Graham's note: Bumped to the front page. Interesting piece, looking forward to part two.
We’ve all heard it, it’s a mantra now, ‘Abramovich wants the Champions League’, Sir Alex Ferguson describes it as an obsession, an obsession that he (Ferguson) himself once had, that "first" Champions League trophy is the one that often proves the most difficult to get.
Inter Milan have been winners of the top European trophy before, they had successive wins in the years 1963/64 & 1964/65 under the guidance of former owner and oil tycoon Angelo Moratti. The fourth child of Angelo Moratti and now the current Inter Milan owner is Massimo Moratti, Massimo didn’t succeed his father directly as Inter Milan owner, but assumed control in 1995 from Ernesto Pellegrini, at which point his obsession began.
Massimo Moratti's ambition was to restore Inter Milan to the heights of the Golden Era they had enjoyed under his father. He spent hundreds of millions to do so and to particularly lead Inter back to European glory in the form of Europe’s best available trophy. This was an owner who was very aggressive in the transfer market in order to attain success, very similar to how we know Roman Abramovich to have been here in England. The caveat to Massimo Moratti’s story is that it took his Inter Milan fifteen years to settle his obsession for Champions League glory.
Many analysts and fans believe that Roman Abramovich has an impatient desire for Champions League glory that has prompted managerial instability since he took over at the club back in 2004, they offer him advice about stability which I talked about in my previous piece.
A common criticism is that they believe that Abramovich is not a ‘football man’. They argue his philosophy is to throw money at the situation and then just expect results. In another of my previous pieces I speak about Roman Abramovich’s footballing conversations with then AC Milan and recently sacked Chelsea FC manager Carlo Ancelotti, it’s clear to me that from the type of discussions they were having Roman Abramovich self-made billionaire is not as simple or naive as the masses would like to make him out, not simple in terms of decision making and not simple in terms of football knowledge.
It’s my belief that Abramovich is a student of the beautiful game. I believe Chelsea have an owner who has educated himself on the great footballing sides and despite obviously wanting to win the Champions League (I mean who doesn’t, right?) in the short term, there is plenty of evidence that it’s Abramovich’s intent to create a great footballing side of his own.
There is no doubt that Chelsea’s most successful period ever in football has been under a combination of Abramovich and Mourinho, it was a winning formula and so when the partnership abruptly came to a halt in 2007, nobody could understand why Abramovich would get rid of a manager that was clearly a trophy magnet, one of the strongest reasons that was attributed to Mourinho’s departure was the style of football being played, as much as it seems clear that Abramovich wants the Champions League, it is also clear that Abramovich wants good football.
Immediately in Abramovich’s fledgling role as a club owner he surrounded himself with an important name in Dutch football, Piet De Visser, De Visser was a successful Dutch manager, but, more notably as a scout for PSV he scouted future world football icons in El Fenomeno (Ronaldo/R9) & Romario. De Visser became Roman Abramovich’s personal advisor and introduced Roman to then PSV manager Guus Hiddink whilst at a chance meeting with him in Eindhoven (Holland) back in 2004. De Visser also recommended the hiring of Danish scout Frank Arnesen. Arnesen forged a career out for himself in The Netherlands as a player, as a coach and finally as a Director of football, a position where he created a worthy reputation for himself.
Abramovich’s footballing circle became a who’s who of Dutch football, which is significant because of the history of Dutch football, In terms of lasting impact in the game, "Dutch Total Football" is a vital element in the progression of football, the Dutch teams of the early 70’s played a system with an innovative philosophy that inspired a style of football that had them described as the best footballing team ever.
The 4-3-3 formation and style of football was created by Rinus Michels who managed Ajax, Barcelona and the Dutch National Team. The main exponent in all of Michels' total footballing sides - each of the Dutch national teams, Ajax and Barcelona - was Johan Cruijff. Barcelona;s success today stems from the Dutch coaches and Dutch players they have been associated with in the past. Their style, their formation and the club's whole philosophy is descended from Dutch total football.
Barcelona’s La Masia youth set up was the image created by Johan Cruijff in the 90s whilst he was manager at the club. He told them that they must invest in youth to bring their own talents through similar to the way Ajax had done. This has had a big effect as so many top players has since come through the Barcelona system.