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10 years of Abramovich: How an oligarch changed football

| 01.07.2013

A decade ago today, a then-unknown Russian billionaire agreed to take over a famous yet debt-ridden London football club in the hope of making them a footballing superpower.

Since buying Chelsea from the controversial Ken Bates for £140m, Roman Abramovich lavished millions more on upgrading the club’s infrastructure, signing superstars for massive pound fees and hiring a succession of world-class managers.

After coming to the rescue for the Blues, who looked to be heading towards administration and a possible demise from the top flight, how have they and the Premier League as a whole changed in his 10 years as chairman?

Cash for trophies

From the moment he arrived at Stamford Bridge, there was only one thing the quiet Abramovich wanted: trophies – and that’s what he got. In his first season as owner, they didn’t win anything, but finished second in the league. Success followed since the somewhat surprising dismissal of Claudio Ranieri.

The arrival of Jose Mourinho in his first spell saw the Blues win the Premier League twice, two League Cups and an FA Cup, nearly doubling the club’s major trophy haul in just three seasons. Since the Special One’s departure, more came under the likes of Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto di Matteo.

They won another Premier League title in 2010, while three more FA Cup trophies made their way to West London. However, Abramovich craved the Champions League trophy more than any other and had to wait until 2012 to see it happen. In total, they have won 11 trophies post-takeover.

Their success on the pitch can be almost entirely attributed to heavy spending in the transfer market. Some £700m has been spent on transfers, not all of them being successful. The £50m lavished on Fernando Torres is widely regarded as the biggest mistake, but there have been many successes.

For £23m, Juan Mata looked worth it, while £24m for Didier Drogba looked like the best investment ever made during the Abramovich era. For £24.4m, Michael Essien proved to be a worthwhile signing, too.

Money talks

Since Abramovich’s takeover, more foreign moneymen have arrived, most notably the Abu Dhabi-based Sheikh Mansour to Manchester City. Also following in the secretive oligarch’s footsteps were Malcolm Glazer at Man United, John W. Henry at Liverpool and Randy Lerner at Aston Villa.

The superrich have also made moves into other leagues as well. The takeovers of Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco, Spanish side Malaga and, fittingly, several clubs in the Russian Premier Division, also hint that Abramovich has been a trailblazer throughout Europe.

Roman’s empire

Foreign owners of Premier League clubs weren’t anything new pre-Abramovich, but he has helped to open the floodgates for other billionaires. Also, his willingness to give his managers millions to spend on new players every transfer window have made it essential (and often difficult) for rivals to keep pace with them.

His arrival has turned Chelsea into a force to be reckoned with, turning them from relative outsiders into one of the teams to beat at home and on the continent. He’s also made them one of the most successful teams in England, but it seems that he’s not done yet.

In his time as chairman, Chelsea haven’t managed to develop a world-class youth academy, while he will want the second spell with Jose Mourinho in charge to be a little more successful than the first.

One could say that Chelsea have gone full-circle since Abramovich took over, but this year marks another exciting new era with the Portuguese back in the hot seat. Abramovich’s restored faith in Mourinho looks set to kick-start another decade of success for the West London club.