Before billionaire oligarch Roman Abramovich arrived at Chelsea with his Russian rubles in June 2003, The Blues had only ever won one league title in their history. Two years and millions of pounds later Chelsea finally ended their 50 year wait for the title by beating nearest rivals Arsenal to lift the Premier League crown.
The latest Premier League title pretenders are Manchester City who are aiming to upset the league’s long established order having lived in the shadow of illustrious neighbours Manchester United for decades. It has been 42 years since City last won the title and they too now have money to burn after becoming the richest club on the planet following Sheikh Mansour and the Abu Dhabi United Group’s whirlwind takeover in 2008.
It took just two seasons for Roman Abramovich to deliver the title to West London, while the same period has already passed since City’s takeover. Chelsea however were in a slightly better position in 2003 than City were in the summer of 2008. The Blues had just finished fourth the season before and claimed a place in the lucrative Champions League. They were also regular FA Cup finalists in the years preceding Abramovich’s arrival, with four final appearances between 1990-00, winning the trophy in 1997 and 2000. Man City however have failed to win a major trophy for 34 years and were languishing in mid-table before the takeover. So it’s fair to say The Citizens revolution could take slightly longer than Chelsea’s despite their bottomless pit of money.
One thing the two clubs do have in common in their bid for success is to spend money like it’s going out of fashion. Following Abramovich’s arrival, Chelsea went on a £100m summer spending spree signing the likes of Real Madrid’s Claude Makelele, strikers Adrian Mutu and Hernan Crespo for a combined £33m, as well as winger Damien Duff, Joe Cole and Juan Sebastian Veron amongst others. Sheikh Mansour’s deadline day takeover meant City did not have the time to slowly build up their squad over the summer; however they find a few hours spare to waltz in and break the British transfer record with the £32.5m summer arrival of Robinho from Real Madrid. Money is the key driving factors behind the clubs lofty ambitions and Man City have spent the last two transfer window’s taking spending to unprecedented levels, with this summer’s outlay expected to dwarf the £100m the club spent on players in 2009.
City will be a threat to the league’s top clubs again this summer yet it may take another season or two to finally end their title hiatus. The outrageously talented David Silva should provide City’s strikers with all the ammunition they need to fire the club up the table, while the defensive capabilities of former Barcelona man Yaya Toure will add iron strength to heart of manager Roberto Mancini’s midfield. It will not be easy for City however and they have their work cut out to overtake their rivals following one of the most competitive seasons in recent memory in the Premier League last year. The pressure money brings and the burden of 40 years of failure will also be difficult for City to ignore.
Should City fail to win a major honour this season then they can afford to dip back into the transfer market next summer. It seems largely inevitable that, with City’s resources and spending power, the Premier League trophy will be heading back to Eastlands in one of the next few seasons. However with more clubs likely to be the subject of takeovers over the next few years and clubs like Manchester United and Arsenal still competing at the top year in, year out, City are always going to find it difficult to become the number one side in the country. With UEFA introducing new financial regulations on clubs from 2012, City will hope success comes sooner rather than later for ambitious owner Sheikh Mansour and his bottomless pit of money.
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