WWelcome to the battle of the billionaires. On the pitch, the Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester City in Porto on Saturday will be the biggest game of most of the players’ careers. On the touchline, it’s also the culmination of a 13-year struggle between two of the world’s richest people, and their wallets, for world soccer supremacy.
Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who bought Chelsea in 2003, and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family who bought Manchester City in 2008, have collectively spent more than £ 3.7 billion buying players since they bought the clubs.
The investment has paid off in terms of trophies, but many argue that it has also stripped the beautiful game of its democracy, leaving clubs without billionaire backers struggling to compete.
Since Mansour’s inauguration, City have won 13 league titles or cups, compared to nine in the previous 128 years since the club was formed in 1880 as a form of social work by Anna Connell, the vicar’s daughter. in the church of San Marcos. Chelsea has won 16 major trophies since Abramovich took over Stamford Bridge nearly two decades ago, compared to 10 before.
While the coronavirus pandemic has plunged many smaller clubs into a financial crisis, with playing in empty stadiums reducing revenue from gates to zero, Chelsea spent a record £ 89 million (including add-ons) to sign the midfielder. attacker Kai Havertz of Bayer Leverkusen. It was Chelsea’s sixth major signing in the transfer window, bringing his spending to around £ 230 million. In total, Chelsea has spent around £ 2bn on players since Abramovich took over.
Sheikh Mansour has also not been afraid to spend cash. City set a Premier League transfer fee record of £ 32.5 million by signing Robinho from Real Madrid on September 1, 2008, the last day of that year’s transfer window and the day Mansour officially took over. club control. Since then City have spent an additional £ 1.7bn on players.
The latest club financial accounts reveal that while most clubs cut player salaries in the 2019-20 season, City’s salary bill rose 11% to £ 351 million, a Premier League record. (and 90 million more than the bill of the Chelsea players).
The staggering outlay appears to be continuing as the club is reportedly poised to spend £ 100m on Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish, setting a new transfer fee record.
Both billionaires enrolled their clubs in the European Super League, the now collapsed plan to unite the continent’s wealthiest clubs in an even more profitable new league last month. But they were also the first two clubs to withdraw after opposition from fans, the Prime Minister and Prince William.
Manchester City, which were crowned Premier League champions in 2011-12, 2013-14, 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2020-21, have yet to win the Champions League. Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012 (they beat Bayern Munich 4-3 on penalties) and won the Premier League in 2004-5, 2005-6, 2009-10, 2014-15 and 2016-17.
It’s harder to compare club owners on the league’s wealth chart. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index ranks Abramovich, who made most of his money selling a majority stake in Russian oil company Sibneft to state gas group Gazprom, as the 102nd richest person on the planet with an estimated £ 13.3k. millions.
Mansour’s wealth is more difficult to quantify as he is shared with other members of the Abu Dhabi ruling family and state-backed companies, but his fortune has been estimated at between £ 13bn and £ 17bn. In addition to serving as deputy prime minister of Abu Dhabi, Mansour is also CEO of the emirate’s $ 243 billion sovereign wealth fund and sits on the boards of the Abu Dhabi National Petroleum Company, the Nuclear Power Corporation of the United States. Emirates, the Commercial Bank of Abu Dhabi and Emirates Global. Aluminum.
Aside from soccer, they have both spent a lot of money on luxury cars and houses and, of course, on superyachts. Abramovich owned the world’s largest superyacht, measured at 162.5 meters when it was delivered in 2009 at a cost of around £ 350 million. Called Eclipse, it features 24 guest cabins, two helicopter platforms, two pools, and a missile defense system.
It has since been overshadowed by the 180-meter Azzam commissioned by the de Mansour family at a cost of £ 400 million in 2013. Azzam took 1.5 million man-hours to build and its teak decks are big enough. to cover half a soccer field.
In addition to spending on players, both Abramovich and Mansour have spent many millions on training camps, youth team development, managers and executives.
Shortly after Abramovich took office at Chelsea, the club spent £ 20 million on a new training ground in Cobham, Surrey. It has 30 courts, three with heated floors and six that meet Premier League standards of play, as well as a rehabilitation center. The players had previously trained in outdated facilities near Heathrow Airport, owned by Imperial College London. Then-manager José Mourinho said the Cobham facility was a “significant step forward” on the way to the top.
Mansour’s football ambitions don’t start and end with Manchester City. His City soccer group (CFG) has since bought New York City FC from MLS and Melbourne City FC from Australia’s A-League. CFG also owns stakes in Japan’s Yokohama F Marinos, Uruguay’s Montevideo City Torque, Spain’s Girona, China’s Sichuan Jiuniu, the city of Mumbai in India, Lommel SK in Belgium, and France’s Espérance Sportive Troyes Aube Champagne (ESTAC).
The owner’s generosity even extends to helping cover the costs of fans who travel by plane to watch the match at Estádio do Dragão in Porto on Saturday. Mansour said on May 18 that he would pay the bill for most of the 6,000 fans who will travel to the game. “Aware of how the pandemic has affected all Manchester City supporters and created an increase in travel costs, Sheikh Mansour has sought to remove the most significant financial barrier for fans attending the final,” the club said.
Following pressure on Twitter for Abramovich to match City’s generosity, Chelsea announced a day later that it would also step in to offer “subsidized travel arrangements.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism