In June 2003, Roman Abramovich entered English football and changed the landscape of the Premier League.
His tool was Chelsea. But it could so easily have been Tottenham.
In 2003 Roman wanted to buy a club in Russia. I went with him to Moscow to see the facilities at two or three other clubs. But then he changed his mind and said he wanted to buy a club in London.
He was thinking Chelsea or Tottenham. He phoned me and said, "Who shall I buy?"
I said if you want to win the league then Chelsea - because you only have to change half the team. At that time with Tottenham maybe you would have had to change the whole team.
The revelation shows just how close Chelsea came to missing out on the most successful period in the club’s history.
Abramovich arrived with his billions when he took charge at Stamford Bridge in 2003, injecting seemingly endless funds into the team in order to challenge Manchester United’s dominance of the English game.
By introducing the top young coach on the continent in Jose Mourinho, Abramovich supplied one of football’s brightest minds with the ammunition to fill the trophy cabinet. Mourinho, and some of his predecessors, did not disappoint.
Three Premier League crowns, four FA Cups, two League Cups, a Champions League title and Europa League success have followed, averaging at least one major trophy per year since the Russian tycoon’s arrival.
Some of the game’s biggest names have pulled on Chelsea blue. Andriy Shevchenko, Fernando Torres and Eden Hazard cost a combined £127 million between them, per transfermarkt, but all three would not get in the Blues’ best XI under the Abramovich regime.
|Abramovich's Best Chelsea XI|
Eriksson’s revelation that Tottenham could have been the ones to benefit from the Russian’s money is likely to prompt one or two envious eyes from White Hart Lane.
Spurs undoubtedly have a fantastic individual running their club in Daniel Levy, a man who drives a hard bargain and squeezed every last drop out of Real Madrid for Gareth Bale and Luka Modric.
However, while Chelsea have lifted multiple pieces of silverware in the past decade, Spurs have been forced to make do with a solitary League Cup.
They even missed out on Champions League football last season as a direct result of Chelsea’s success, when victory in the 2012 Champions League final cost Spurs their entry into Europe’s top competition.
Currently, there is little to separate the two clubs, who both sit on 20 points in the table having drawn earlier in the campaign. They even share a link in the dugout, where Andre Villas-Boas now resides for Spurs having previously been kicked out of Chelsea.
Tottenham continue to balance the books in order to run a tight ship, using the money from Bale's transfer to boost their squad, while Abramovich’s spending—although curbed somewhat—still allows Chelsea to hunt Europe’s top players.
However, Tottenham are threatening to actually get on top of Chelsea’s owner for once this season, forcing him to look on with envy—perhaps for the first time.