Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck came out today in support of private Blues owner Roman Abramovich, with the Russian a big talking point for fans of football as a whole.
Abramovich is one of the new generation of big spending owners at English clubs, and the 44-year-old has lost more money on manager exit fees alone in his seven years in charge than rivals Arsenal have on spent players.
The man who who has a reputation for being as powerful as the Russian gangsters is always seen at Stamford Bridge, but hardly heard.
And in honour of Abramovich’s colourful history at Chelsea, GMF looks at five moments when football fans and pundits alike seriously considered the idea that the owner might be mad.
1. Sacking Carlo Ancelotti (2011)
The most recent of his controversial actions, Abramovich decided that coming second in the league and bowing out to a rampant Manchester United in the Champions League wasn’t good enough for Chelsea, and let Ancelotti go in the tunnel after the final game of the season.
Media had speculated it was coming, but when it happened, the shock that a title, FA Cup, and coming so close his second year in charge could make the Italian a sackable manager.
2. Falling out with Jose Mourinho (2007)
He called himself the Special One when he started at Chelsea, and everyone knew that fireworks were coming between two very stubborn and knowledgable football heads. Mourinho won six trophies with Chelsea in his three years at the club, but when he left, he couldn’t wait to see the back of Abramovich.
Huge rows had erupted between the two over transfer funds, Mourinho’s unwillingness to play striker Andriy Shevchenko, and Abromovich’s decision to bring in Avram Grant as director of football. Mourinho, who was on a £5.2 million a year contract, was given a mammoth pay out. Two years later, at Inter Milan, the Portugese manager held up the Champions League trophy Abramovich wanted so desperately. Shevchenko, meanwhile, left Chelsea two years later with nine goals from 47 appearances.
3. The revolving managerial doors (2007-2009)
With Mourinho gone, Abramovich made new board member Avram Grant Chelsea manager. The decision was clearly ill-considered, with Grant lasting just 10 months. The 56-year-old moved on to become manager of Portsmouth and West Ham, and both sides were relegated under his reign.
After Grant’s removal from Stamford Bridge, Luiz Felipe Scolari was put in charge of the managerial post. He lasted even less time, coming into the club on July 1 2008 and leaving just seven months later. Scolari now manages Brazilian side Palmeiras, and Carlo Ancelotti was brought in as his replacement and took Chelsea to their first Double in the history of the club. He was also sacked just one season after the achievement.
In total, Abramovich has spent over £50 million in payout fees for six managers since he took over Chelsea, and that’s not including any wages paid out to the men that he expects to bring him a Champions League trophy.
4. Ray Wilkins sacking (2010)
Wilkins made over 170 appearances for Chelsea in the 1970s, and the midfielder clocked up 30 goals in his time at Stamford Bridge. He returned as caretaker manager in 2000, then again in 2009, and took on the job of assistant first-team coach in the same year.
While Wilkins was clearly trusted by Ancelotti when he took over as manager, with the Italian deciding to keep him on board rather than bring someone else in, Abramovich did not feel the same, and reports were rife that the sacking was completed in a particularly cold style, with the owner giving Wilkins his marching orders while watching a reserve game.
Differences in opinions on footballing decisions were said to be the main reason Abramovich didn’t get along with Wilkins, with Wilkins often bringing up the fact the while he had a long successful footballing career, Abramovich had not, according to the Ealing Gazette.
Fans may never know the real reasons behind Wilkins' sacking, with the Chelsea devotee revealing at the time he was receiving advice over an unfair dismissal case.
5. Buying Fernando Torres (2011)
Love him or loathe him, after the disaster that was Shevchenko, fans thought that surely Abramovich would learn that buying players on reputation alone and paying ridiculously high transfer fees might not be the key to success. But no – Torres made the move to Chelsea at the last minute in January for £50 million, a British record and the fourth most expensive fee in the world.
Twenty-four games on, and Torres has scored two goals, along with possibly the miss of the season. But the striker’s poor form didn’t start at Chelsea – it’s argued by some that Torres never fully recovered from surgery last year, and after the Spaniard endured a poor World Cup, his form was on continual decline at Liverpool afterwards. But that didn’t worry Abramovich, who was happy to take his spending tally up to £600 million over eight years and bring Torres to the club.
Torres may come good for Chelsea, and while he did clock up an embarrassing miss against Manchester United on Sunday, he also scored the Blues’ only goal - but risk-wise, not many other owners or football experts would have gambled so much money on a player who may not have been needed at all.