I’ve had a bit of a go at Roman Abramovich lately and I know I’m not the only one to question why he seems to be such a tight arse all of a sudden.
I mean, when he bought the club in the summer of 2003, we expected – and got a spending spree the size of which the Premier League had never seen. So what’s happened? Why has the cash flow suddenly stopped when we need players? Has he fallen out of love with Chelsea? More to the point, did he ever fall in love with us in the first place?
Well, it’s certainly true we weren’t Abramovich’s first choice because the story goes that he had his eye on United originally. He’d happened to catch a Champions League game back in May 2003 and was pretty impressed with what he saw. Mind you, United were out, as were Arsenal because with fans owning shares, it was all considered too messy. His third choice club was a different proposition altogether. Chelsea remained one of the old-fashioned privately owned clubs – and we just happened to be £80million in debt. Bingo!
So, as we know, £140million bought Abramovich the club and wiped out the debts – and that was before he’d even started on transfer fees, salaries and a state-of-the-art training ground at Cobham, which has racked up an ‘investment’ of around £580million. But why has he stopped now?
Well firstly, as someone rightly pointed out to me, in the last calendar year Abramovich has actually shelled out over £50million bringing in players: Ivanovich £9million; Anelka £15million; Di Santo £3.4million; Bosingwa £16.3million; Deco £8million. That’s £50million more than most clubs and certainly not peanuts when you consider the wage bill we had to start with, plus the improved contracts sorted out over the summer.
Secondly, we can’t say we weren’t warned that the spending would start to slow down. Because at the start of last year, we were being told by Bruce Buck “We realized from day one that we had to find a way to make the club profitable in the long term. At some point he (Abramovich) won’t want to invest any more. He’s never said he wants the money back. He has said he wants the club to be self-sustaining.”
So, it’s not that Abramovich has fallen out of love and plans to cut his losses and run then? Well, whilst him being ‘in love’ with Chelsea in the first place wasn’t really the case, I’d like to think that if anything, he’s fallen in love with us over the years. Because, whilst the most coveted prize has eluded him, he’s still seen us win two Premier League titles, two Carling Cups, one Community Shield, an FA Cup and make it to our first ever Champions League final.
Add to that, reports of him turning up in Nevada Smiths in New York to watch us on the screens against Bolton, looking disgusted at missed chances but celebrating the goals and leading a rendition of ‘Carefree’ on his way out – and you just know he loves us. Right?