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Oligarch v sheikh: Champions League closing’s battle of the billionaires

Champions League

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Welcome to the battle of the billionaires. On the pitch the Champions League closing between Chelsea and Manchester Metropolis

in Porto on Saturday would be the largest match of many of the gamers’ careers. On the touchline, it is usually the fruits of a 13-year wrestle between two of the world’s richest individuals – and their wallets – for world soccer supremacy.

Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who purchased Chelsea in 2003, and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal household who bought Manchester Metropolis in 2008, have collectively spent greater than £3.7bn on shopping for gamers since they purchased the golf equipment.

The funding has paid off when it comes to trophies, however has additionally, many argue, stripped the attractive sport of its democracy, leaving golf equipment with out billionaire backers struggling to compete.

Since Mansour’s takeover, Metropolis have gained 13 league titles or cups, in contrast with 9 within the earlier 128 years for the reason that membership was shaped in 1880 as a type of social work by Anna Connell, the vicar’s daughter at St Mark’s church. Chelsea have hauled in 16 main trophies since Abramovich took over at Stamford Bridge practically 20 years in the past, in contrast with 10 earlier than.

Roman Abramovich.
Roman Abramovich. {Photograph}: R Parker/Sportsphoto

Whereas the coronavirus pandemic has plunged many smaller golf equipment into monetary disaster, with enjoying to empty stadiums slashing gate receipts to zero, Chelsea spent a membership report £89m (together with add-ons) signing attacking midfielder Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen. He was Chelsea’s sixth main signing within the switch window, taking their spending to round £230m. In complete, Chelsea have spent about £2bn on gamers since Abramovich took over.

Sheikh Mansour has not been afraid to splash the money both. Metropolis set a then-Premier League switch price report of £32.5m signing Robinho from Actual Madrid on 1 September 2008 – the final day of that yr’s switch window and the day Mansour formally took management of the membership. Since then Metropolis have spent an additional £1.7bn on gamers.


The membership’s newest monetary accounts reveal that whereas most golf equipment reduce gamers’ salaries within the 2019-20 season, Metropolis’s wage invoice elevated 11% to £351m – a Premier League report (and £90m greater than Chelsea’s gamers invoice).

The staggering outlay appears to be like set to proceed because the membership is reportedly ready to spend £100m on Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish – which might set a brand new switch price report.

Each of the billionaires signed their golf equipment as much as the European Tremendous League, the now-collapsed plan to unite the continent’s richest golf equipment in a brand new much more money-spinning league final month. However they have been additionally the primary two golf equipment to tug out following opposition from followers, the prime minister and Prince William.

Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Manchester Metropolis proprietor Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan. {Photograph}: Jason Cairnduff/Motion Photographs

Manchester Metropolis, who have been topped Premier League champions in 2011-12, 2013-14, 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2020-21, have but to win the Champions League. Chelsea have been Champions League winners in 2012 (beating Bayern Munich 4–3 on penalties), and gained the Premier League in 2004-5, 2005-6, 2009-10, 2014-15 and 2016-17.

It’s tougher to check the golf equipment’ homeowners within the league desk of wealth. The Bloomberg billionaire index locations Abramovich, who made most of his cash promoting a majority stake in Russian oil firm Sibneft to state-owned gasoline group Gazprom, because the 102nd-richest particular person on the planet with an estimated £13.3bn.

Mansour’s wealth is trickier to quantify as it’s shared with different members of Abu Dhabi’s ruling household and state-backed firms, however his fortune has been put at between £13bn and £17bn. In addition to serving as Abu Dhabi’s deputy prime minister, Mansour can be chief government of emirate’s $243bn sovereign wealth fund, and sits on the boards of the Abu Dhabi Nationwide Oil Firm, the Emirates Nuclear Vitality Company, Abu Dhabi Business Financial institution and Emirates International Aluminium.

Apart from soccer, each males have spent some huge cash on luxurious automobiles and homes in addition to, after all, superyachts. Abramovich owned the world’s largest superyacht, measured at 162.5 metres when it was delivered in 2009 at a price of about £350m. Known as Eclipse, it boasts 24 visitor cabins, two helicopter pads, two swimming swimming pools and a missile defence system.

It has since been eclipsed by the 180-metre Azzam ordered by Mansour’s household at a rumoured value of £400m in 2013. Azzam took 1.5 million working hours to construct and its teak decks are large enough to cowl half a soccer pitch.

In addition to spending on gamers, each Abramovich and Mansour have spent many hundreds of thousands on coaching grounds, youth workforce growth, managers and executives.

Quickly after Abramovich took over at Chelsea, the membership spent £20m on a brand new coaching floor in Cobham, Surrey. It has 30 pitches, three with undersoil heating and 6 that meet Premier League sport requirements, in addition to a rehabilitation centre. Gamers had beforehand educated at outdated amenities close to Heathrow Airport owned by Imperial Faculty London. Then-manager José Mourinho mentioned the Cobham amenities have been a “important step ahead” within the cost to the highest.


Mansour’s footballing ambitions don’t start and finish with Manchester Metropolis. His City Football Group (CFG) has since purchased New York Metropolis FC within the MLS and Melbourne Metropolis FC of Australia’s A-League. CFG additionally owns stakes in Japan’s Yokohama F Marinos, Uruguay’s Montevideo Metropolis Torque, Spain’s Girona, China’s Sichuan Jiuniu, Mumbai Metropolis in India, Lommel SK in Belgium and France’s Espérance Sportive Troyes Aube Champagne (ESTAC).

The proprietor’s largesse even extends to serving to cowl the prices for followers flying out to look at the match at Porto’s Estádio do Dragão (Dragon Stadium) on Saturday. Mansour mentioned on 18 Might he would foot the invoice for many of the 6,000 followers travelling out for the match. “Cognisant of how the pandemic has affected all Manchester Metropolis supporters and has created a rise in journey prices, Sheikh Mansour has sought to take away essentially the most important monetary barrier to followers attending the ultimate,” the membership mentioned.

Following strain on Twitter for Abramovich to match Metropolis’s generosity, Chelsea introduced a day later it could additionally step in to supply “subsidised journey preparations”.



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