The Roman Empire: Chelsea Under Roman Abramovich

In July 2003, a Russian oligarch, businessman, philanthropist and politician named Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea Football Club in a £140 million deal.

After intense and secret negotiations, Chelsea’s then chairman, Ken Bates, sold the club to the 36-year-old oil billionaire.

Abramovich’s £140 million takeover, which also included paying off an additional £75m debt owed by the club, saw him immediately go from a relatively unknown figure to a world-famous oligarch.

The announcement came out of nowhere, mostly due to the rapid nature of the takeover. However, this change of ownership altered the fortunes of a struggling club in England and made it a world-beater.

A club that had last won the English top division title in 1955 went on to win five Premier League trophies, two Champions Leagues, two Europa Leagues, five FA Cups, three League Cups, a UEFA Super Cup and a FIFA Club World Cup during the 19 years under Abramovich’s ownership.

Chelsea immediately embarked on an ambitious programme of commercial development, with the aim of making it a worldwide brand at par with footballing dynasties such as Manchester United, Barcelona, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, AC Milan and Real Madrid. The club also announced plans to build a new state-of-the-art training complex and academy.

Chelsea new signings Joe Cole and Juan Sebastian Veron with manager Claudio Ranieri.
Chelsea new signings Joe Cole and Juan Sebastian Veron with manager Claudio Ranieri August 7, 2003. (Photo by John Stillwell – PA Images via Getty Images)

Abramovich started attending Chelsea games regularly (especially at Stamford Bridge) and was showing visible emotion during matches — a sign taken by supporters to indicate a genuine love for the sport. He also usually visits the players in the dressing room after matches.

Abramovich’s reign at Chelsea came to an abrupt end in March earlier this year when he put the club up for sale just days after his country, Russia, invaded Ukraine. The British government imposed strict sanctions on several Russian billionaires, including Abrahmovic, which forced him to put Chelsea up for sale.

Chelsea’s board, on Saturday May 7th 2022, agreed a deal with a consortium led by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner, Todd Boehly, to acquire the English Premier League (EPL) club. Chelsea confirmed that the deal is worth £4.25 billion ($5.2 billion).

FootballOrbit takes a look at how Chelsea fared during Abramovich’s reign:

Chelsea’s managers during the Abramovich era

Jose Mourinho and Abramovich
Jose Mourinho and Abramovich (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)

Roman Abramovich’s hot pursuit of success saw him employ as many as 13 managers to coach the team during his time:

  1. Claudio Ranieri (September 2000 – May 2004)
  2. Jose Mourinho (June 2004 – September 2007) AND (June 2013 – December 2015)
  3. Avram Grant (September 2007 – May 2008)
  4. Luis Felipe Scolari (July 2008 – February 2009)
  5. Guus Hiddink (February 2009 – May 2009) AND (December 2015 – May 2016)
  6. Carlo Ancelotti (June 2009 – May 2011)
  7. Andre Villas-Boas (June 2011 – March 2012)
  8. Roberto Di Matteo (March 2012 – November 2012)
  9. Rafa Benitez (November 2012 – May 2013)
  10. Antonio Conte (July 2016 – July 2018)
  11. Maurizio Sarri (July 2018 – June 2019)
  12. Frank Lampard (July 2019 – January 2020)
  13. Thomas Tuchel – (January 2020 – till end of tenure).


Chelsea players celebrate winning the 2004/05 Premier League title with Roman Abramovich (Photo by Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images)

Chelsea became a force to reckon with in the Premier League and European football in the Abramovich era as the Blues lifted almost every silverware possible in club football.

Chelsea won a total of 21 major trophies which includes 5 Premier League titles, 2 Champions League crowns, 5 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, 2 Europa League titles, 1 FIFA Club World Cup, 1 UEFA Super Cup and 2 Community Shields.

No English club won more trophies than Chelsea since Abramovich bought the Blues in 2003.

Under his ownership, Chelsea became the fifth European football club to win every possible trophy available to them in their respective country.

  • Premier League titles (5): 2004/05, 2005/06, 2009/10, 2014/15, 2016/17.
  • FA Cup titles (5): 2006/07, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2011/12, 2017/18.
  • League Cup titles (3): 2004/05, 2006/07, 2014/15.
  • UEFA Champions League titles (2): 2011/12, 2020/21.
  • Europa League titles (2): 2012/13, 2018/19.
  • Community Shield titles (2): 2005, 2009.
  • UEFA Super Cup (1): 2021
  • FIFA Club World Cup (1): 2021

Chelsea won 1,449 points in the Premier League during this period.

Abramovich poses with the FIFA Club World Cup trophy — Chelsea’s last under his ownership (Photo by Michael Regan – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)


Chelsea spent a huge £2.1bn on players during Abramovich’s reign.

Time and time again, their billionaire owner delved deep into his pocket with his relentless quest for trophies at the front of his mind.

Their record signing is Romelu Lukaku, who arrived back at the club for an eye-watering £98million from Inter Milan.

Kai Havertz cost them £89m from Bayer Leverkusen, making him their second highest acquisition to date.

Kepa Arrizabalaga is Chelsea’s third most expensive signing as he cost £72m.

Money made from player sales (£1.16BN)

Eden Hazard is the most expensive player that Chelsea sold during Abramovich’s era. The Belgian was sold to Real Madrid for £98m.

The second most expensive player sold was Alvaro Morata, who joined Athletico Madrid for £58m.

David Luiz and Diego Costa are tied in third as they were sold for £53m to PSG and Athletico Madrid respectively.

The Fall of the “Roman Empire”.

Roman Abramovich at Stamford Bridge (credit: talkchelsea)

On the 26th of February 2022, due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Abramovich handed over “stewardship and care” of Chelsea FC to the Chelsea Charitable Foundation.

On the 2nd of March 2022, Abramovich released an official statement confirming that he is selling the club due to the ongoing situation in Ukraine.

The UK government froze Abramovich’s assets in the United Kingdom on the 10th of March due to his “close ties with Kremlin”.

On the 12th of March, the Premier League disqualified Abramovich as a director of Chelsea Football Club.

On the 7th of May 2022, Chelsea announced that a new ownership group led by Todd Boehly have agreed on the terms to acquire the club for £4.25 billion.


Abramovich changed football forever, paving the way for other billionaires to invest heavily in the round-leather game and create a new world order within it.

The Russian oligarch set the pace for the likes of the Abu Dhabi royal family takeover of Manchester City, the Qatari government’s acquisition of PSG and recently, the Saudi government-led purchase of Newcastle United.

Abramovich funded Chelsea’s transformation into serial winners while maintaining a low public profile.

Net Worth

According to Bloomberg, Roman Abramovich is worth around $13 billion (£10.6 billion). He is in the 139th position on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index rankings.

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