The Premiership title race's day of judgement looms on Sunday but the phoney war started yesterday when Peter Kenyon laid out Chelsea's plans to be the biggest club in the world by 2014 - and, in doing so, overhauling Manchester United's pre-eminence as the most famous name in English football.
Ahead of Chelsea's visit to Old Trafford which will have a significant say on the destination of the title, the Chelsea chief executive said that United may have the "heritage" but that it was in "Chelsea's DNA" to do things differently with "a brand that is more dynamic, more relevant". That included winning more trophies, including the Premiership and the European Cup, and attracting more new supporters in the next eight years, Kenyon added.
It could have been no coincidence that Chelsea chose the occasion of three days before the biggest match of the season so far to do some grandstanding. As part of Chelsea's latest assault on world football domination, the launch of their new-look website chelseafc.com, Kenyon also said that he was confident Jose Mourinho would stay at the club no matter how successful this season proved.
It has not been the way of Roman Abramovich's new Chelsea to be bashful about their ambitions and Kenyon proved no exception, citing a growth in Chelsea's UK supporters' base from one million to 3.8 million since the Russian billionaire's takeover in 2003. That was, he said, the fastest growing supporter base in the world and the club hoped that by 2014 all the signs will indicate they are the biggest draw in the world.
"It will be by revenue, by profitability, about looking back over 10 years and hopefully taking into account the number of Premiership wins, the number of European Cup wins, the number of FA Cup wins," Kenyon said. "We carry out independent research now on fanbases and relativity of Real Madrid versus Manchester United versus Milan versus Chelsea. It will be all those measures. I think it's a very ballsy vision but it's one that I think has captured the interest of the owner.
"[Unlike United] Chelsea didn't have a [Munich air] tragedy, they didn't have 10 years of unbelievable success in the Sixties which culminated in winning the European Cup. It didn't have the domination and success of the Fergie years. It hadn't got any of those. It didn't have an old boys' network. It was a fairly soulless place [after the Abramovich takeover] so it was about starting again. So just the nature of that, it's a negative and a positive, it means your history starts recently."
Lured from Manchester United himself in 2003 after six years at Old Trafford, Kenyon can be accused of many things but standing in awe of his former employers is not one of them. He claimed that Chelsea's "revenue has grown dramatically" and was now on a par with United's.
He was confident that Mourinho would be part of Chelsea's long-term future and would not have to go elsewhere to fulfil his own unrelenting ambitions - regardless of his occasional threats to leave English football. While stopping short of placing Chelsea's success at the feet of their manager, Kenyon said that Sir Alex Ferguson's and Arsène Wenger's records demonstrated that successful clubs stayed with the same managers. "Where else is he [Mourinho] going to go?" Kenyon asked. "His family like it here, he has got resources here.
"Everyone in the world thinks English football is the best so my question is why would he want to leave? And I don't think he does. Why would we want him to go? I can assure you we don't and there is loads more to go for.
"I'm happy and convinced that Jose Mourinho is the best guy to do the job for us at Chelsea and Jose thinks we are the best club to gain the success he wants. And at his age he can do everything and still have longevity with Chelsea. He is not 55 years old, he's not 60. He has got plans but right now I think we are chasing ghosts thinking he is going to ride off into the sunset."
On expanding Stamford Bridge's 42,294-capacity, Kenyon said that the club were close to accepting that little could be done with the current site. While they would like a ground to rival Arsenal's Emirates stadium it would have to be in the same area of west London, Kenyon said, to keep Chelsea's unique appeal as a club in a fashionable part of a capital city.
And if David Beckham had hoped there would be a Chelsea escape route from Spain, the man who sold him to Real Madrid had bad news. "I don't think we need him," he said. "The manager doesn't think we need him. He's a great player and a great person and personally I would want him to be successful but that doesn't mean he is right for us and he isn't."Reuse content