Victory against BVB only buys time: the curse of the Abramovich billions weighs on Chelsea

A year ago the war started.

Victory against BVB only buys time: the curse of the Abramovich billions weighs on Chelsea

A year ago the war started. Sanctions against Russia follow, including against the oligarchs in the Putin system. Among them is Roman Abramovich. He has to sell Chelsea, promises a generous donation. That remains until today. The new owners are buying time by defeating BVB.

The new boss had a bottle of beer in his hand. He shuffled across the square, disappeared into the catacombs and came out about 20 minutes later, still clutching the bottle of beer. Todd Boehly was keen to see his team at Stamford Bridge that evening. Strolling alongside him was 87-year-old Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss, who also owns part of Chelsea. He was also dressed in shirt sleeves, wore a shawl, and his age weighed on his every step. It was getting late that evening near the Thames anyway. But still successful. The 2-0 win against Borussia Dortmund and the entry into the quarter-finals of the Champions League gives the two very rich men some peace and quiet in their London project, which has slipped more and more from them in recent weeks. Beaten down in the championship, out in the national cups.

The win against the Bundesliga club came at just the right time. For a little over nine months they have been in charge of the fate of the club, which was long in the hands of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. But the 56-year-old had no choice after Russia began attacking Ukraine just over a year ago. The blues were ripped out of his hands. In the 19 years prior, he had taken them from insignificance to the very top, modeling the club itself as a role model for so many others. The Russians were followed by other, even richer, owners. Not just in England, but worldwide. The oligarch spearheaded the football revolution of the early 2000s, when more and more money poured into football and changed it forever.

But with the war came the sanctions against Abramovich, questions about his at least dubious role in the Putin system and he had an idea of ​​how he could show himself in a good light one last time. The proceeds from the sale should go to a foundation that will donate money to humanitarian aid in Ukraine. It was, so to speak, the last wish of a disappearing man. He should be fulfilled. But more than nine months after the sale, the war rages on and the billions are still in the UK.

Because it is still unclear what will happen to the Abramovich billions. The €2.8 billion proceeds from the sale of his club remain frozen in a UK bank account, a UK government spokesman recently confirmed to They cannot be moved without government approval. A foundation has been in the process of being established since last summer. Responsible for this is Mike Penrose, who headed Unicef ​​UK for three years and now has to deal responsibly with an incredible amount of money. While Penrose moved sums of around 170 million euros annually during his time at Unicef, the total volume of the foundation corresponds to more than sixteen times its budget at the time. The €2.8 billion is roughly the size of UK military aid to Ukraine in 2022. An unimaginable sum.

And so, of course, there are different ideas about how the money will ultimately be used in Ukraine and also whether it will be used exclusively for Ukraine. Two kinds of ideas are currently circulating: On the one hand, the Abramovich billions could be invested in full immediately, to rebuild schools, clinics and the country's destroyed infrastructure, or based on the classic foundation model as a basis for long-term support. For Penrose, the main thing is to see which organizations are active in Ukraine and how the money could affect their work.

Most recently, it was said that only the European Union had to agree to the establishment of the foundation and then the way would be free for the gigantic aid for Ukraine. But after a report in the "Telegraph" at the beginning of February, things went quiet again about the future foundation. A lot of money means a lot of responsibility and the British government continues to watch over everything, making sure that the billions don't flow back to Russia or Abramovich and that the sanctions are simply circumvented.

So Abramovich has been history at Stamford Bridge for almost a year. The club, with which he rushed from success to success, cost him only around 165 million euros in 2003. He and Chelsea showed the world that big bucks can buy any success in the Premier League. He and Chelsea also showed the world that the glory of the owners can be increased and ultimately a club can also be sold for a lot of profit.

These days, however, it is no longer individuals, but entire states that are pushing their billions into the league and moving unimaginable sums. Manchester City is closely linked to the United Arab Emirates, Newcastle United is completely in Saudi hands and Manchester United is being pushed into the market by hosts of the 2022 World Cup, Qatar. There is still no guarantee that Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani will be awarded the contract for what has recently been dubbed the "crown jewels of football". In any case, the desert states buy visibility, attention, recognition and the more than hundred-year-old tradition of English clubs with their billions.

It's sort of a continuation of the tradition established by Abramovich, which is a little different at Chelsea. A consortium led by billionaire Boehly has governed Stamford Bridge since the summer of 2022. The funds from the Clearlake Capital Group, which is behind the billion-dollar deal, have brought Chelsea rather modest success so far. Soon after the takeover, the German coach Thomas Tuchel flew. It was the visible pinnacle of the massive upheaval at Stamford Bridge, which even included "the most powerful woman in football". Marina Granovskaia got a golden handshake, took over 22 million euros and left the Blues. She had shaped the club for years and was the face of the strategy that only brought Chelsea the Champion League victory in 2021. Abramovich knew that with his money he had to buy not only players, but also knowledge.

Boehly, who gave up his otherwise obligatory sunglasses after beating BVB, took over the club with erratic hecticness and wanted to do everything. It was almost a miracle that he gave up his coaching job after Tuchel was thrown out. But at least he tried to build the squad according to his ideas. So far it can be said that he has not succeeded. He claims he only wants to make the fans happy. And if you want to make fans happy, buy them new toys, buy them new players. However, that's not how football works. The overall balance reads disastrously. The transfer minus this season amounts to over 500 million euros. In winter alone, the Blues paid a ridiculous 330 million euros in transfer and rental fees. That's almost as much money as Lars Windhorst burned at Hertha BSC.

But the newly formed team is stuck in the league in the mediocrity, has been thrown out of all national competitions and has now probably only gotten a short breathing space in the game against Borussia Dortmund. For the first time since the 2016/2017 season, it looks like a season without international football at Stamford Bridge. In addition to the sporting consequences, the club has also caused enormous damage to its image. A highly unfortunate time in the ongoing search for a new shirt sponsor, from which they had promised well over 50 million euros a year.

In addition, Chelsea could face additional adversity. All the transfers with the long-term contracts for players like world champion Enzo Fernández or top Ukrainian talent Mikhailo Mudryk mean that the salary costs of the huge squad continue to rise into the London sky. Even before the pandemic, the annual salary costs were over 350 million euros, and only then came the transfers from the new owners. "If Chelsea miss the Champions League, they will definitely be on the UEFA watch list," football finance expert Kieran Maguire recently told The Times.

The victory over Borussia Dortmund fueled hopes that, miraculously, they will continue to play in the premier club next season. "They have already bought really good players," said BVB coach Edin Terzić after the game, without using it as an excuse for his team. And the fans at Stamford Bridge, one of those England's outdated stadiums, didn't care anyway. The next step on the road to Istanbul, this year's final destination, was completed. They waved their scarves after the win and sang and danced in the stands to "One Step Beyond" by Madness. They were happy and that's all Todd Boehly wants. The US billionaire grabbed a beer and shuffled off with Swiss billionaire Wyss. You deserved it.