Roman Abramovich has masterminded a revolution in the running of Chelsea Football Club. This new series will take a look at how the Russian billionaire has gone about his revolution and how he has built the club into what it is today.
Roman Abramovich’s Russian Revolution
Roman Abramovich is the Most Important Man in Chelsea’s History
Since 2003, looking at the stats with Chelsea doesn’t tell even half of a crazy story. Often described as chaotic and unsustainable, Roman Abramovich’s methods have transformed the London club into one of Europe’s best teams.
Winning 17 trophies in the 15 years since the takeover has made them the most successful English team in the period. The 12 managers winning those trophies have often been labelled with having the toughest job in football – managing a team that is reliant upon success, not just mediocre success either. Five premier league titles is the same as Manchester United can boast since the Russian’s introduction. Meanwhile, current champions Manchester City have only three themselves.
In an almost unrecognisable Chelsea, pre-Abramovich, they had never won the Premier League. They had also only qualified for the Champions League group stages once before. Abramovich’s willingness to splash the cash on world class players and be ruthless with his running of the club has seen them become London’s top dog, surpassing Arsenal in current seasons and having unrivalled success in the capital.
Despite not founding the club, taking them into division one, or winning a first trophy for the club, Abramovich has nurtured Chelsea into a team with history, pride and expectations going forward. Ken Bates couldn’t bring the fear factor to Stamford Bridge and although he had made the foundations for a triumphant club to establish themselves, Roman Abramovich is the most important man in Chelsea’s history.
Chaos and Trophies
The owner at a football club is a businessperson. It is their responsibility to keep the club alive. However, in modern day football, it is hard to define what an owner does. Many owners now see their clubs as commodities, only being interested in sustainability and profit; hence, why fans get angry and protest.
Fans at a football club want to see good football and see their team win on a Saturday. Fans keep the sport alive. It is now also becoming hard to define what is most important for followers of a team. Do they want free-flowing football or do they want trophies and results? It is a hard balance for a manager, but the call comes to the owner at the end of the day.
Abramovich has gotten his balance almost perfect in his time at Chelsea, with his ratio of managers, trophies and seasons almost equaling out at one. Every season, Chelsea are considered for not just top four contenders but title winners. Therefore, this shows a consistency that great organisation and determination can bring. His need to be better than rivals is a feeling that flows down the hierarchy at Chelsea and now there is a team and a club full of winners. His sights and intentions have been set and made clear from day one. Win.
Jose Mourinho will be regarded as a hugely influential character in Chelsea’s history, whether people like it or not. He won the first titles of the new Russian revolution and over the next two seasons made Chelsea the most balanced team in Europe; they beat Barcelona 4-2 at home in 2005 to progress and only missing out on a first final due to Luis Garcia’s ‘ghost goal’. The relationship between Roman and Jose looked to be ominous for England. Chelsea were dominant. Winning back to back titles, winning ugly, but winning none the less.
Mourinho’s impact was instant. Getting one over Sir Alex Ferguson in his first game (Eidur Gudjohnsen the only scorer in a 1-0 win) was a message to the world. ‘The Special One’ meant business. The mix of a hungry owner and the most exciting prospect in management (Mourinho being the reigning Champions League winner) is a recipe for success and dominance. This Chelsea team went on to concede just 15 goals (still a Premier League record) that season and set a record 95 points for the champions (until Manchester City last year surpassed this).
The arrogance of Mourinho had transferred into his players. They already looked like winners, with a strong spine and great players in every position. Abramovich had found someone who could fulfil his expectation at the first attempt – a manager that was as ruthless as he was and could repay the Russian’s summer spending. He is a man who likes his money after all.
By no means was Mourinho an easy get for Abramovich either. The Portuguese-born manager had just won the ChaLeague league with Porto. Having masterminded one of the greatest upsets in European football, Mourinho moved on, something that would become iconic during his career. For a new owner to attract such a sought-after coach was just an indication of Abramovich’s appeal. Not only had he pumped money into Chelsea and promised success, he was ambitious and made the club attractive again.
On September 19th 2007 Jose Mourinho left Chelsea for the first time. It sent reverberations around the footballing world and followed a 1-1 draw with Rosenborg in the Champions League group stage and failing relations with Abramovich. He was there for three and a half seasons, winning two league titles, one FA Cup, one league cup and the Community Shield. Abramovich had lost Chelsea their most successful manager in history.
The 2006/07 season saw Chelsea finish runners up in the league and win the FA Cup; beating Manchester United in the first game at the new Wembley. However, there were rumblings of discontent from the start. Mourinho’s post-match activity became increasingly similar to that of how he is now; including a sarcastic, yet funny, reaction to being told Chelsea had drawn to Everton, despite him (Mourinho) believing his side had scored two beautiful goals and should have won the game – an early sign of the media meltdown that we are used to now. The English media started to hone in on the relationship between manager and owner, rumours of Mourinho being disappointed at the lack of transfer activity had become very public. It seemed that the two egos that had brought triumph back to SW6 would also be the downfall.
Israeli Avram Grant would be the new man in charge. The Blues initially struggled to recover from Mourinho’s departure, losing 3-0 at Old Trafford in Grant’s first game in charge. However, a good season saw them finish runners up to Sir Alex Ferguson’s United side once again. The Scotsman also got the better of Grant in Chelsea’s first ever Champions League final in Moscow. John Terry’s slip and the width of a goalpost made it one of the worst nights in the club’s history. This loss in Abramovich’s home country made him hurt and for the next three years, it would be madness at the Bridge.