Emirati sovereign wealth plays Russian oligarch: Saturday’s Champions League final sees the new powers in European football flexing their muscles as Man City take on Chelsea… and they’re both so rich they don’t need a Super League!
- Manchester City and Chelsea meet in the Champions League final on Saturday
- Both are among the nouveau riche of European clubs challenging the old guard
- The two sides are so well off they only reluctantly joined doomed Super League
- Upwardly mobile, they have both outwitted UEFA’s Financial Fair Play system
- City have the chance to win their first Champions League, Chelsea a second
When Liverpool met Real Madrid in the Champions League final in Kiev three years ago, it was a collision of two of the grand old names of the European Cup.
Real Madrid were crowned champions for the 14th time and 12 months later Liverpool claimed the title for the sixth time in their history, a number matched by Bayern Munich last year.
In Porto, on Saturday, comes a celebration of the new power in world football. Two historic clubs extending into new territory with new money. Manchester City against Chelsea, Emirati sovereign wealth fund plays Russian oligarch.
Manchester City and Chelsea are preparing to meet in what could be described as a ‘new money’ Champions League final as Europe’s football powerbase shifts
Pep Guardiola’s City are powered by the billions of Sheikh Mansour and his Emirati wealth fund
Chelsea have been bankrolled since 2003 by the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich
Perhaps the two richest members of the world’s richest football league. So comfortably well off are they, in fact, that they were indifferent to the idea of the European Super League breakaway movement.
They only really joined in so as not to miss out and were the first to perform hasty reverse manoeuvres once the full scale of public outcry became clear.
Back within UEFA’s fold and City’s progress in particular is significant. They have overcome the Financial Fair Play (FFP) hurdles specifically designed to stop the upwardly mobile and ambitious.
These were rules brought into force in the wake of the Abramovich takeover at Stamford Bridge to stop what Arsene Wenger branded ‘financial doping’ rocking the established order at the top of the game.
Chelsea produced brilliant performances to overcome Real Madrid in the semi-final
Man City got the better of Paris Saint-Germain to finally reach a Champions League final
For Manchester City, this was supposed to be the first season of a two-season ban imposed by UEFA in February last year for breaking FFP rules until the ban was overturned five months later on appeal.
City’s lawyers beat UEFA’s in the courts, just as Chelsea’s beat FIFA’s to cut short a transfer ban.
Since the pandemic struck, FFP restrictions have been eased by UEFA to help clubs through the crisis, offering those with bottomless sources of wealth an edge over rivals managing debts.
Chelsea launched a world-record transfer spree in the midst of the pandemic to recruit players including Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech.
City have this year made Kevin De Bruyne the top-paid footballer in England on £385,000 a week.
Chelsea had the clout to spend big on Kai Havertz (left) and Timo Werner last summer despite the financial implications of the Covid pandemic
Kevin De Bruyne has been rewarded for another excellent season with an improved contract
They have the deepest, strongest, most complete squads in English football. And they are preparing to go back into the transfer market for reinforcements.
Both covet a striker, be it Erling Haaland, Romelu Lukaku or Harry Kane. City are focusing on a summer move for Jack Grealish.
Thomas Tuchel talks of hunting down Premier League champions City, closing the gap and it is not hard to envisage these two contesting the title at the end of next season.
They are strong and getting stronger and success in the Champions League will not only increase revenue from TV and prize money.
It will develop the brand and strengthen identity, adding lustre in a corporate market, spreading the word and enhancing global prestige.
Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish could be City’s next big name addition with a £100million outlay
Abramovich will provide Thomas Tuchel with a transfer kitty to overhaul Chelsea’s squad
Last year, Paris Saint-Germain, funded by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, made it to their first final. RB Leipzig made the last four on the wings of Red Bull. PSG were back in the semis this year.
The old guard are not about to vanish. They will remain influential, hence the endless quest for new formats in the Champions League and breakaway plots.
They will fight for a place in the future. None of it is especially endearing in a sporting sense but the plates of power are shifting and the Porto final is the best example yet.
Two of football’s great 21st Century forces will engage with City desperate to win their first Champions League title, Chelsea looking for their second and the grand old names looking on enviously.