Abramovich windfall reassures Chelsea

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The Independent Football

Sources close to Abramovich yesterday laughed off suggestions that the £7.4bn he has realised from the sale of his stake in oil giant Sibneft - raising his wealth to £15.9bn - would mean another transfer splurge.

"He has never said no to either Claudio Ranieri or Jose Mourinho," one source said. "They have always been able to ask for what they want." The only reason why players have not been bought, such as Thierry Henry, for whom Chelsea offered £50m three summers ago, was because they did not want to come or their clubs would not sell.

Occasionally, as with Christian Vieri, Abramovich himself has become irritated by the delays and pulled out of the deal. He may, however, test Arsenal's resolve once more on Henry while - however wild it may sound - another bid for Steven Gerrard cannot be discounted. An analogy was offered by one of Abramovich's closest advisers. "It's like when you or I want to buy a can of coke," he said. "We don't wait for our pay cheque to go through because it doesn't cost that much in the first place." Abramovich holds the same philosophy over Chelsea.

The sale of his Sibneft stake will, however, reduce speculation, which was mainly unfounded, that Abramo- vich would somehow be caught up in President Vladimir Putin's so-called purge of the oligarchs.

"It is pointless analysing his spending. A billionaire has made more billions. He can't spend it all anyway. That's impossible," one source said. "You could ask, for example, why does he own three boats? The answer is because he wants to. He doesn't give a damn about what anyone else thinks and that's it."

Another adviser said: "Think about it. You can only spend so much. This will make absolutely no difference to Chelsea."

Nevertheless, Abramovich may step up his interest in increasing the capacity of Stamford Bridge, the hope is to raise it to 50,000, or move Chelsea away from the site. Battersea Power Station, the nearby park and the former Dairy Crest site at White City have all been mentioned. Officially the club insists it will "exhaust" all scenarios before moving from its present location.

It's a situation which raises another conflict. Officially, again, Chelsea plan to break even, or turn a small profit, by 2010. That's the raison d'etre of chief executive Peter Kenyon, whose bonuses are also linked to them, and there are business projections in place to achieve it. Unofficially, Abramovich does not give a hoot about such plans - but, in public, he does not want to be seen to be taken for a ride by those in football as happened in the first flush of his spending.

Chelsea will turn another huge loss this season, following last year's £87m deficit. That will partly be because of the £25m they spent buying themselves out of a shirt deal with Umbro and the £13m they have had to write off for the departure of disgraced striker Adrian Mutu plus the summer's transfer spending. The sponsorship deals with adidas and Samsung have also not kicked in yet on the balance sheet.

"The bottom line is that nothing has changed with the Sibneft sale," one source said yesterday. "The thing with him is that he is brash, he does what he does and, like it or not, he has a knack of getting things right." Given his business - and sporting - success no-one could argue with that.

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