The fortunes of both Chelsea and Tottenham would have been very different had Roman Abramovich not pumped his money into Stamford Bridge.
What actually happened…
Ken Bates was out, Roman Abramovich was in, as Chelsea was taken over in July 2003 soon after the club had secured Champions League football.
After a second-place finish and a Champions League semi-final in his first season, the Russian owner was rewarded with back-to-back Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006 with Jose Mourinho at the helm.
Abramovich got what he craved most in 2012 when Chelsea became the first club from London to win the Champions League. After ploughing over one billion pounds into the club, he’s collected 18 trophies along the way.
What if Abramovich opted against Chelsea?
There’s no Jesper Gronkjaer winner in the final game of the 2002/03 season, and Liverpool come out on top in what is billed as the ‘£20m match’. Chelsea miss out on Champions League football with big consequences.
Without the lure of Europe’s premier cup competition, a disgruntled Roman Abramovich decides against buying a club with significant debt.
Instead, his roubles head to north London and Tottenham – a club he’d also been keeping a keen eye on.
Chelsea slip down the table, having offloaded top earners John Terry, Frank Lampard, William Gallas, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
Spurs end a 13-year winless run against the struggling Blues in the following season, as the tables turn between the London rivals.
North London power struggle
It’s not all a bed of roses for Tottenham, who miss out on a first Premier League crown in Abramovich’s debut season. At least their fans can celebrate preventing Arsenal from going unbeaten with a 3-2 win at White Hart Lane.
The club stick by fans’ favourite Glenn Hoddle but Abramovich runs out of patience and convinces Jose Mourinho to move to north London in the summer of 2004 after leading Porto to Champions League success.
Tottenham prepare for their Premier League title challenge by persuading Ricardo Carvalho, Paulo Ferreira, Michael Essien and Didier Drogba to make the move to the Premier League.
A mass exodus follows at White Hart Lane, although Helder Postiga is retained and comes good under his compatriot.
Knowing their north London rivals would be the main challengers for the title, Arsenal get their cheque book out in the summer of 2003/04 and gazump Manchester United in the pursuit of young English striker Wayne Rooney.
Rooney and Thierry Henry prove too much for a Mourinho-led Spurs in the 2004/05 season and the Portuguese manager is shown the door by Abramovich in April, with the club only in third place.
England dominate Europe
While Liverpool win the Champions League in 2005, a Rooney-led Arsenal get their hands on the trophy the next season as English teams continue to conquer the European stage.
Abramovich’s choice in Avram Grant seems to be a masterstroke as he takes Tottenham to Moscow for the Champions League final against Manchester United in 2008.
There are more Russian tears though. Didier Drogba is sent off in extra time as the match goes to penalties and the striker can only watch from the sidelines as Ledley King slips in the mud, fluffing his spot-kick and the chance for glory. Abramovich’s celebratory bottle swiftly returns to the bucket of ice.
Grant is another manager packing his bags under Abramovich, who then hires World Cup winner Luiz Felipe Scolari. It’s another wobbly start to the campaign, and Guus Hiddink is soon in charge.
So what happened to Chelsea? After Abramovich’s financial swerve and losing big names like Terry (to Liverpool) and Lampard (to Everton), the club struggled to attract new owners.
After narrowly avoiding relegation on goal difference in the 2007/08 season, Chelsea were finally rewarded as Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour followed Abramovich’s lead by investing in English football.
The money flowed into west London as they beat Manchester City and Tottenham to the signing of Brazilian trickster Robinho.
And Chelsea finally make their way back into the top four with the arrivals of Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero.
Back seat Abramovich
Hiddink is a steadying influence at Tottenham, and Abramovich’s smile returns, albeit briefly, at Wembley with an FA Cup and League Cup double. Premier League and Champions League success remains a pipedream for the Russian.
Denied by Arsenal and Manchester United, they now have to contend with their former foes Chelsea for a position in the top three of the Premier League.
Didier Drogba departs and Abramovich thinks he may have found his final jigsaw piece with Fernando Torres – a £50m signing from Liverpool.
The Spaniard takes almost 11 months to score his first goal as Spurs slip out of the Champions League places.
Abramovich takes a back seat and is hardly seen at White Hart Lane until one dark, damp Saturday afternoon.
Everton are the visitors and the owner is in the stands talking to Harry and Jamie Redknapp who have come to see Frank Lampard play. Speculation on a new Abramovich appointment builds but they are probably just having a friendly bet on who’d be the first to get on the TV show ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here’.
- 64 live games on Sky Sports from restart date of June 17
- 25 games to be made freely available
- New Sky Sports digital innovations also planned to enhance fan experience
The Premier League 2019/20 season will restart on Wednesday, June 17 and Sky, the UK’s leading football broadcaster, will make 25 games available ‘free to air’ – including Everton vs Liverpool on the first full weekend back.
Sky Sports will show 64 live Premier League games when the season resumes. In addition to the 39 matches already scheduled to be broadcast exclusively live on Sky Sports before the coronavirus interruption, 25 more matches will be available on both Sky Sports Premier League and Sky’s free-to-air Pick channel, allowing the whole nation to be part of the return of live sport.
To celebrate the return of the Premier League, Sky Sports will also launch a host of innovative new features and updates to give fans an even more immersive experience and share the moments live with family and friends on virtual platforms.