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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for Forbes.com and Soccerly.com and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


Abramovich Has Made Chelsea The Soccer Success Story Of The 21st Century

Written by on November 26, 2012 | 16 Comments »
Posted in Money Game

Let’s imagine that one day you are visited by a soccer genie.

This soccer genie offers you a deal. He promises that your team will in the next ten years, win on average a trophy a season.

Let’s say six domestic Cups, three Premier League titles and a UEFA Champions League title will be tossed in to cap things off.

You ask for a moment to consider the offer.

But you hardly need a moment.

Your favorite side has been around for close to 100 hundred years and has never won anything close to what the genie is promising in just one tenth of the time.

So Mr. Genie – what do you want in exchange?

The exchange is simple – the price is… to read more please click the link.

16 responses to “Abramovich Has Made Chelsea The Soccer Success Story Of The 21st Century”

  1. John Bladen says:

    Interesting view, Bobby.

    It goes without saying that the person bankrolling the money losing (until last year, at least) business is free to do what he wants with his toy. If the fans were really fed up with Roman as owner, there would be 20,000 empty seats at Stamford Bridge for each game. Instead, they continue to fork over cash and hold up curious signs…

    As with Scolari, Grant, AVB and others, di Matteo was compensated very well for his time in charge (and along with most of the ex-Chelsea managers, he will continue to get paid long after stopping work). Yes, he was dumped unceremoniously (a bit like Ancelotti…), but those who are willing to accept a job from Abramovich should not be surprised that the parting will be humiliating, unceremonious and probably unexpected.

    Whether we are talking about a Russian Oligarch or Oil rich Sheiks, the concern is never what they are willing to spend on their toy. It’s what will happen when they tire of it, or perhaps are no longer in a position to spend lavishly to support it.

    Would you agree that Chelsea’s CL win was highly unlikely? It looked to me like they “lost” to each of their last four opponents in every way but on the scoreboard… still, it’s the scoreboard that counts. I guess what I’m saying is that win should not make even the most ardent Chelsea supporter be of the opinion they are an elite club in Europe. They defended well under di Matteo and were very fortunate to defeat each of their opponents after the group stage.

  2. Where Chelsea was at the turn of the century and what they have achieved since is unprecedented.

  3. Alberta Gooner says:

    A provocative and well-reasoned piece, Bobby.

    Abramovich’s Chelsea remind me of a more modern, international version of the Blackburn Rovers side assembled by Sir Jack Walker. Ultimately, they could not sustain their success initially purchased by Walker’s millions. There’s several factors at play that will likely see Chelsea go the same way, including the onset of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play, the inability of Abramovich to purchase the Hammersmith site and develop a stadium that provides match-day income to sustain the club and the failure to develop and blood young talent in the first team. And the latter is down to the transfer policy set by the owner, which can be best described as panic buying and has prevented the likes of McEachern, Kakuta, Bruma, et al from coming into the side. Perhaps he’ll find a way around this but he doesn’t strike me as a fellow who takes the long view.

    There’s no question, though, that Abramovich’s money has transformed the club over the first ten years of his ownership in a way that has shaken up the established order in England. It will be interesting to see whether Abu Dhabi’s sheiks take the same approach because I understand they have made substantial investments in their youth development set-up and are making all the right noises about committing to youth and signing the brightest prospects.

  4. Ed Gomes says:

    He’s the owner and could do what he very well pleases. Like you said, Bobby, they have won.
    Let me add that every manager taking the job knows exactly what they are getting into. I don’t see them walking away from the money, never mind possible prestige.

    As for FFP rules, I think that Chelsea will be just fine. They have large salaries coming off the books; Lamps, Terry, and to a lesser extent Perreira, Malouda, and Cole. I believe the young players that have come in, are not earning crazy amounts.

    I’m far from a fan, and will/would love to see Rafa and Chelsea fall flat on their face. But, I also know that they have talented players that could get it done.
    Just hoping Rafa continues his recent run, or lack there of, form.

