Chelsea changed the market with Abramovich, but now belongs to Americans


IT’S iIt is impossible to know what Russian Roman Abramovich, 55, thinks about the 19 years he owned Chelsea. Averse to the press, his pronouncements were always given through advisors or in writing.

It is not even known exactly where he lives. Perhaps in Israel, perhaps in The Eclipse, his giant and luxurious yacht built for US$ 700 million (R$ 3.55 billion at the current price).

The fact is that Abramovich changed the football market once again last Friday (6) night, when he closed a deal to sell the current European and world champion for US$ 3.1 billion (R$ 15.75 billion). No team in any sport had ever been traded for such a high price.

Before that, in 2003, when he bought the almost bankrupt club, poorly managed by the Englishman Ken Bates, the magnate who made his fortune buying Russian state-owned companies after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he inflated football with the values ​​of hiring and salaries. A path that would later be followed by the nouveau riche in the world of football, such as Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

The consortium that now controls the London team is led by American Todd Boehly, who also has a stake in the Los Angeles Dodgers, one of the most traditional franchises in MLB (Major League Baseball), the professional baseball league in the United States.

Boehly was at Stamford Bridge this Saturday (7) to watch the 2-2 draw with Wolverhampton, in the penultimate round of the Premier League. In 3rd place, he is guaranteed in the next Champions League, the most profitable tournament on the planet.

According to the text released by Chelsea, the US$ 3.1 billion will be kept untouched in an account with the intention of being fully donated to philanthropic entities, as Abramovich had signaled.

For the sale of any Premier League team to be finalized, the seal of the British government and the body that administers the championship is needed. In theory, it is investigated whether buyers have personal and financial integrity, the so-called “fit and proper test”.

The system has already been questioned in the past because of the sales of Manchester City and Newcastle to companies or people linked, respectively, to the royal families of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – countries accused of using investment in football as a geopolitical weapon in an attempt to to change the image of governments without respect for human rights. The strategy is called sportswashing.

“In addition, the new owners commit to investing £1.75bn [R$ 11 bi pela cotação atual] for the benefit of the club. This includes investments in Stamford Bridge, the academy, women’s team and Kingsmeadow. [estádio usado por elas] and continue to fund the Chelsea Foundation,” reads the statement released after the sale.

Confirmation of the deal is expected by the end of this month, which should put Boehly and his partners in a position to also define the strategy for the male professional squad. The new Premier League season will start in August.

Coach Thomas Tuchel, who led the team to the 2021 Champions League title and this year’s World Cup, has already said he hopes to continue.

The change of ownership became inevitable because of the Ukrainian War. The UK government has imposed sanctions on Russian tycoons with assets in the country and seen as linked to Vladimir Putin. One of them was Abramovich, the businessman who fell in love with football when he watched Manchester United vs Real Madrid in the 2003 Champions League quarter-finals at Old Trafford.

It was that night that he decided: he needed to have his own team. He flirted with some before choosing Chelsea. Since then, the way he obtained his fortune has been questioned, as has his close relationship with Putin. Abramovich even offered to mediate peace between Russia and Ukraine and end the war.

In early March, he released a statement stating that he had reluctantly agreed to sell Chelsea. As part of the punishments, the British government had frozen all of his assets in the country. The club was included.

The team has been in limbo ever since. It is now prohibited to buy or sell players and generate any kind of income. Sponsors canceled contracts, and the future on the field became doubtful.

Abramovich made Chelsea his personal project. He has invested nearly $2 billion (R$10.2 billion at current rates) of his personal fortune to keep his accounts in the red. In the first years under his command, he lost US$ 1 million a week (R$ 5.1 million).

On the pitch, the Russian made his club a force on the European continent. He was a five-time English champion (before that he had only one victory, in 1955) and reached three Champions League finals. He won twice, in 2012 and 2021.

Of the 20 teams that compete in the Premier League this season, 7 belong to or have American participation. In addition to Chelsea, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Manchester United are on the list. Fulham, who will contest the tournament in 2022-2023, are also owned by a US businessman.

One of the main questions about the sale of Chelsea is how the Superliga project will be, the mega-championship among the main teams on the continent. The idea met with such an uproar in the UK that it was intervened by the government, and Abramovich was the first to jump ship, taking Chelsea with him.

In addition to the Spaniards from Barcelona and Real Madrid, the biggest enthusiasts of the project are the Americans who own clubs in England. Now they may have found one more ally.

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