The last 15 years have seen Chelsea emerge from being a mid-table top flight team into a club renowned around the world. The last step on that path was taken when the European Cup was hoisted aloft by Frank Lampard and co on a heady night in Munich.
As a reward for the last nine years of toil in the Champions League, the victory felt appropriate but more than just engraving the name of Chelsea Football Club in the annals of the sport’s history, this seminal achievement has done more than anything to shape the future of CFC. Didier Drogba’s decisive penalty has paved the way for his successors hopefully to enjoy yet more glorious days rather than scrub around in the Europa League and see preferred transfer targets opt to join rivals instead.
Many numbers have been quoted on the impact that THAT penalty has had on Chelsea’s finances with £95m being one of the headier figures mentioned. What is clear is that the prize money for winning the competition (around £49m), related matchday revenue and ensuing sponsorship deals struck with companies keen to be associated with success could not be more gratefully received given the need to balance the books in the wake of the Financial Fair Play rules being implemented by UEFA. There have even been murmurings within the corridors of Stamford Bridge that Chelsea might be on course to reach their target of breaking even in their next financial results, something that has always been thought to be extremely unlikely given the largesse of the Roman Abramovich years.
However, that might just be a blip of financial prudence seeing that the purse strings are being loosened once more. The £32m signing of Eden Hazard is enough to excite any fan of the club though is not as surprising as some may believe. Yes, the Belgium international has fluttered his eyes at just about any club that has come calling at his door but Chelsea’s interest has been set in stone for the past 18 months. The scrap over his signature was thought to be solely between Premier League champions Manchester City and their bitter rivals Manchester United but the Champions League final changed all that. Chelsea had courted Hazard in the previous three transfer windows with huge offers having been rejected both last summer and in January this year. The commitment shown by the Blues was rewarded by his decision to move to SW6 once their participation in Europe’s elite club competition was assured for next season. Many have derided the young star as a mercenary but in fact he has shown a degree of loyalty in joining the club that has pursued him most actively.
Playing alongside Hazard at Stamford Bridge in August could be FC Porto’s Hulk and should that eventuality occur, headline writers everywhere will be licking their lips. The Guardian newspaper is convinced that a £38m deal has been agreed for the Brazilian which seems like an incredible amount of money for a player who has shone only in the Portuguese Primeira Liga. Having said that, Porto president Jorge Pinto Da Costa has a reputation for negotiating eye-watering transfer fees and has often extracted them from Chelsea so we shouldn’t be surprised. Ricardo Carvalho joined for almost £20m along with £13m Paulo Ferreira in 2004. While both of those transfers – particularly the former - reaped substantial benefits for Chelsea, the same could not be said of the last transaction between the clubs when Abramovich handed over another £13m to bring Andre Villas-Boas to London. That deal did not produce the expected results and while the jury is currently out on the Porto forward, the potential of playing Hulk, Hazard and Mata – not to mention this summer’s first signing, Marko Marin – behind Fernando Torres is an exhilarating prospect.
There are likely to be others also signing on the dotted line at Stamford Bridge with Ajax’s Gregory van der Wiel being heavily tipped to be the next acquisition. With Jose Bosingwa having been released by the club the need for a right back is clear even if Branislav Ivanovic has excelled in that position over the last two years. Competition for places is the bedrock of a successful team and the presence of the young Holland international would do just that as well as provide a more dynamic attacking option.
These hefty outlays have also disproved one of the great theories espoused by those who yearn for the downfall of Chelsea. The club have relentlessly been referred to as “Roman Abramovich’s play-thing”, something that the Russian will get bored of once he achieves his goal of Champions League glory. Those accusations could not be more wrong. In the dressing room in Munich after the match, Abramovich delivered a speech which stated that the victory was just the start of what he hoped would be an era laden with silverware. This rhetoric has now been backed up with the signing of the most exciting and highly sought-after young player in Europe.
With more signings appearing on the horizon, there can be no questioning Abramovich’s long-term commitment to the club to the delight of all of us that support the Champions of Europe and to the annoyance of everybody else.
You can read more of Phil's opinions at ShoutyAndSpitty.com or on Twitter @PhilLythell