously signed foreign players in england who were at the end of their careers. Plotzlich it was players at the high point."
Abramovich’s entry has also forced opponents to look for new sources of revenue and paved the way for more foreign ownership. Before 2003, fulham was the only club in the league owned by a foreign player. Today it is eleven. Frank arnesen, ex-sports director of chelsea and hamburg, described abramovich to the BBC as "a pioneer who changed fubball worldwide. Under the russian, who according to forbes is worth 10.2 billion euros, chelsea has bought 64 players, most recently andre schurrle from bayer leverkusen. 874 million pounds (about 1.02 billion euros) the "mail on sunday" has added in spending on transfers. 1.5 billion pounds abramovich had also loosened in salaries.
13 titles, including the first championship since 1955 in 2005, winning the champions league in 2012 and the europe league in 2013, are obviously not enough for him in return. The russian has already fired nine coaches and just brought back the one who started the successful period in 2004: jose mourinho.
The portuguese is supposed to make sure that the father of seven’s favorite toy shines again in the same splendor as his yachts, his boeing or his works of art. The perfection that characterizes this besitzenumer had been lacking for him at chelsea lately. To get them back on the pitch, abramovich will open the casket again in the eleventh year, although he has known since he landed chelsea that even he can’t buy everything.