  5. Ed Gomes says:

    I just saw that Chelsea “regrets” Mark Clattenburg ref abuse incident.
    Regrets? They should regret it after receiving a huge fine, and maybe further sanctions. To falsely accuse someone before looking into the matter, needs to have repercussions.

    The following is just precious;

    “The club regrets not having given more consideration” before issuing the statement, Chelsea said in a joint statement with the Premier League and referees’ body.

    “The club also regrets the subsequent impact the intense media scrutiny had on Mark Clattenburg and his family,” the statement said.

    If I was Clattenburg, I would refuse to work any Chelsea match again.
    This is also great;

    Chelsea now concedes that it was wrong to publicly allege that Clattenburg used “inappropriate language” in a statement issued within two hours of the match finishing.

    Nowhere in the statement did I see an apology. But that would mean admitting guilt, leaving themselves open to civil action.

    The only way this could get better is having Rafa issue some statement.

  6. Seattle_Loon says:

    Chelsea and their oligarch owner are central characters in the soap opera that is the EPL. The league would be poorer for their absence. The revolving managerial door at Stamford Bridge is of great value for journalists and pundits especially. The most notable aspect of the last week is complete absence of fan fury at Abramovich. As one BBC pundit asserted Benitez has been his human shield.

    I’d love to get annoyed by Chelsea but their instability is a great gift to people like me who aren’t that well disposed to them. It’s hard to see them challenging consistently with an owner who acts like a meth-addled squirrel!

    I love to speculate. What chance we see Guardiola vs Mourinho at logger heads again next season? This time as managers of Man City and Chelsea respectively. Anyone else notice that Man City recently recruited an ex-Barca man as part of their executive team? Is it possible that Chelsea are waiting for their most successful manager to return to England?

  7. Alberta Gooner says:


    Fair spot on the salaries coming off the payroll but they’ve paid more than 90m in transfer fees that didn’t appear in their last accounts that will come on to the books. Hazard is also reported to be on enormous wages (150k/week), which is one reason why both Manchester clubs were put off by him. As long as Chelsea aren’t bringing youth through the system, they will struggle to meet the requirements of FFP because their stadium doesn’t produce the same kind of matchday income as United or Arsenal. And as long as the impasse between the Chelsea pitch owners and Abramovich exists, stadium redevelopment is probably not on the cards.

  8. sv says:

    I was hoping better from a well respected commentator. It shows that you have been bought by likes of the helsea owner. The likes of you ruined the whole meaning of the game and money is now the objective. I am sorry that I thought you were a respectable person.

  9. John Bladen says:


    Based on recent years, CFC could post a small profit each year… if they win the Champions League annually.

    Last year was a wonderful (if unexpected and, based on the run of play rather than the score alone, arguably undeserved) surprise for Chelsea fans. They should not expect this to continue.

    Abramovich’s achievements have come for the most part through being able to outspend his competitors. He can still outspend most, but increasingly Chelsea’s bigger rivals have pocketbooks in or close to the same league as his. Add to that the fact that Russian Oligarchs tend to thrive ‘at the discretion of the PM’, and one never knows. I don’t expect Abramovich to fall into the same disfavour that Berezovsky, Khodorkovsky and Nevzlin have done… but it’s not impossible.

  10. Alberta Gooner – all excellent and relevant points
    The one thing about transfer fees paid is they only show on the books over the period of the contract so any outlay is mitigated.

  11. SV – If you were my mother it might bother me that I am such a disappointment to you. As it is you are going to have to do a lot better than that – it is a pity that the point of the article exceeded your grasp.

  12. Ed – You could tell that Chelsea knew that they had overstepped when they started feeding members of the tame media little bits about having been forced to report it only a week or so after the alleged incident. Sheepish would be a good description.

