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What if: Roman Abramovich never bought Chelsea

Roman Abramovich, Chelsea
Roman Abramovich ushered in a new era of football
Arvind Sriram

Long-standing Chelsea fans will remember the state of their football club before the Roman Abramovich era. The side was struggling in the Premier League and just made up the numbers in the Champions League.

The Blues had a debt of around £80m and the atmosphere at the Bridge was poisonous, to say the least.

Abramovich's arrival in 2003 ushered in a new era for the club. Paying off the side’s debts, the Russian went on to splash the cash with an alarming urgency, buying players left right and centre, hiring and firing managers at will, and bringing much-needed change to world football.

His riches have now ensured that Chelsea is considered one of Europe's powerhouses.

But what if the Russian had never met with Sven Goran Erikkson one night in 2003, a meeting which ultimately led to Abramovich’s actions? Would Chelsea still be successful? Would they enjoy the same level of popularity that they do today?

Our next “ What if ” feature takes a look at what could have happened to Chelsea FC and Roman Abramovich had decided against a takeover of the club.


#1 He would have bought London rivals Spurs instead

In 2003, Roman Abramovich decided that he had had enough of Russia and stepped up his interest in buying a Premier League club in London. With Spurs and Chelsea in his sights, the Russian billionaire decided that Chelsea was the best option after a conversation with Sven Goran Erikkson.

Reportedly, Abramovich was unwilling to purchase Spurs due to the simple fact that he would have to rebuild their entire team from scratch, which was not the case with Chelsea. According to Chelsea chairman Buck, Abramovich turned to Chelsea only after Spurs failed to arrange a meeting with him.

This was ultimately what tipped the scales in the Blues’ favour.

If Chelsea were out of the picture, though, it would have been Tottenham that would have felt the Russian’s Midas touch. Imagine the state of football had he bought Spurs instead.

#2 Spurs would have finished ahead of Arsenal in the league for the first time since 1994/95

Spurs
Spurs fans would have had a cause for celebration

The last time Spurs finished above Arsenal and avoided the infamous St. Totteringham’s Day was in the 1994/95 season when Jurgen Klinsmann led the club to 5th.

Arsenal, meanwhile, under a washed out George Graham stumbled to 12th.

It has been years of relentless pain for Spurs’ fans ever since, with the club coming ever so close to toppling the Gunners on quite a few occasions, but falling at the final hurdle. This was the case last season as well, where Spurs required a point on the final day to ensure 2nd place but ended up on the receiving side of a 5-1 drubbing against Newcastle.

This was just another day in the office for Arsene Wenger, however, who has the bragging rights over his North London neighbours, having never finished below them in his 20-year tenure.

With the Russian’s investments, though, there is no doubt whatsoever that Spurs would have usurped Arsenal for at least a season or 2, especially if they had retained a player of Bale’s calibre.

#3 Chelsea would still have no Premier League and Champions League titles

Chelsea, Champions League
This night in Munich would never have happened

Abramovich’s investments turned Chelsea football club on its head. From a team that were happy with an occasional cup win and a top half finish, they went on to become arguably one of the best teams in England.

A year after his takeover, Abramovich recruited Jose Mourinho who led the club to their first ever Premier League title. The club also managed to claim the League Cup trophy that year, completing a domestic double. Mourinho also led the club to the semi-finals of the Champions League that very year.

The Blues have gone on to win another 2 League titles since then, as well as the Champions League under Roberto Di Matteo, along with 3 FA Cups.

All this, however, would have been completely unattainable without Abramovich, who has reportedly splurged over £2b on Chelsea.

The Russian splashed over £100m in his very first season with the signings of Glen Johnson, Damien Duff and a number of others. The signings just kept flowing ever since, most notably with the arrival of Shevchenko for £30m and Fernando Torres for a club record £50m.

Whether they would even be competing in the Premier League at all is another question altogether and can be left to the imagination.

#4 Jose Mourinho would never have come to England

Jose Mourinho, Manchester United
The “Special One” would never have arrived in England

Jose Mourinho is considered to be Chelsea's most successful manager since his arrival in 2004. In his first stint at the Blues, Mourinho led the side to two Premier League titles as well as an FA Cup, two League Cups and a Community Shield.

His second stint was successful as well as he bagged another Premier League and League Cup title.

The Portuguese manager was recruited by Roman after his success in the Champions League with Porto. But would the Special One have agreed to a move to Chelsea without the lure of the Russian money and the prospect of Champions League football?

It is fair to say that it would have been very unlikely.

Even if Abramovich had taken over Spurs, Mourinho would have been hesitant to move to a club under transition and rebuild it from scratch.

Probably a move to Spain or La Liga would have beckoned for the now Manchester United coach and England fans would have never been able to see the genius at work. His pragmatic style of play a.k.a ‘parking the bus’ which he mastered at Chelsea, is now employed all over the world.

#5 We would never have had the Claudio Ranieri- Leicester City story

Claudio Ranieri, Leicester City
Ranieri would never have led Leicester to the Premier League title

Claudio Ranieri’s name will be etched in Leicester City’s history books after the Italian overcame all odds to lead his Leicester side to the Premier League title in 2015/16. The Foxes pulled off what is possibly the biggest upset of all-time to claim the crown under Ranieri’s astute guidance.

The world, however, would have been bereft of this magnificent story had Ranieri not made the switch to Leicester. That, in turn, might have never happened had Abramovich not taken over at Chelsea and sacked Ranieri within a season.

Ranieri went on to coach Valencia, Palermo, Juventus, Napoli, Greece and a number of other sides after leaving Chelsea.

If the Italian had stayed at Chelsea for a few more years, it is very likely that he could have either led Chelsea to success or moved on to richer pastures elsewhere, which would have changed the course of history.

Edited by Staff Editor

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