As for Chelsea, the club destined in Peter Kenyon’s mind for global domination and popularity not to so long ago, is not exactly brimming with confidence, with speculation growing that owner Roman Abramovich may be thinking of cutting his losses.
The players’ sudden disinterest (my, didn’t John Terry’s pre-Christmas sending-off and suspension seem convenient) would appear to mirror that of their billionaire chairman, whose attendance at games is increasingly sporadic.
Though the evidence has been there for some time that, as a team, the Pensioners have peaked (possibly too AC Milan-like age-wise for the hurly burly of English football) the club are engaged in more cost-cutting than spending of late, with even a man of Abramovich’s means reportedly feeling the credit crunch.
Having invested £578m of his dubiously-accumulated personal fortune – which is thought to have ‘dwindled’ by £3bn to ‘just’ £7bn – to buy a winning team (giving rise to a £700m ‘soft debt’ he would be owed should he sell), the man who effectively pays several stars half-a-million sterling a month has now decided enough’s enough; that the business must pay its way. Fat chance.
The cooling of his love affair with Chelsea FC might be traced to his relationship breakdown with Jose Mourinho (who was at Old Trafford to see the pressure mount on ‘Big Phil’ Scolari’s shoulders) and the Russian could be forgiven for feeling like this particular game of football roulette isn’t worth the gamble, or the hassle.
He bought them as a plaything to begin with; now he may well be on the look-out for another slightly-less-expensive hobby.