Trophies, turmoil and constant sackings! Inside the crazy world of Roman's Chelsea
13:20 GMT, 21 November 2012
Money talks, as they say, but it doesn't always make sense. Roman Abramovich has spent his entire adult life proving the first point and the best part of a decade giving just as much credence to the second.
Publicity-shy Abramovich must have done something right when he turned his entrepreneurial skills to Russia's oil fields and began amassing a personal fortune that topped 8billion at the last count.
Ruthless Rom: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich decided to axe Roberto Di Matteo after defeat by Shakhtar Donetsk on October 23
The crazy stats of Roman
Chelsea have spent approximately 86m since 2004 in compensation for managers – more than Everton’s entire net spend since the Premier League began.
Chelsea had eight managers in their first 70 years from 1905 to 1975, they are now going for a ninth in nine years.
Since failing to escape their Champions League group in 2005, Sir Alex Ferguson has won four Premier League titles, one Champions League and three League Cups with United.
Abramovich has now had as many managers in his nine-year reign as United have had since 1937.
Chelsea have sacked seven managers since 2005 and won seven trophies.
The average life span for a manager under Abramovich is eight months. Only Mourinho and Ancelotti lasted more than a year.
It left him with enough spare change to buy Chelsea for 140million in July, 2003, but if there was admiration, however grudging, for his singular approach to succeeding in the business world, approval rating for his football acumen hasn't reached quite the same heights.
Sacking Roberto Di Matteo six months after he delivered the prize Abramovich craved most is like a snapshot of the Russian oil magnate's whole turbulent rollercoaster reign.
As he came face-to-face with Abramovich at the Champions' League final presentation ceremony, high up in the stand at the Allianz Arena, Di Matteo clenched his fists and beamed: 'I've done it.'
Abramovich nodded, with a smile nothing like as radiant as his manager's, and you could almost hear him thinking: 'Yes, you've done it now, all right.'
Di Matteo fell into the job, as assistant promoted to caretaker after Andre Villas-Boas' dismissal last March, but never quite matched the Abramovich identikit of a sharp, incisive coach who could produce a team from the same mould.
King for a day: Di Matteo delivered the prize Abramovich craved… and was sacked six months later
He was always on borrowed time, but sacking a Champions' League winning manager might have been deemed excessively harsh, even by Abramovich's standards. There had to be a stay of execution, but the reprieve did not last long. A couple of Barclays Premier League defeats, and a Champions' League setback in Turn, and the latest instalment in the mad world of Chelsea's reclusive but ruthless owner was duly enacted.
Boardroom bosses with a merciless streak are nothing new in football. Fifty years ago, Bob Lord, a local butcher by trade, ruled Burnley with a rod of iron. His antipathy towards television coverage was such that when Match of the Day was launched in 1964, he banned the cameras from Turf Moor for five years.
The BBC's pioneering sports executives weren't the only ones to cross him at their peril. Taking exception to articles he perceived as a personal slight, he banned three newspapers and six individuals from the Turf Moor press box in a dictatorial reign that earned him the nickname 'the Khrushchev of Burnley.'
Down the road at Ewood Park, in the 1990s, legend has it Roy Hodgson's second season in charge of Blackburn came to an abrupt halt after the equally blunt-talking Jack Walker peered at the television screen, after a home defeat, and muttered: 'Bloody 'ell, we're bottom. I'm not 'aving that.'
Close eye: Abramovich oversees a training session by former boss Andre Villas-Boas
Abramovich may well chuckle at mention
of his fellow-Russian Khrushchev. He might also reflect on how Lord
earned the sobriquet and conclude that this dinosaur from a bygone age
could actually be considered a role model.
There has been more than a touch of the iron fist about his stewardship since he targeted Stamford Bridge and struck a deal with Ken Bates, another to include eccentricity in his approach to running a club after paying 1 for Chelsea in 1982 and subsequently threatening to build electric fences to keep fans off the pitch.
No-one can deny supporting Chelsea is more rewarding these days, even if it has come at a cost to all concerned. The matchday experience at Stamford Bridge takes a hefty chunk out of most weekly pay packets, while Abramovich is estimated to have parted with around 1billion in transfer fees alone.
There are some who may question that sentiment, though, not least some of the players and managers who have passed through during the last nine and a half years. Chelsea had gone precisely 50 years without a League title when Jose Mourinho delivered it in 2004-05.
For good measure, he added another the following season, but it still wasn't enough to save him after Abramovich reinforced the image of Chelsea being a plaything by deciding he wanted success with a bit more style.
Axed: Di Matteo was fired after 'unacceptable run of results'
Coaches of similar standing, in Big Phil
Scolari and Carlo Ancelotti, and one from the new breed, in
Villas-Boas, went the same way, while even the most senior players have
had to contend with the incongruous sight of their chairman calling them
together at the training ground for a Monday morning dressing down, if
standards have dropped over the weekend.
And who's to argue This is a self-made multi-billionaire who is impervious to any sort of comeback. He is the world's biggest spender on luxury yachts, with one evidently fitted with an anti-paparazzi photo shield and another claiming to be the longest in existence at 557ft.
Gratifyingly, there is at least one example of the all-powerful oil magnate failing to get his own way. When he attempted to dock the 557-foot long Eclipse in Europe's biggest yachting harbour, Millionaire's Quay on the French Riviera, he found that the only space large enough was already taken by Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal Alsaud.
With the Prince ranked 26th in the world's rich list, with 12.3bn, and Abramovich trailing behind in 53rd place, the disgruntled Chelsea boss could hardly pull rank and had to settle for anchoring several hundred feet out to sea and transferring to shore on a motor boat.
It was, as anyone with Stamford Bridge connections will readily agree, a rare occurrence. One of the more tiresome terrace chants these days focuses on any given player and ends with 'he does what he wants.' They could adopt that in the Chelsea dressing room and direct it at Abramovich. Just not within earshot, though.