Roman Abramovich discovers karma rhymes with pitch
Back in 2003, a certain Russian billionaire acquired Chelsea from Ken Bates for a reported £140 million. Roman Abramovich was an unknown quantity then. No one considered him a football person. Most expected him to lose interest after a few years, like a child throwing away a toy. After a decade-and-a-half, opinion has changed.
There have been bumps on the path to greatness, but overall it has been success after success for the balalaika Blues. Abramovich's spending transformed the Premier league into a beast. Now, the beast has grown beyond his control.
It has never been uncommon to see owners attempt to change the hegemony of a league by spending big. Jack Walker tried it with Blackburn in the 1990s. Like most bright flames, his burned out quickly. Every time it has looked like Chelsea would fade, though, they come roaring back. The money-man is known to move through the motions of the game with Chelsea fans, wearing facial expressions perfectly in tune with fans' feelings. It's not uncommon to see Abramovich anxiously biting his nails. He loves the club dearly and has become respected for his passion more than his financial power.
Unable to compete for players as he once did, Abramovich pushes the club forward with a heavy coaching rotation. Most Chelsea fans would prefer a manager to form a legacy at Stamford Bridge. Appealing to that sentiment is the reason the owner brought Jose Mourinho back. Yet, few berate Abramovich for his impatience. Chelsea’s history of sacking managers is legendary, and that history is about to repeat.
Antonio Conte looked defiant after the Blues suffered a second catastrophic defeat in the space of a week, beaten 4-1 at Vicarage Road by Watford. The pressure is mounting on the 48-year-old. For what it's worth, Conte must bear the bulk of the blame. His constant moaning about transfer targets has not sent a good message to the powers that be, aka Abramovich. Nor does it play well with his existing squad, who must feel underappreciated. The former Juventus boss appears to have lost the dressing room.
The Russian expects perfection at every point, which does not bode well for the Italian. That said, the chairman should also reflect upon himself.
Chelsea is no longer the force of old in the transfer market. The spending power in Manchester far exceeds his ability. United has an almost inexhaustible budget due to its resources. The Red Devils reside in the Premier League's largest stadium. They operate its biggest marketing machine. Both provide them with the greatest revenue stream. Meanwhile, City is funded by a Qatari owner whose net worth far exceeds every other club chairman, Abramovich included.
How can anyone blame the Chelsea owner for ratcheting back his investment. He has spent sufficiently. Now is the time to reap the dividends, even though that may come at the expense of challenging for the title. City and United can spend any amount on any player they desire. Chelsea cannot.
Abramovich made the market what it is by paying enormous fess for players not worth the price. He caught up to United, Liverpool, and Arsenal. Now it has come back to bite him.
Rival investors with larger war chests watched, learned, and moved in. Abramovich is outclassed. He can no longer compete for the Romelu Lukakus, Alexis Sanchezes, and Virgil van Dijks. It has affected the Blues' ability to compete. It has disheartened a manager used to plucking the best players from other Serie A clubs while with Juve.
As a battered and weary Dirty Harry once said...
Roman Abramovich does. It is a bitter pill to swallow.