Chelsea makes good on Abramovich's $2.8 billion investment by winning Champions League

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

Chelsea's nail-biting victory in Saturday's Champions League final was the culmination of a dream that cost its owner Roman Abramovich an incredible $2.8 billion.

Abramovich, a secretive Russian oil tycoon, has coveted this title more than any other since taking over Chelsea in 2003, and he finally got his wish when the London club squeezed past Bayern Munich in an extraordinary penalty shootout at the Allianz Arena.

[Martin Rogers: Bayern Munich blows its chance at Champions League glory]

But success did not come cheap. The 45-year-old had to spend astonishing sums on player transfers, wages and improvements to the club infrastructure in the pursuit of European glory.

Abramovich took over a club that was struggling financially and immediately turned it into a European power. Under his watch, the club has bought 66 world-class players at a staggering cost.

The transfer fees for those players, according to sports finance expert Daniel King of the Sun newspaper, tallies up at $1.02 billion, more than any other club in the world during that same eight-season stretch.

Player salaries have been even more expensive, according to King, with the overall wage bill totaling $1.8 billion – another record-setting figure that helped spiral soccer into a new era of hyper-spending.

Eight managers also came and went in the space of eight years, most of them fired precisely for failing to win the Champions League. English Premier League titles and FA Cup wins were nice, but what really mattered to Abramovich was flexing his muscles in European competition.

Ironically, it was the least heralded of those men, Roberto Di Matteo, who finally got the job done. Di Matteo, who was brought in as interim manager following the axing of Andre Villas-Boas, earns only a fraction of his predecessor's salary and, even after this triumph, is not guaranteed to get the job on a full-time basis.

"There are so many people who will celebrate this and so many people who deserve credit for it," Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard said. "But you have to talk about Roman, what he has put in.

"None of this would have been possible without him and it is a dream come true for him just like it is for the rest of us."

On this night, when Didier Drogba rolled in the winning penalty to seal a memorable triumph, it was all finally worth it.

[Martin Rogers: Chelsea's underappreciated trio deliver a Champions League trophy]

Chelsea had come tantalizingly close in 2008, when captain John Terry missed a penalty in the shootout against Manchester United that would have clinched the trophy. Four years later, redemption came in the form of a match that looked destined to end with a Bayern triumph.

After long stretches of the German side's dominance, Thomas Mueller finally broke through in the 83rd minute with a header that bounced over goalkeeper Petr Cech and into the net. However, Drogba equalized with a powerful header with just two minutes left to give Chelsea fresh hope.

A scoreless extra time period followed, sending the clash into penalties for the cruelest yet most dramatic of finishes. Bayern scored its first two and Juan Mata missed for Chelsea, but somehow the English club found a way back. Ivica Olic was foiled by Cech and Bastian Schweinsteiger fired his effort against the post, leaving Drogba to calmly clinch it with the most important kick of his career.

Abramovich had flown 50 friends and family members to Munich to join him in a VIP suite for the game, and the group celebrated wildly with champagne and hugs. Thoughts will now turn to what happens next. With his primary goal now realized, will Abramovich chase more European silverware or scale back his vast spending?

Either way, his investment paid off spectacularly on this dramatic evening, one that saved Chelsea from what would have gone down as a failed season. The club's only way of reaching next season's Champions League competition was by winning it all after finishing sixth in the English Premier League and two spots below the EPL's last remaining automatic berth.

All those concerns count for nothing now, though. Abramovich's eight-year spending spree finally reaped its ultimate reward, and Chelsea became European champion for the first time in its history.

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