War in Ukraine changes Chelsea’s life as they try to stay in the Champions League

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War in Ukraine changes Chelsea’s life as they try to stay in the Champions League

Roman Abramovich, 55, owner of a fortune valued by Forbes at US$ 13 billion (R$ 66.57 billion at the current price), revolutionized the European football market and changed the history of Chelsea in the last 19 years. He has become the ultimate symbol of the tycoon who buys a midsize team, opens his wallet and turns it into a big one.

The other English clubs and their fans have not forgotten how the rival inflated salaries. Two decades later, it’s time to take the plunge.

“Chelsea and sporting integrity don’t belong in the same sentence,” Middlesbrough owner Steve Gibson said in an unusual attack among managers.

It was a response to the request by the London club for the match between them next Saturday (19), at Riverside Stadium, for the FA Cup, to be played behind closed doors.

Chelsea’s claim is that their fans will not be able to come to the game and that would be sportingly unfair. The club is banned from having new revenues as part of sanctions imposed by the British government on Russian oligarchs, including Abramovich.

The club received an official license to continue operating. It can play games, pay staff and allow season ticket holders to enter the stadium. He is also authorized to receive funds already agreed before the punishment, such as money from television contracts. But “new funds” cannot enter.

This means being prohibited from trading players, signing other sponsorship contracts, selling tickets and official products.

All this is a consequence of sanctions imposed on Russian citizens who have British residence, as a consequence of the war in Ukraine.

As a protest, the crowd chanted Abramovich’s name during the victory over Newcastle last Sunday (13). Boris Johnson asked them to stop doing that, which seems to be the easiest way for them to continue doing so. The surroundings of Stamford Bridge stadium were spray-painted with slogans and demands that the club be “leaved alone.”

That the directors are concerned about acting without the presence of an audience against a rival from the second division shows the 180 degree turn suffered in the last 12 months.

A year ago, Chelsea was preparing to defeat Atletico Madrid 2-0 and qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions League, a tournament in which they would be champions less than three months later. In February of this year, he won the World Cup by defeating Palmeiras in the final.

This Wednesday (16), the team is favorite to go through the round of 16 of the European competition. Visit Lille with a 2-0 advantage at home. But he enters the field with more doubts than certainties.

“If I have to, I’ll pay,” Germany striker Kai Havertz said of the cost of traveling to France. Under UK government rules, Chelsea can only spend £200,000 on away matches.

German coach Thomas Tuchel scoffed and claimed he could drive a van and take the players to face Lille if necessary.

The ban on buying and selling athletes also affects the financial structure of the squad and the future of Tuchel himself, tipped to transfer to Manchester United. As Chelsea cannot receive appeals until the decision is reversed, it is unclear whether he could now leave without paying a fine. But he has already warned that he stays at least until the end of the season.

If the scenario does not change, the situation of the most expensive names in the squad is also complicated, such as striker Romelu Lukaku, the club’s highest salary (R$ 8.70 million per month). Payroll is valued at £162m per season. And the number is lower than in recent years because high-paying names were traded and cash-saving, such as Eden Hazard, Gary Cahill and David Luiz.

The only solution, at the moment, to escape the restrictions is Abramovich to sell the club. There are interested.

According to CBS, Saudi Media Group, from Saudi Arabia, offered US$ 3.5 billion (R$ 18 billion to buy the club). American groups linked to businessmen in the NBA (the professional basketball league) and the MLB (in baseball) are also considering making offers.

Chelsea’s market value is estimated at $4 billion.

Since Olympique de Marseille won the Champions League in 1993, a club that is the current owner of the main European title has not gone through such a crisis. At the time, businessman Bernard Tapie, owner of the French team, was accused of a results-buying scheme.

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