Roman Abramovich: The Billionaire who has everything, but knows nothing
Ever since the inception of the English Premier League, Chelsea FC have been frequent challengers for the coveted trophy. And the aforementioned statement is rendered true by the mere fact that the club has been crowned champion thrice and has finished runner-up on four occasions. It is also noteworthy that all these accomplishments have been achieved by the side from the 2003/04 season onwards, following the arrival of Russian business tycoon Roman Arkadyevich Abramovich in the month of June. Abramovich acquired the club after Ken Bates (who had previously acquired the club for a nominal 1 million pounds), his predecessor, sold it to him for roughly 140 million pounds.
He had the services of the then-manager Claudio Ranieri at his disposal, who quickly earned his displeasure and was shown the door. That decision was probably justifiable as Ranieri was unable to deliver any trophies despite Roman providing a whopping 100 million pounds for new arrivals. In came Jose Mourinho, the ‘Special One’, who provided almost instant success, by knocking the then-favourites Manchester United off their perch twice in quick succession. But his dismissal and subsequent stint at Inter Milan was the beginning of a saga that saw Abramovich appoint no fewer than five managers in six years. The list includes illustrious names like Guus Hiddink, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Carlos Ancelotti and Rafael Benitez, and comparatively less famous people like Avram Grant, Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo.
His frenzied approach to managers has been criticized by each and every loyal Chelsea fan, and to their utter dismay, he has not changed his ways whatsoever. Half a year ago Chelsea were sitting pretty at the pinnacle of European football after having won the UEFA Champions League by outclassing the formidable Bayern Munich outfit in their own den, the Allianz Arena. They topped that off by getting their hands on the FA Cup too. The league campaign was below par, which no one really bothered to care about. After all, who would question the stellar management of Roberto di Matteo who literally turned Chelsea’s season around to bring those trophies to Stamford Bridge? Not so long ago, he was given the dreaded job after Andre Villas-Boas found himself in troubled waters, and the ex-Chelsea player surprised many by what he did, and that was so commendable.
The current season saw Chelsea blasting off their opponents with effortless ease, with most of the good work coming from the midfield trio of Juan Mata, Brazilian prodigy Oscar and Belgian Eden Hazard. But even they could not thwart Radamel Falcao and his Atletico Madrid team, as they romped to a 4-1 victory over the Blues in the UEFA Super Cup final in Monaco. Chelsea soon found themselves trailing both the Manchester clubs in the league, and are now in danger of earning the dubious distinction of being the only holders of the UCL to be knocked out in the group stages, following a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Juventus in Turin.
Di Matteo was axed in no time, and I would say that it was grossly unfair on the part of the Russian to do so. To repay a person who had got him the prize that he himself craved the most (the Champions League) with a dismissal letter at such short notice is senseless and unbecoming of a club owner. And what has he gained by appointing Rafael Benitez as his successor? Nothing, save the fans’ wrath, endless boos from the crowd at the Bridge, and two draws and a loss from three games! Definitely the way to go, Sir!
Roman Abramovich, should, for once, realize that winning ways in football do not come by that easily. It certainly is not as easy as extracting oil from rigs. To expect the new managers to emulate what either Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger did at their respective clubs, in a limited time frame, is ridiculous, foolhardy and shows his ignorance of the nuances of the beautiful game. A manager should enjoy total non-interference from the owner at least in matters of squad selection (apparently, Abramovich insisted that Fernando Torres be selected upfront despite Di Matteo not wanting him to play), and Di Matteo did not even have that luxury.
Hence we can point a finger or two at the billionaire’s eccentric ways for the inconsistent results yielded by Chelsea over the years. Ideally, for the club, he should just let the new man (in this case, Benitez, but we might see a new one at the helm before this article is completed) take charge of the situation, free of any unwanted disturbance from himself or the executives. He should digest the fact that no manager can guarantee a flow of trophies from Day One of his charge as it he needs to firstly acclimatize himself with the environment of the club and the squad members. For now, he should keep calm and be thankful for the fact that he has finally got his Holy Grail, the UCL. Even if Benitez fails to make Chelsea qualify, he should not take stern action, for not even the current Barcelona side, arguably one of the greatest club sides ever, can be expected to win each and every title that comes their way.
Anyway, it is not rocket science to understand that Abramovich lacks the mental toughness or steel, and the ability to take key and importantly, correct managerial decisions, be it while appointing a new manager or while dismissing another (both happening surprisingly, in close proximity of each other). According to me, his biography, ‘Abramovich: The Billionaire from Nowhere’ would make more sense if it is rechristened ‘Abramovich: The Billionaire who gets Nowhere’.
In hindsight, I might even be a bit bold and conclude that he is a bane, rather than a boon for Chelsea, and that Roman Abramovich is one of the worst things to have happened to the Londoners in the last decade or so. Quoting a piece from an article I came across, very recently:
Published 03 Dec 2012, 22:09 IST
“Roman Abramovich may have made his fortune from trading in the world’s natural resources, but he distinctly lacks the minerals when it comes to managing resources of the human variety.”