Chelsea: Where Would the Blues Be Without Roman Abramovich's Billions?

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2013

Roman Abramovich with the man he purchased Chelsea from, Ken Bates (far left).
Roman Abramovich with the man he purchased Chelsea from, Ken Bates (far left).Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The rant from Chelsea's interim manager Rafa Benitez after the 2-0 victory in the FA Cup over Middlesbrough on Wednesday (via BBC.co.uk) has seen the Spaniard's stock rise in the eyes of many football fans who have applauded his stance. But while it may have been good PR on a personal level, it has thrust the spotlight firmly back on Blues owner Roman Abramovich.

It's well documented that in the decade since the Russian bought the club from Ken Bates, he has gone through managers at a rate of knots. Including Ray Wilkins' one-match stint in an FA Cup tie against Watford in 2008, a staggering 10 have passed through the doors at Stamford Bridge, with Benitez as the latest addition.

It seems the Spaniard's tenure is going the same way as his predecessors'—personalities such as Jose Mourinho, Luiz Felipe Scolari and Carlo Ancelotti have all been given the axe—with the club's hire and fire policy called into question once more.

Even the most ardent of Blues fans will blush at Chelsea's managerial record, but for all his apparent mistakes as Chelsea owner, they also know that without Abramovich, Chelsea wouldn't be making the headlines or winning trophies. They probably wouldn't even be playing professional football.

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Chants of Chelsea having no history are merely cheap jibes from rival supporters—not so much fueled by jealousy at the club's lofty status, but certainly by envy. In the '60s and '70s, the club enjoyed many successful campaigns. And they lifted the league title in 1955.

What Abramovich's billions have allowed for is for those glory days to return to the King's Road, but more importantly, it has staved off the creditors for good.

Indeed, in his autobiography, Totally Frank, Frank Lampard recalls a team meeting with former CEO Trevor Birch ahead of Chelsea's last game of the 2002/03 season, a few weeks before Abramovich took over: "'I need to tell you something very important,' said Birch...'In order to ensure that Chelsea FC will still exist next season, you have to make the Champions League. In short, if you fail to beat Liverpool then the club will go out of business.'"

As we know, the Blues won the game in question 2-1, securing Champions League football in the process. But as Lampard later adds, "I look back now and wonder what would have happened had we lost. I can't imagine. I don't dare to even think about it."

Well, what would have happened is Chelsea would not have been the prospect they were to Abramovich. He wouldn't have bought the club and what we have witnessed with Leeds United and Portsmouth in recent seasons would have more than likely happened to Chelsea.

The club's debts were an estimated £96 million and a few days after Abramovich bought the club from Bates, he had to foot a £23 million bill that would have seen Chelsea fold (via Daily Telegraph).

It's all been so different, though, with unprecedented levels of success in the place of the misery brought on by administration. So while the media is discussing another potential managerial casualty, Chelsea fans are praising the day Abramovich got his most important decision right when he purchased the club.

Where would Chelsea be without the Russian's billions? That's a rhetorical question, right?

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