The City fans were going nuts outside Wastelands yesterday, celebrating their new takeover. It certainly isn’t a case of once bitten, twice shy, following the disastrous takeover by Thaksin Shinawatra. Despite being described as “a human rights abuser of the worst kind”, the City lot were more than happy to have him in charge of their club, if it meant a chance of ending their 32 year barren run, in which the club haven’t won anything.
Unfortunately for them though, that didn’t happen, with the blues finishing 9th last season. After having his assests frozen and becoming under increasing pressure, with a second “fit and proper” test to be run, Dr Death surrendered his majority stake in the club to Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment yesterday.
Their aims are rather overwhelming, claiming they want to “solve all the club problems and clear any pending payments” and that they will “comprehensively support the club by bringing the best football players in the world.” They want success on a “European and world level”, with “the qualification of Manchester City to the European Champions League (for) next season 2009-10” also highlighted in the statement.
So, do we have another Chelsea on our hands? Sadly, it’s much worse than that.
Once upon time, it seemed as though Chelsea’s reign would be infinite. They had all the money in the World and United didn’t even put up a fight in the blues’ back to back title victories. They were an efficient machine, and whilst they didn’t dazzle in their performances, they were so strong and consistent they didn’t ever look like losing.
On the back of their title in the summer of 2006 when they signed three of the best players in the World for their positions in Ashley Cole, Ballack and Shevchenko, we were left to fear the worst. We had already gone three seasons without a title win, now it looked as though it would be years more. It was utterly depressing.
Whilst their success seemed to come from nowhere, some people might forget that in the ten years before Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea, they had won two FA Cups (as well as reaching another final), a League Cup, the UEFA Cup Winners Cup and the European Super Cup. The season before he bought them they finished 4th in the league for the 2nd time in the past 10 years, as well as 3rd, 5th and 6th place finishes. They had also reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2000 where they were knocked out by Barcelona, who finished 2nd in La Liga.
Under Abramovich they have finished 2nd twice and 1st twice, as well as winning one FA Cup, two League Cups and reaching the Champions League final. They have certainly stepped up a level but it’s not comparable to the leap Manchester City are expected to make under new ownership, after winning nothing in 32 years, at “Far Eastlands”. Another difference here is the money available to both clubs, with the City owner’s funds apparently dwarfing those of Abramovich.
The ramifications of this? Well, who knows yet, I’m not going to start panicking. Whilst there are going to be plenty of players who would be willing to move to City for the money, to get the biggest players interested they have to do the work on the pitch.
In Abramovich’s first season in charge, Chelsea were already in the Champions League, meaning the club had its appeals other than a large pay packet. The club reached the semi-finals in that first season. Chelsea could move quickly in attracting and signing players because they were successful in Europe from the very beginning of Abramovich’s reign.
With City, it’s a different matter all together. They finished 9th (opposed to Chelsea’s top 4 finish the season before Abramovich took over) last season and Mark Hughes hasn’t been convincing in the UEFA Cup so far this season. The seemingly dramatic turn around at Chelsea will not be repeated with City, simply because their foundations aren’t as strong. People sing of Chelsea not having any history and it is true to club was on the brink of bankruptcy, but Abramovich certainly got a better deal for his money. Chelsea’s recent history before Roman is leagues ahead of City’s.
However, if Chelsea have proven anything it’s that having more money than anyone else doesn’t mean you’ll achieve more than anyone else. The season before last they finished second by 8 points on the day the title was one, and whilst last season was closer, they didn’t win a thing. Blackburn and Newcastle have shown similar success with their title challenges following large amounts of cash being spent, that sustained success needs a lot more than an owner with a big cheque book. Whilst money is necessary, of course, far more than that needs to be put in place. Will City do that? Only time will tell.
It is rather ironic that it is Chelsea are the receiving end of the brutality of the transfer market though, after outbidding United for the likes of Arjen Robben, Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel and the like for years. To lose out on a player Peter Kenyon was very confident in signing is a big blow to the rentboys. However, it is a worry for other British clubs if we now have a club who can essentially afford anything for any player. But as I’ve said, City will have to perform on the pitch.
Whilst City fans will hope for more signings of Robinho’s calibre, they are set to be disappointed for the time being at least. His move to City was more to do with Real Madrid not wanting to do business with Chelsea than it was the player eager to join City. He wanted to leave Real Madrid and he wanted to sign for Chelsea. His club wouldn’t allow that move, so he went to the only other club interested to get away from Real Madrid, who had made him feel worthless in their willingness to let him leave in favour of Cristiano Ronaldo. Ramon Calderon revealed that Robinho was so desperate to leave he was crying and threatened leaving for Brazil if a deal wasn’t done.
Yesterday certainly felt like the Twilight Zone though, battling out it out with City over a £30+ million transfer. Those kind of days may become more frequent over the coming years, alarmingly. Whilst it felt wrong to lose out on players to the financial muscle of Chelsea, at least they had some of their own success in recent years. To see City pip us to transfers, who have achieved nothing off their own backs in over three decades, will be a hard pill to swallow, particularly considering the ribbing we’ll be getting in the local for it!