The Champions League final shows that money buys success. Chelsea vs. Manchester City is the Russian tycoon-financed team against the club that has been transformed by the financial might of Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan. They are two clubs that went from being teams of the pile to the superpowers of English football in less than 20 years.
City has won thirteen of its 22 great honors since Sheikh Mansour’s inauguration in 2008, while 16 of Chelsea’s 26 conquests, between league titles and cups, came after Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003. The investment de Abramovich has already produced a Champions League title at Chelsea, with the 2012 win over Bayern Munich.
In England, despite the traditional might of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, City and Chelsea have dominated the last decade. Between them they have won seven of the last 10 Premier League titles, and are well ahead of the rest in terms of trophies won in that span – City have won nine and Chelsea eight, ahead of United (four before the final of the Europa League on Wednesday against Villarreal), Arsenal (four) and Liverpool (two).
But is it all due to money from Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour? Undoubtedly, the two billionaires have used their financial muscle to attract some of the best players in the world to Stamford Bridge and Etihad Stadium respectively, but other clubs have spent fortunes on players and have not been able to match the success achieved by Chelsea and City. At both clubs, investments on the pitch have been accompanied by similar investments behind the scenes, and to recruit the best managers and coaches, as well as building world-class facilities for players to hone their skills.
Money undoubtedly speaks, and it’s why Chelsea and City are preparing to meet in Porto in the Champions League final, but ESPN has dug a little deeper to identify why investments in the passing market are not. the only reason why they have become powerhouses of English football, and perhaps also of European football.
Passing When it comes to analyzing the key factors behind the emergence of City and Chelsea, what is spent in the passing market will always be the most striking figure. The two clubs have simply changed the face of football with their huge investments in players.
The £ 222.5m spent last summer pushed Chelsea above the £ 2bn mark in terms of player recruitment since Abramovich’s arrival, and Kai Havertz, signed for £ 72m from Bayer Leverkusen, became the biggest payout of the club in a single player.
City, meanwhile, has spent £ 1.7bn on players during his 13 years with Sheikh Mansour. The £ 32.5m signing of Robinho from Real Madrid (a British record at the time) on the day of the team’s purchase in September 2008 was a clear declaration of intent.
Sources told ESPN that City embarked on an “accelerated acquisition strategy” during Sheikh Mansour’s early years to bridge the gap with teams such as Chelsea and Manchester United. Between 2008 and 2011, City spent £ 297.8m on players alone. Despite his record investments under Sheikh Mansour, City’s record signing is relatively modest: £ 64.3m for Benfica defender Rúben Dias last summer.
Over the past 10 years, City’s net spending on players stands at £ 867.28m – the highest in the Premier League during that period, with Manchester United in second place, with a net spending of £ 814.75m. Chelsea, meanwhile, has benefited from the departures of Eden Hazard (£ 103.5m), Diego Costa (£ 54m) and Oscar (£ 54m) to record net spending of just £ 410.31m over the last decade.
City tends to raise little by selling players; Leroy Sané’s £ 40.5m pass to Bayern Munich last summer eclipsed Danilo’s (£ 33.3 to Juventus) as the club’s record sale.
Youth development A source told ESPN that Chelsea and City are “light years” ahead of their Premier League rivals in terms of young player development at their academies.
Chelsea has an advantage over City in this regard, having prioritized youth development during Abramovich’s early years, and 46 of its graduates have played first since 2003. On Saturday, Mason Mount, Andreas Christensen, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Tammy Abraham, Reece James and Billy Gilmour could complete the journey from the academy to the final of the Champions League final if they play in Porto. City defender Nathan Ake is another product of the Chelsea academy.
Chelsea has won the FA Youth Cup seven times since 2010 and was a finalist two other times in the same period. The club’s under-19s also won the UEFA Youth League in 2015 and 2016. Neil Bath, Chelsea’s head of youth development, has been with the club since 1993.
City drew on the Chelsea inferior model at its own academy, and now sees the rewards of its investment in the form of 20-year-old Phil Foden, who, after joining the club at age four, is now the star of the club. development program after having become a figure in Pep Guardiola’s team.
