Russian billionaire and politician Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea Football Club in 2003 for £60 million from Ken Bates, gaining total control of the club, which at the time didn’t have any money in its pocket, and Arguably leading to the most important takeover in modern football history.
Abramovich, using his billionaire status, reshaped the club and completely changed its story in almost every aspect. Since then it has become the most successful club in England of the 21st century with 22 trophies in total, including 5 Premier League titles, 2 UEFA Champions Leagues, 2 UEFA Europa Leagues, 6 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, 1 UEFA Super Cup, and 3 Community Shields.
When Abramovich bought the club, it had very less or no money to survive. From 2000-03, 3 years before his arrival, Chelsea had only spent £21 million on 6 major signings in 3 years, that is Jesper Grønkjær, Frank Lampard, Emmanuel Petit, Robert Huth, William Gallas, and Boudewijn Zenden. Abramovich, as he promised, in his first season that is 2003-04 spent £118 million in a mammoth 11 signings which included 7 big signings in the likes of Damien Duff, Ashley Cole, Juan Sebastián Verón, Adrian Mutu, Hernán Crespo, Claude Makélélé and Scott Parker. It straight away impacted the team’s performance as they ended up as Champions League Semi-Finalists in the 2003-04 season, the first season under Abramovich. Ten years later in 2013, his investments stood at a massive £2 billion, and five years later in 2018, he put in £247 million of his own money into the club.
18 years since Abramovich set the trend rolling, many billionaires have joined the trend of buying big-name football clubs with Sheikh Mansour buying Manchester City in 2008 and Nasser Al-Khelaïfi buying Paris Saint-Germain in 2011 through state-backed figures.
Today, Chelsea is valued as the 6th wealthiest football club in the world, but when Abramovich purchased it, it had a debt of £90 million. Yet so eager was he to buy the club that the negotiations between him and Chelsea took only a week to conclude and he instantly cleared them off all their debts. It was said that Claudio Ranieri’s side in 2002 would continue to provide success in the coming years with legendary players like John Terry, Frank Lampard, and many more. The fact they had secured Champions League football, boasted quality infrastructure around the Chelsea village, and sat in a billionaire’s haven of West London made the club an attractive proposition despite their financial issues.
It is rumored that the idea of buying a major Football Club was pitched to Abramovich by Russian President Vladimir Putin as a way of improving his public image as it would create an international profile away from business and politics, it also served as a means of diluting his liquid assets making them harder to reclaim, all these rumors overshadowing his interests in football.
Either way, it worked out just fine for both parties resulting in a humongous success. His investments in the club turned out to be both commercially and politically intelligent decisions. Today, he’s also one of the most important figures within the Russian football federation and a very popular figure among football fans for what he’s done for Chelsea and Russian football.