Paul Merson reflects on move from Arsenal to Middlesborough
Paul Merson’s claim that Chelsea would just ‘fizzle out’ after Roman Abramovic sold the club may look like an astute claim on the pitch currently. But the former Arsenal star was miles off with his assertion that no one would be able to spend money like the Russian oligarch did.
Billionaire Abramovic was forced to sell the west London club 12 months ago after 19 years at the helm, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.
And when asked about the situation at the time, boyhood Chelsea fan Merson painted a grim picture of the future at Stamford Bridge.
When Sky Sports Soccer Saturday presenter Jeff Stelling quizzed Merson on if the glory days were over for the capital club, he said: “Could be, could be. You’re talking about £3bn this club costing. That’s the price I’ve seen, £3bn.
“I don’t know how high this club can go, they’ve won everything in the game. Whoever buys this club will have to love Chelsea Football Club like Abramovich did. Because if they don’t, then it’s just going to fizzle away, it is. You’re talking that one of the people who wants to buy it is a big Chelsea fan – that’s Chelsea’s biggest hope. I don’t see anybody coming into this club again and spending that kind of money.
“I worry for Chelsea now that when you’ve seen such riches, you can’t live with being poor. That’s the way it is. Chelsea have been up here [top].
“I look at it now and I’m worried for Chelsea, I am worried. They’re a top team and a top club. He has put a lot of money into this club. I don’t see anybody doing that. If you’re paying £3bn for it, I don’t know where the money is going to come from to keep on doing that.”
After buying the club for £140m in 2003, Abramovic spend £113m on new players in his first summer transfer window. But as things have turned out, that is small-fry compared to what has happened over the past year.
After selling the club to a consortium led by Todd Boehly for £4.35bn, the American businessman said: “Along with our commitment to developing the youth squad and acquiring the best talent, our plan of action is to invest in the club for the long-term and build on Chelsea’s remarkable history of success.”
Since last May, Boehly has spent over £553m on new players, including a British record deal for Benfica midfielder Enzo Fernandez, who alone cost £106.8m. In just 12 months a mind-boggling 17 players have moved to Stamford Bridge, making light of Merson’s fears that the days of big spending at Stamford Bridge were over.
However, that huge level of investment has not yet transformed into results on the pitch. With both Thomas Thuchel and Graham Potter sacked during the course of the season, the Blues could finish as low as 13th in the Premier League – their worst placing since 1994.
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