Way back in 2003 when Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich purchased Chelsea from Ken Bates for £140 million, there was an outcry from supporters groups and MP’s who felt that Abramovich wasn’t a fit and proper person, and that his background was a little shady to say the very least.
Fast forward 10 years, and Abramovich has transformed Chelsea from a team that was struggling to stay afloat (and, according to stalwart Frank Lampard, one game away from going out of business) to a global brand with an annual commercial revenue of £225 million.
The influx of Russian money not only stabilized Chelsea, it put them on the map and eventually ensured they lifted the Champions League for the first time in their history.
Let’s not kid ourselves here, money is the key to real success in soccer. Well-run clubs have the support structures in place to compete such as commercial deals, loyal fans, etc., but the real power comes from sugar daddies lavishing hundreds of millions on transfer fees for the world’s best players.
This trend looks set to continue with Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev set to follow the same business model as Abramovich and plow hundreds of millions into Ligue 1 club AS Monaco in order to make them competitive. The newly-promoted Monaco will be the perfect platform for the super-rich Rybolovlev to build his own soccer dynasty and compete with Abramovich on the world stage.
Reports coming out of Spain over the last week have indicated Monaco have agreed a deal with Colombian forward Radamel Falcao in a staggering £50 million deal as Rybololvev’s first marquee signing. The spending looks set to continue as well with Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez also being snapped up by Monaco in a reported £59 million double deal, so it would appear Rybololvev is serious about his project.
This influx of rich owners is becoming more and more prevalent recently in soccer, and although it’s good to see more teams competing at the top level, Monaco need to make sure they aim to be more like Chelsea than Malaga, whose rich owner got bored and left them saddled with a mountain of debt to pay off.
As a business model, the idea of throwing massive amounts of money into a club with little return for a year or two is suicidal. However, over time, the return will pay dividends for Rybololvev, and it will certainly be interesting to watch the plan come to fruition regardless of how jealous it makes the rest of us.