There is a new heavyweight force in European football, they are being bankrolled seemingly by the Russian economy, they mean business, and their name is Chelsea F.C. Chelsea Football Club have always been a decent club in the second strata of English clubs. In London alone Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have invariably been ahead of the Chelsea Blues, even West Ham have often put Chelsea in the shade. But no longer, for in the season 2004-2005, Chelsea won the English Premier League title for the first time in fifty years, their only previous winning season.
But they haven’t stopped there, in the new season 2005-2006 they are already well clear in the title race leaving all their rivals gasping, and now they have set their sights on the pinnacle of all the club trophys, the European Champions League. Chelsea have never won the Champions League, indeed no London club ever has. And it is clear that their charismatic manager Jose Mourinho is intent on winning the Champions League again, he did so with his previous club Porto, of Portugal.
So what of the traditional English giants? Manchester United, often described as the world’s richest football club, have fallen into the hands of the Glazer family of Tampa Bay fame, but they reportedly needed to borrow half a billion pounds to buy United, a debt the club now shoulders. Spending on new players has so far been thin on the ground and United’s brusque Glaswegian manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, has admitted that United, for so long England’s most successful club, cannot compete with Chelsea when it comes to buying players. The hordes of United fans are not amused, the natives are growing restless.
Arsenal, London’s biggest and most successful club, lost their skipper and driving force Patrick Vieira last summer, he moved to Juventus in Italy for £12 million pounds and with their star striker Thierry Henry suffering fitness problems, they picked up some uncharacteristic defeats at unfashionable clubs like West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough. This is their last season at their famous old Highbury Stadium before they move to their new purpose built Emirates stadium almost next door. The increased capacity of 60,000 will undoubtedly give their French manager Arsene Wenger more money to spend next year, but of course they have to pay for that new ground too. Far from challenging Chelsea again, it would seem that Arsenal are more likely to fall further behind.
That leaves Liverpool and Newcastle. News comes through just today that the American Kraft Company and family are interested in investing in Liverpool F.C., perhaps even buying the club outright just like Manchester United fifty miles up the road, but that is some way down the line. And they too are seeking to build a brand new stadium on Stanley Park and of course that all costs big money. Despite last year’s freakish win in the Champion’s League, Liverpool’s league form this season has again been patchy, and that included a 4-1 walloping by Chelsea on their own Anfield pitch. The idea that Liverpool might challenge Chelsea for the title remains a far-fetched one. Newcastle, England’s second best supported club are gradually improving, and they have signed England’s centre forward Michael Owen, but they still remain unconvincing at the top level. They haven’t won the title since Noah was seen building his ark, or so it seems, and they aren’t going to do so this season either.
So though it is very popular for foreign investors to snap up the leading English (and Scottish) football clubs, it appears that only Roman Abramovich at Chelsea has the financial muscle to buy the best players around. He is the only one to put unlimited funds on the table. Top class players now command a transfer fee of £40 million each and whereas Manchester United might afford one of them a season, Chelsea’s purse seems bottomless. They have already spent £220+ million and are still in the market to buy again when the transfer window re-opens in January.
They have already achieved success by winning at home, now the European Champion’s League is the Holy Grail for them, a trophy they are now the outright favourites to win with the odds layers. And astonishingly they have achieved their success to date with an array of strikers who haven’t really cut the mustard. Mutu the Romanian, was promptly sacked for drug taking, Crespo the Argentinian, was sent out to Milan on loan last season, and though he is back now he is hardly setting the world afire,or even playing that often, Gudjohnson an Icelander, plays more often than not, the muscular Drogba from the Ivory Coast, seems to have finally claimed the number nine shirt as his own, yet many blues followers still remain unconvinced about him, so it would seem likely that Chelsea may yet be looking for another proven goal scorer come January, especially after a recent rare defeat at Manchester United.
It would take a brave man to back against Chelsea in any competition at the moment. But if you’d like to, you can still have a free $30 dollar bet at Betfair.com by entering the code 6CHE3VPWJ when prompted. But one thing is for sure; no one would be surprised if this time next year the Premier League trophy AND the Champions League trophy were both on display in the Chelsea boardroom. It seems that only the Italian giants Milan and Juventus, and the Spanish top two, Real Madrid, and most especially Barcelona with their Brazilian superstar, surely soon to be the world player of the year, Ronaldinho, might stop the London blues. It really does seem as if we have entered a new era in European and world football, or if you prefer the ridiculous name that no one ever uses, Soccer. Chelsea fans have never had it so good while everyone else is left gasping in their wake, for it is a fact that Chelsea Football Club have raised the bar for everyone else to follow. Time will tell if anyone can.