Abramovich happy to let his riches do the talking

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The Independent Football

He may have been dragged on to the pitch to join in the celebrations on Saturday, but it seems certain that Roman Abramovich will not be raising his public profile despite his obvious joy at Chelsea's title win.

He may have been dragged on to the pitch to join in the celebrations on Saturday, but it seems certain that Roman Abramovich will not be raising his public profile despite his obvious joy at Chelsea's title win.

It is now 21 months since the Russian billionaire gave an interview and such is his dislike for them that he is set to say no yet again despite the pressure for him to do so after his club's achievement.

Not even Chelsea TV, the club's own television channel, is likely to be granted an audience. Despite its sanitised environment, his advisers cannot persuade him. Television is a medium with which Abramovich feels particularly uncomfortable, while print interviews are simply deemed unnecessary.

The Chelsea owner is a man of few words. He does not like to see himself quoted, or indeed anything at all published about him, believing any publicity is harmful, although there may, at some point this week, be a brief written statement. And that is it. He wants the team, as the cliché goes, to do the talking.

Which is a pity. For it would be compelling to hear anything of substance from him, especially now that he can comfortably converse in English. And especially if he was willing to discuss the spectacular, unprecedented mandate he has handed Jose Mourinho following the crisis provoked three weeks ago by the manager's sense of frustration and discontent.

That preceded the Champions' League quarter-final, first leg against Bayern Munich. The mood when Abramovich flew into London last Tuesday and met Mourinho and the players, before the semi-final first-leg, at the rapidly emerging and impressive new training ground at Cobham, Surrey, was very different.

That is mainly because, on his previous visit, Abramovich made it clear to everyone that Mourinho was the most important employee and what he wants he gets.

That includes the stellar £5.2m-a-year extended contract that is on the table while the chief executive, Peter Kenyon, clearly knows his place in the pecking order and the plc chairman, Bruce Buck, has become an even more peripheral figure after being criticised by Mourinho.

Abramovich was happier when he was in the dressing-room, rather than on the pitch, at the Reebok Stadium. He enjoys being with the players. It is one of the biggest kicks he gets from owning the club and it is partly why, after every match, he still wanders in to sit and listen and, occasionally, chat.

It also keeps the players on their toes. One of his most precious memories is riding on the team bus for the away Champions' League tie against CSKA Moscow.

Today is the May Bank Holiday, in Russia as well as Britain, and Abramovich's entourage in the last few days has been bigger than usual - up to 200 leading business people and politicians - who have stayed on in England since the first leg against Liverpool. Many will be with him tomorrow at Anfield.

It has been a good few weeks for Abramovich. He has received further reassurances, with fellow billionaire Mikhail Khodorovsky still facing sentencing in jail, that Vladimir Putin's so-called war on the oligarchs will not affect him, while the price of oil continues to rise. It has led to Abramovich, according to Forbes magazine, seeing his own fortune increase by £1.15bn in the past year to £7.7bn - making him, comfortably, Russia's wealthiest man while Time magazine recently placed him No 1 in its "Builders and Titans List". It also puts into context the £87.8m in losses, and the £115.5m wage bill, Chelsea have incurred.

How much more cash Abramovich will divert will soon be seen. Mourinho has talked about two or three key additions, as has Kenyon, but the manager is understood to be considering a more radical overhaul and has a history of shifting players on quickly. It is likely to be a third stunning summer at Stamford Bridge. Already, £218m has been spent on transfers although Mourinho will stick by his pledge to keep the squad down to 24 senior professionals.

A central figure will be Jorge Mendes, the agent who represents Mourinho and the club's Portuguese contingent. He has become an increasingly influential presence, staying at the Chelsea Village Hotel, and, interestingly, he was there when Mourinho stepped out of his purdah and spoke at a press conference two Fridays ago.

Mendes's power should not be underestimated. Much of the business will go through him while, at the same time, Pini Zahavi, the Israeliagent, has become a frequent visitor again, which, for those players already at Chelsea, is perhaps ominous and is also interesting as Abramovich has privately complained about the money agents have taken from him. But he knows that Zahavi gets things done.

What was also clear yesterday from sources close to Chelsea's owner is that he is adoring his football project and has no intention whatsoever of turning his back on it.

And that, amid all the champagne celebrations, may be a very sobering thought for the rest of the Premiership and Europe.

Ins and outs

Who be going and who will be staying at Stamford Bridge

Jose Mourinho'ss priorities are a first-choice left-back, a central midfield player and at least one striker. He will also need another goalkeeper, as Carlo Cudicini cannot be expected to stay, and a right-sided wide player. It seems highly unlikely that either Ashley Cole or Steven Gerrard will arrive while Andrei Shevchenko has been totally ruled out.

Instead, Chelsea may well try and cultivate their own talents. He will create further room in the squad by pushing out Geremi and, probably, Mateja Kezman while Glen Johnson and Scott Parker would be used as makeweights in deals.

At full-back Mourinho has considered Nuno Valente from Porto, but he is deemed too old and sources claim he has already secured a player who is not from Portugal. That could be Marek Jankulovski of Udinese, although sources say he has signed a pre-contract agreement with Milan.

In midfield the Argentinian Javier Mascherano appears the most likely candidate while Barcelona's Xavi is also under discussion. Sources claim Mourinho is keen on Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United - who shares the same agent as the Chelsea manager. Brazilian striker Adriano, at Internazionale, is sought after but Mourinho may balk at the price.