Roman Abramovich wanted to believe the ‘happy one’ had changed
Chelsea owner now seems to think José Mourinho was the problem not the solution
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich: . For all that has altered since 2003, it is still only one man’s opinion that matters. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA
When Roman Abramovich swallowed his pride and dialled José Mourinho’s number in 2013, in many ways it seemed the ultimate remarriage of convenience. Those close to the Russian, who turned English football upside-down when he bought Chelsea in 2003, say once his mind is made up it is difficult to change.
His rapprochement with Mourinho, though, was based on a mutual desire to do the one thing neither had managed: show they could build a long-term dynasty rather than produce success based on chaos and shifting sands.
Having sunk more than £1 billion (€1.38 billion)into Chelsea over the course of a decade, Abramovich had successfully lobbied Uefa to bring in financial fair play (FFP), invested heavily in an academy that he was determined would start bearing fruit and craved the respect that would only come from long-term success achieved with a modicum of style.
The Portuguese, meanwhile, wanted to leave behind the turmoil – much of it self-inflicted – of the Bernabéu for somewhere that he knew he would feel unconditional love from the stands.
Sweeping back into “my dugout, my dressing room, my office” in 2013, he gave every impression of wanting to remain at Stamford Bridge for a decade or more.
One that was prepared to delegate yet would take an interest in the development of players beyond the first-team squad. One that was happy to work with technical director Michael Emenalo and the board to target players and work within a budget. One that wanted to build sustainable success. There was a wish to believe it to be true, even when the evidence began to scream otherwise.
Success, when it came, was achieved largely via the same means that had made Mourinho one of the most successful managers in history. And when the shameful Eva Carneiro saga unravelled, a club that had six months previously been loudly proclaiming its commitment to diversity and equality felt obliged to back their manager over the club doctor he had in effect bullied and demoted.
The de facto chief executive, Marina Granovskaia, chairman Bruce Buck and director Eugene Tenenbaum, are all longstanding close associates of Abramovich’s. All are hugely capable, yet, ultimately, will always be trying to second-guess their patron. For all that has altered since 2003, it is only one man’s opinion that matters.
The irony is that it is Manchester City, who embarked on their grand project five years later than Abramovich, who appear to have stolen a march. Residual uneasiness underscores both clubs about the manner in which they suddenly came into vast wealth but it is City who have made a more convincing stab at building a sustainable structure.
For Chelsea and Abramovich, facing a season out of the Champions League and with a temporary move to Wembley in the offing while Stamford Bridge is rebuilt, the only guarantee is uncertainty.
Abramovich was perhaps more desperate for Mourinho’s second coming to work than the man himself. Yet he appears to have concluded for a second time that the Portuguese was the problem rather than the solution.
His investment has produced silverware, global recognition and unprecedented success to SW6, but stability and any semblance of a long-term strategy remain elusive. – (Guardian service)