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Chelsea season ticket holder and Britain’s wealthiest man hints at expanding portfolio – but will Sir Jim Ratcliffe buy out Roman Abramovich?

Sir Jim Ratcliffe already owns Swiss club FC Lausanne-Sport - REUTERS
Sir Jim Ratcliffe already owns Swiss club FC Lausanne-Sport - REUTERS

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s wealthiest man, has fuelled rumours that he is interested in taking over another football club, but declined to comment specifically on rumours that he had a bid for Chelsea rejected by fellow billionaire Roman Abramovich earlier this year.

Reports in June suggested that Ratcliffe, the founder, chairman and majority owner of chemicals firm Ineos, had offered £2 billion to buy the west London club.

Ratcliffe, speaking exclusively to Telegraph Sport on Friday, declined to address those reports, saying: “There are always things going on at Ineos but I can’t really comment.”

He did, however, admit that football was a “lifelong passion”, noting that he already owned “a small club in Switzerland”. The 65-year-old became the owner of FC Lausanne-Sport in 2017.

“That [FC Lausanne-Sport] was a sort of learning curve for us,” Ratcliffe said. “A dipping-your-toes-in-the-water sort of thing.”

Ratcliffe, who was speaking in Cowes in his capacity as founder and owner of Sir Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup Team Ineos Team UK, which will be competing for the 36th America’s Cup in New Zealand in 2021, was reported to be worth £21 billion in this year’s Sunday Times Rich List. That is more than double Abramovich’s estimated wealth.

Ratcliffe, a season ticket holder at Stamford Bridge, said that he thought Abramovich was “on his way out” of Chelsea for one reason or another but again declined to comment on whether he would be interested in taking over.

Chelsea have rejected reports that their Russian owner is ready to sell, insisting he will resume redevelopment work at Stamford Bridge.

At the end of May Chelsea announced that the project to increase the stadium's capacity to 60,000 had been shelved because of the 'current unfavourable investment climate'. Abramovich has had issues with the Home Office over his UK investor’s visa.

Talking about football more generally, Ratcliffe, who is originally a Manchester United fan, said he had not yet formed an opinion on Chelsea’s new manager Maurizio Sarri, but said he liked managers who were positive by nature.

“I am a season ticket holder at Chelsea,” Ratcliffe said. “Have been for years, although I’m a Manchester United fan really. Or was…. It’s not getting any better [at United]. It’s gone from bad to catastrophic. Talk about a glass-half-empty.

“If you’ve got the six teams competing at the top of the table  this is last season anyway  you’ve got three who are managed by glass-half-full guys, [Jurgen] Klopp, [Pep] Guardiola and [Mauricio] Pochettino. They get their teams up and energised.

“And then you look at Mourinho. He’s so down. He destroyed Luke Shaw last season. And then you’ve got [Arsene] Wenger who [was] miserable and [Antonio] Conte who was down.”

“The guy I like is [Diego] Simeone,” he added. “I love him.”