Following Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine at the start of the year, Russia has been struck with several sanctions across the financial and sporting scenes. Russia’s wealthiest, remarkably the post-soviet oligarchs, have not been spared in Europe and beyond.
Despite Roman Abramovich’s increasing popularity in England, the UK government sanctioned the Chelsea owner in March. Besides being generally considered a Russian oligarch that profited from the former Soviet republic, Roman has been reported to have a close relationship with the Russian President hence, the action from the government. The sanctions prevented the West London club from selling matchday tickets, traveling by air, renewing players’ contracts, and other notable restrictions.
Subsequently, Roman recused himself from actively participating in the club’s management to ease the sanctions. In May 2022, he opted to sell the club for a world record £2.5bn to an American consortium headed by Todd Boehly. The Russian billionaire also promised to donate net proceeds from the sale to victims of the Ukraine invasion.
Within a few weeks to months of the American takeover, it became clear that the management pattern would change. The summer transfer window confirmed the beginning of a different phase, and Boehly let top club executives, including Marina Granovaskaia, the club’s sporting director, go. Marina had been previously named the best sporting director in Europe in 2021.
Retrospectively the subtle changes may now seem apparent; however, the average Chelsea would have been content with spending a world record £273.5m in the summer. Acquisitions of Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly, Wesley Fofana, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and other top talents generally imitated an Abramovich-esque era for the club.
However, the club notably missed out on Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde, Raphina, and Dembele to Spanish giants Barcelona. In the same summer, Chelsea had a club record bid of £77m for Lezpig’s half-back, Josko Gvardiol, turned down and could not seal a £60m for Everton’s Anthony Gordon.
British pundits received Chelsea’s summer activity with mixed reactions. Manchester United legend and Sky Sports pundit described the Chelsea owner as a “kid in a sweet shop” following the club’s summer business. A significant highlight of the window was the emphasis on defensive acquisitions following the departure of Rudiger and Christensen. Still, it also suggested synchrony with Thomas Tuchel’s defensive ideas.
Following a return to the season, Tuchel’s blues had a slow start to the season. The German won three and lost two of his six games in charge. Several factors, including injuries to first-team midfielders Kante and Kovacic, and the loss of Werner and Lukaku in the window, were possible explanations for the start.
On 9th September, after a 1-0 loss away to Dynamo Zagreb in the first game of the champions league, Thomas Tuchel was shockingly let go by the club. The decision prompted an outburst from the fans as the champions league winning manager had quickly become a fan favorite. Of course, the “sack culture” was a trademark of Roman’s ownership; however, the timing and the seeming lack of a worthy replacement raised concerns within and outside the club.
Concerns over Boehly’s management have never been unfounded; football fans only want to guard English football heritage. Following the stints of American owners, notably the Glazers and the Kreonkes, his decisions would continually be scrutinized. For Chelsea fans, one thing is clear, Roman’s success must be replicated or toppled!