Since 2008, 44 academy graduates have made City’s first team and while the club has won just one FA Youth Cup in the last ten years, it has been the finalist on the losing side four times – three of those against Chelsea. . This season, City won the U23 and U18 Premier League titles.
Both clubs have been criticized for their so-called “harvest” approach, signing the best young talent and then doing preparation by sending them on loan to sister clubs or partners. In 2020-21, City loaned 32 of its young players, while 24 of Chelsea’s youth spent time on loan away from Stamford Bridge.
City and Chelsea are some of the teams that employ some of the game’s most astute and respected managers, with Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour delegating the day-to-day management of their clubs to Marina Granovskaia and Khaldoon to Mubarak respectively.
Granovskaia, a Russian-Canadian, has worked with Abramovich since she started as his personal assistant at the oil company, Sibneft, in 1997. Having previously served on the Chelsea board of directors, Granovskaia rose to the role of CEO of Chelsea in 2014 and he is in charge of overseeing the transfers and business activities of the club. Sources close to ESPN have told ESPN that Granovskaia is a formidable negotiator and a trusted person for Abramovich.
In City, Al Mubarak combines his role as chairman with his position as CEO of Mubadala Development Company, Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund with assets of $ 523 billion (£ 370 billion).
Al Mubarak oversaw the hiring of former Barcelona executives Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain in 2012 as chief executive and director of football, respectively, at City. Sources have told ESPN that Guardiola moved to City in 2016 to work with Soriano and Begiristain, but that his decision to sign a new contract this season was based on his admiration for Al Mubarak. Sources have said that Al Mubarak and Soriano’s alliance on City’s board of directors has been as crucial to their success of late as Guardiola’s impact on the team.
Chelsea’s practice facility known as Cobham, where they are located, which cost around $ 28m (£ 20m) to build before opening in 2007, is where all football operations take place, including the men’s teams. and female. It has 30 courts, three with underground heating and six that meet Premier League standards, and additional facilities such as plunge pools and a rehab center. Having practiced in outdated facilities near Heathrow Airport, the move from Chelsea to Cobham has been described by José Mourinho as a “breakthrough” during his first stint as a coach.
In Manchester, the City Football Academy (CFA) on the Etihad Campus, which was built in the likeness of AC Milan’s renowned Milanello complex, and cost $ 283m (£ 200m) to build ahead of its 2014 opening. The complex houses all City teams and also has a mini stadium that is used by the youth and women’s teams. The CFA also has a building for the first team that includes an enclosed court that allows Guardiola players to train in a windless environment.
Sources have told ESPN that Chelsea’s ability to compete with Manchester clubs in the transfer market is due to the club’s leveraging of the investments made by Abramovich, but also to the club’s status as one of the most popular. successful London in recent times.
Both City and United have been forced to pay higher salaries in the past to persuade players to move to Manchester rather than London, and Chelsea has achieved its position in the capital as the central platform in their strategy. recruitment. In 2012, they overcame stiff competition from City and United to sign Hazard from Lille, with sources claiming that the prospect of living in London helped seal the deal with the Belgian international. Chelsea will also take advantage of London’s appeal in their effort to sign Borussia Dortmund man Erling Haaland.
City, meanwhile, points to its pursuit of excellence in all areas – its world-class practice facilities, Guardiola’s presence, its consistent success – as crucial when attracting new hires.
The future looks bright for both clubs and winning or losing in the Champions League final will not hurt their momentum at the Etihad and Stamford Bridge. Guardiola is committed to City until at least the end of the 2022-23 season, having extended his contract with the club when he started this campaign, while Thomas Tuchel could also be rewarded with a longer contract this summer after transforming Chelsea. since he replaced fired Frank Lampard as coach with an 18-month deal in January.
City midfield star Kevin De Bruyne signed a long-term contract a few months ago, Raheem Sterling is another player who is expected to close a new deal while the future is secured with young players such as Foden, Dias and Ferran Torres. The Chelsea squad also have plenty of footballers in their 20s, including Havertz, Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic and Timo Werner, and they will be City’s rivals in the race to sign Haaland and Harry Kane in the next transfer market.
With both clubs having secured Champions League football next season under elite coaches and backed by extremely wealthy owners, the era of Chelsea and City rule could easily continue for another ten years.