Why did Roman Abramovich have to sell Chelsea?

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When Russia first invaded Ukraine on February 24th, 2022, it set in motion many more events than simply an assault on the country.

Unsurprisingly one of the first of these was a near worldwide condemnation of the aggression. This was soon followed by many countries imposing sanctions on both Russia and Russian nationals all around the world.

It was reported that many oligarchs were acting quickly to move their super-yachts to neutral waters where they could not be impounded. It’s thought that one of these men was Roman Abramovich, but there was one UK-held asset that wasn’t so easy to move, his beloved Chelsea FC.

Under rules imposed by the UK government, Abramovich’s links with the Russian President Vladimir Putin meant that he was compelled to sell the club to an approved bidder – and by the end of May the deal was signed, sealed and delivered.

The Abramovich transformation

It brought an end to a 19-year reign as the owner of the team which, few could deny, was transformed over the period.

For some time before his purchase in 2003 Chelsea’s fortunes had been in the doldrums, largely due to lack of investment. But this all changed and over the years he was at the helm when around £2 billion was spent on acquiring new players.

This drive to spend soon stated to produce results, the first of which was winning the Premier League title in the 2004/5 season, a feat last achieved half a century ago in 1954. To show that this was no one-off, the team then went on to repeat their victory four more times after that.

They also enjoyed success in cup competitions winning the FA Cup five times and the Champions League twice. So, from being relative no hopers, Chelsea soon became real favorites for fans of football betting.

However, there was a price to pay for this success with the fickle Abramovich getting through managers at a surprising rate, even for the Premier League. Over the years 13 in all came and went, some returning for second stint, most notably Jose Mourinho who was in post from 2004 to 2007 and again from 2013 to 2015.

But recent seasons have been altogether less successful for Chelsea, and, prior to his enforced sale, there was the feeling that Abramovic may have been losing interest in the club.

The new owners

He will probably also be very annoyed that his initial investment of £140 million grew to a sale price of £4.25 billion, but he won’t see a penny of it.

The new owners of the club, who had to undergo thorough scrutiny and approval by the government and Football Association before the deal was done, are a group headed by Todd Boehly and including Mark Walter and Hansjorg Wyss. Walter and Boehly are hardly newcomers to owning sports teams as they also control the LA Dodgers, the Lakers and the Sparks.

The season so far

The season under the new owners had a distinctly rocky start with the sacking of Thomas Tuchel as manager early in September 2022. Not only had he become embroiled in controversy after being sent off after an angry confrontation with Spurs manager Antonio Conte, but results had also been poor.

His replacement was Graham Potter who joined from Brighton and Hove Albion. Despite some positive initial results, things have run far from smoothly for him since then. One particular low point of the season was when Chelsea exited the FA Cup in the third round following a 4-0 defeat by Manchester City.  This was the first time since 1999 that they failed to progress further in the competition. A subsequent loss to Southampton, who were bottom of the league, in mid-February led to calls for his sacking.

Towards the end of March Chelsea were sitting mid-way up the table and string of wins and draws had slightly relieved the pressure on Potter.

His unconventional style of management is also proving to be a little hard to take for some. In the past he has encouraged players to move out of their comfort zone and take part in drama classes and musical productions.

The one bright spot, and what may well be heading off his sacking for now, is Chelsea’s performance in the Champions League. Following victory over Dortmund they have advanced to the Quarter Finals of the competition. It remains to be seen whether they are good enough to beat Real Madrid and advance to the semi-finals.

There are plenty of people at Stamford Bridge who are hoping that they can, not least Todd Boehly and team. After all, with all chances of Premier League and FA Cup titles gone they will need continued success in Europe to start paying back on that sizeable £4.25 billion investment.

As featured on ChelseaNews.com

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