x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Abramovich's indecision has been costly for Chelsea

Chelsea's £32-million playmaker, Eden Hazard, is the latest example of a player they could have signed for a bargain, had their Russian owner listened to the right people.

Eden Hazard was spotted by Chelsea scouts at the age of 18, but the club decided not to sign him. Stefan Wermuth / Reuters
Eden Hazard was spotted by Chelsea scouts at the age of 18, but the club decided not to sign him. Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

A little over a year ago, Chelsea's new manager recommended a young Brazilian attacker to Roman Abramovich.

The player in question had immense acceleration, could bypass opponents with skill as well as pace, and created and scored goals in bunches.

He was still only 18 years old, had played just one full season in the Campeonato Brasileiro, but for Andre Villas-Boas he was the ideal recruit for a team seeking rejuvenation. His name was Lucas Moura.

As has been his habit, Abramovich valued the opinion of others over his manager's judgement of talent. At the beginning of this month, after Sao Paulo spurned the advances of both Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, the Brazil international was sold to Paris Saint-Germain for €42 million (Dh189m).

Villas-Boas built his career on assessing players. He was a scout, both tactical and technical, long before splitting from Mourinho in 2009 to establish himself as a coach.

Some of his other recruitment requests during his fateful summer as Chelsea manager make intriguing retrospective reading.

As a controlling midfielder he suggested Joao Moutinho or Luka Modric.

The latter is on his way to Real Madrid; the former was outstanding in Portugal's run to the semi-finals of Euro 2012. As a new striker, Villas-Boas pushed for Radamel Falcao or Hulk. Obsessed with the idea of seeing Fernando Torres succeed at Stamford Bridge, Abramovich passed on both.

Hulk continued to score heavily at Porto, while Falcao moved to Atletico Madrid for an initial €40m, scoring a record 36 goals in his first Primera Liga season at a strike rate of 0.72 a game. The Colombian went on to win a second Europa League.

One irony of Abramovich's failure to back the judgement of Villas-Boas is that Chelsea's reshape was merely postponed. A summer later he has committed the best part of a €100m to the transfer fee, agent's cut and salary required to acquire Eden Hazard. And many tens of millions more on Oscar and Marko Marin.

The other is that the Russian's errors of trust keep repeating themselves.

Several years ago a precocious Belgian teenager was recommended to Chelsea by one of the club's long serving scouts. Though he could have been signed at minimal expense, Frank Arnesen - Abramovich's adviser of choice at the time - did not fancy the boy and vetoed the deal.

The teenager's name? Eden Hazard.

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