  13. AG – for some time my contention has been that Abramovich bought a team and invested millions as part of a risk mitigation strategy. For about 5% of his wealth he has bought insurance in the form of worldwide blanket coverage should he ever run foul of Putin.
    Brilliant business.

  14. Alberta Gooner says:

    @John Bladen

    Perhaps they might post a profit with that sort of success but I’ll be interested to see this year’s earnings statement with the summer’s capital outlay with Hazard and others. This is probably one reason why they are taking a tough line with Cole, Malouda, Lampard, Ferreira and other old boys as their contracts wind down and, even then, I still don’t know whether it would be enough. I know transfer fees are amortized over the legnth of a deal but that’s a lot to write down on the books and two signings (Hazard and Oscar) reportedly come on enormous wages. It certainly doesn’t leave them much room to move financially, although I suppose they will try to exploit loopholes. One that I read about involves some speculation around Falcao. Because the nature of Atletico Madrid’s tax debt to the Spanish government, the club is actually interested in shifting him in a way that minimizes the amount they would have to pay the tax man and might look with favour at a deal sending back Fernando Torres to the club at an inflated value.

    From a footballing perspective, I don’t know if it’s possible to sustain that kind of success over the long term with the amount of squad churn and disruption in management. If you look at Chelsea’s success, how much can be attributed to that early wave of purchases plus the holdovers in the squad from the Bates era? Now they are all being pushed out the door and because of the failure to bring along any young players (outside of perhaps Ryan Bertrand), they look a touch thin and he’s not going to be able to inject huge sums of money to make it over due to FFP as well as your excellent point of having other clubs with sugar daddies that possess pockets just as deep. What would Chelsea do, for example, if Manchester City stepped in with an offer to swap Falcao for Carlos Tevez as an example, and threw in another sweetener (Javi Garcia) to trump Chelsea’s bid? Could he afford to buy and bring in Edison Cavani or Luis Suarez, as an example, without creating a huge issue around FFP. Because if you look at what clubs like Inter and Milan have done to reduce payroll, you can bet they will be screaming at Platini to do something to enforce the rules. The hierarchies at Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have also been very vocal about this.

    Your point about Russian oligarchs is well taken. He’s not a business mogul in the sense of what we like to see Bill Gates or Warren Buffett because he didn’t build his wealth in the same way they did. I have a good friend who has worked all over the world in the oilpatch and spend two years in post-Soviet Russia, which he refers to as “the land that law forgot.” The stories he came back with were just incredible. Let’s just say there’s different community standards over there.

    Anyway, it’s easy to see parallels between Abramovich’s business career and his stewardship of Chelsea, both in the positives and negatives. As Bobby said, what Abramovich has done in a short time really is amazing. It took Massimo Morrati one hell of a lot longer — and probably almost as much money — to bring the same kind of success to Inter — and even then only after the calciopoli scandal crippled their two most serious rivals.

  15. Alberta Gooner says:


    Thanks for the kind words.

    They would still be amortizing the transfer fees for likes of Ramires and Torres, though, so it is a lot to bring on the books and it’s not something they can do every transfer window. He certainly won’t be able to repeat what he did at the start of his tenure at Stamford Bridge.

    Your point about Chelsea serving as a hedge for him in case he ever falls out of favour is an excellent point. He’s a very shrewd operator.

  16. John Bladen says:


    Can you point to a time when money wasn’t the objective?

    I’m old enough (just) to remember the embarrassing “PSA” style announcements (often made by bought footballers desperately hoping for a front office salary once their playing days ended) talking about how important it was to keep the maximum weekly wage (which I believe was £4) in the First Division.

    Football has always been about money. In the “good old days” a club with a large following and a high capacity ground might be able to run with the richer owners for a short time, but not for long in most cases.

    The money might be more “in our faces” these days, but it’s not that different from Archibald or Mark Hateley being sold off to Spain/Italy in the 1980s. The rich tend to get richer for obvious reasons.

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