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On this date, ten years ago, Russian tycoon and majority owner of investment company Millhouse LLC Roman Abramovich bought the majority stake of West London club Chelsea Football Club. To say the very least, his arrival to the Premiership has been eventful. To say that he’s changed the face of the club would be an understatement. Love him or hate him, Roman Abramovich has not only changed the face of Chelsea FC, but English and international football as a whole forever. Whether it was for better or worse is an entirely different conversation.
With billions behind him as a driving force, Roman brought a good mid-table club to one of the most dominant forces in Europe. In the transfer window before Abramovich arrived, Chelsea had only purchased the rights to a French youth player and Enrique De Lucas. The club have spent over £880million in players alone since. It’s a staggering list:
André Schürrle, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Victor Moses, César Azpilicueta, Demba Ba, Marko Marin, Wallace, Thorgan Hazard ,Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku, Raul Meireles, Thibaut Courtois, Gary Cahill, Kevin de Bruyne, Lucas Piazón, Oriol Romeu, Ulises Dávila, Patrick Bamford, Fernando Torres, David Luiz, Ramires, Yossi Benayoun, Tomas Kalas, Matej Delac, Yuri Zhirkov, Daniel Sturridge, Nemanja Matic, José Bosingwa, Deco, Rhys Taylor, Nicolas Anelka, Florent Malouda, Branislav Ivanovic, Belletti, Franco Di Santo, Andriy Shevchenko, John Obi Mikel, Khalid Boulahrouz, Michael Ballack, Ashley Cole, Salomon Kalou, Ben Sahar, Michael Essien, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Asier del Horno, Slobodan Rajkovic, Lassana Diarra, Harry Worley, Didier Drogba, Ricardo Carvalho, Paulo Ferreira, Arjen Robben, Petr Cech, Jirí Jarosík, Tiago, Alex, Mateja Kezman, Alcides, Damien Duff, Hernán Crespo, Juan Sebastián Verón, Claude Makélélé, Adrian Mutu, Scott Parker, Wayne Bridge, Njitap Geremi, Joe Cole, Glen Johnson, Aleksey Smertin
This model of over spending has set the model for clubs such as Manchester City FC, Paris Saint-Germain, AS Monaco FC, and the like today. During his tenure, Abramovich has also (unsuccessfully) moved for a new stadium and secured some of the most lucrative sponsorships in sports history with Adidas and Samsung.
The big question is: was his first decade in ownership a success? That’s all relative. He’s certainly brought in world class players and helped develop the Premiership into what is now widely regarded as the best league in the world. Chelsea’s trophy cabinet has become considerably fuller since the Russian’s arrival, counting amongst the winners medals: three Premiership titles (including consecutive championships in the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 seasons), four FA Cups, two Football League Cups, two Community Shields, the UEFA Europa League, and Chelsea’s long awaited UEFA Champions League medal in the 2011-2012 season.
That’s quite a haul. But Abramovich has also gone through a plethora of managers in his time in charge, counting amongst them Claudio Ranieri, José Mourinho, Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Ray Wilkins, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti, Andrés Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo, and Rafael Benitez. Mourinho has recently returned to the club to much fanfare, but the majority of these managers were released from their contracts considerably early (collecting a large severance along the way). This has lead to an image of instability at the club.
It’s also often speculated that Abramovich allows his players more control over the happenings of the squad than his managers.
Frustrating as he may be, Chelsea supporters will forever be in Abramovich’s debt for filling the trophy cabinet (though the managers may have something to say about that – The Special One in particular). But does that justify the disposable players, revolving door of managers, and the perceived instability of the club? Worst of all may be that he’s proven the notion that a championship can be “bought” to be somewhat true. Though team chemistry is undoubtedly essential to that cause, it eventually worked for him and eventually worked for Manchester City. So was this first decade of Roman a success? I suppose that’s all subjective.
However, one thing that is not up for debate is that things in England have certainly become more entertaining since Roman arrived at the bridge in his shiny new helicopter.