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Five Years On: What Has Abramovich Done?

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With Platini recently mouthing off about English clubs yet again, most noticeably Chelsea and Manchester United, and an encore from the opposition who’ve had nothing better than Abramovich’s millions to throw at us for years anyway, it’s probably time for a review of the Roman regime.

During the five years since Abramovich arrived at Chelsea, the face of Premier League football has changed almost beyond belief some would say. But has the injection of his rubles been a good or a bad thing? Well, Platini would tell you it’s most definitely a bad thing. In fact, he’d go as far as to say any club with the money to bring in the biggest and best players in the world are simply ‘cheats’. Well, they are if they’re English clubs anyway, because strangely enough, when it comes to Spanish clubs offering obscene amounts to lure players away from the Premier League, that doesn’t appear to count in his book. Still, it would seem that having three of the Champions League semi-final places occupied by Premier League clubs, followed by an all English final didn’t go down well, and having created a league intended for ‘Champions’, it would appear UEFA would prefer to dictate who those Champions are. So much so that they’re prepared to ask the top earners to accept less in terms of prize money in order to give other clubs a chance.

Anyway, back to Abramovich’s role in all this and obviously, it’s largely his millions to blame for all that is wrong in the Premier League today apparently. His spending doesn’t allow anybody else to compete we’re told although I’ve no doubt a certain SAF would have something to say about that since it was his team that cleaned up last season. So could it be that Abramovich has simply raised the competitive nature of the Premier League? I mean, before his arrival who else could really compete? Didn’t we simply have the usual two-horse race between United and Arsenal every season? Not so now though, because the opposition have been forced to raise their standards and the result is ‘the big four’. So who’s to say that trend won’t continue to spread through the league? After all, Abramovich might’ve been the first multi-millionaire to grace the Premier League but rather than put off the arrival of other investors, it seems to have encouraged it, with United and Liverpool following suit and even Man City.

What about the way he’s hurt the England team though? It’s been said that the way he’s prepared to lash out to bring English players to Chelsea is detrimental to the national side. But whilst the argument that in order to play for the national side, you need to be playing regular first team football is valid, so is the argument that if you were good enough to get into a top side on a regular basis you would. After all, playing for Chelsea didn’t seem to stifle the careers of John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard or Joe Cole. We haven’t built a team totally dominated by foreigners and if anything, the fact that our success has been built on an English core is hardly a valid reason for criticism.

Another argument used against our Russian owner is his desire to win and win now, but isn’t that the whole point of competitive football? Yes of course what we really want is to build a team from the seeds and watch as it grows, but the nature of the Premier League doesn’t seem to allow for that these days – ask Arsenal. Of course SAF has done it in the past, but we can’t all have a Fergie at the helm can we? But then again, the fact that Abramovich wants success in the short-term doesn’t mean he’s not in it for the long haul. It’s been said many times that he ‘loves’ Chelsea and he certainly wants them to succeed. If he really planned to walk away, would he really keep shelling out hand over fist in order to achieve that?

Still, what about his impatience? He’s certainly getting through plenty of managers, to the point where it’s assumed he’s ruthless. Ranieri, Mourinho, Grant – all shown the door because they didn’t deliver what he ‘demands’. But is that really the case? Ranieri put together a good squad, a really good squad in fact, but his ability to really deliver was something that was questioned before Roman showed up. Mourinho, certainly our most successful manager but also one of the most controversial and I lost count of the times I heard the argument that any manager bankrolled to the extent he was could win the Premier League. And as for Grant, well Roman couldn’t win either way with him. He was slated for appointing him in the first place (a decision that still makes me raise my eyes to this day) and yet, because he did what ‘any manager could with that squad’ (without actually winning anything), he was the villain of the peace yet again when he sacked him.

The fact is, Roman wants success like any owner of a football club, but he also wants it delivered in a manner that pleases. How often have Chelsea been criticised for their style of football? And yet if he pays for players capable of playing it or sacks a manager who couldn’t deliver it if their lives depended on it, he’s wrong. The latest example of this being Scolari. Abramovich obviously believes him capable of delivering a more attractive style of football than his predecessors and is again prepared to pay for whatever players the manager feels he needs to deliver that – and again he’s accused of ‘meddling’.

My guess is that whatever Roman does there’ll always be some reason given for why it’s a bad thing and I’m certainly not averse to questioning him from time to time. But maybe it’s time his contribution to the Premier League was recognised as something other than football’s biggest crime?

The Premier League is now one of, if not the best league in the world and whether Platini likes it or not, last seasons Champions League is testament to that.

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