English Soccer: Roman Abramovich maintains his characteristic silence

roman abramovich 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
roman abramovich 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Chelsea in the Champions League final in Moscow sounds like something club owner Roman Abramovich should be shouting about. Instead, the billionaire Russian businessman is keeping a characteristically low profile. His appearance at Chelsea's final match of the Premier League season on May 11 was his first at the club for almost two months and he has said nothing about his club's imminent appearance in his home country. After five years of near silence since buying the club, the players don't expect anything else. "Everyone knows how important the Champions League is for the club," defender Ricardo Carvalho said. "He doesn't need to give us a bonus or speak. We know how important it is." One of the players whose acquisition Abramovich funded, Carvalho is going for his second Champions League medal to go with the one he won with FC Porto in 2004. But while Manchester United has won both its previous appearances in the final of European club soccer's top tournament, Chelsea has never before competed at such a level, making Wednesday's match at Luzhniki Stadium particularly special for fans and players. And there's no doubt that Abramovich is the reason why Chelsea is there. He is estimated to have spent as much as £700 million on the club, which was in financial ruin when he acquired it in 2003. "Chelsea without Roman Abramovich is not the Chelsea that you see today," manager Avraham Grant said. "He's the most important man in the history of Chelsea because he put his money and organization here. In football, money alone will not bring success. But without money, it is not so easy either." Abramovich wiped out a debt of £80m. and within a year funded the hiring of players including Hernan Crespo, Juan Sebastian Veron, Arjen Robben, Damien Duff, Joe Cole, Petr Cech and Claude Makelele for a total of more than £150m. Although several have since moved on, Cole, Cech and Makelele formed the spine of the team that won two straight Premier League titles and three other trophies. All three are likely to feature against United. "The owner and his money have given us the opportunity to be in this position together," Cole said. "We appreciate that and just want to get the job done for all the fans and for everyone around us at the club." Until this season, Abramovich would regularly attend Chelsea's home matches to watch from high up in Stamford Bridge's west stand. Tension with manager Jose Mourinho was cited as the reason for his decreased attendance, but Mourinho was replaced by Grant in September and the players are at least hoping to see their benefactor in Moscow. "He was at our last game, but we've not seen him yet," defender Ashley Cole said. "Hopefully he'll pop down and wish us luck."