x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

When chequebooks collide in Premier League

Manchester City are playing catch up in terms of trophies, but not in spending, as they meet Chelsea in the battle of billionaires.

Florent Malouda, right, and Michael Essien, two signings that cost Chelsea several millions of pounds, have shown return on their investment with Premier League winners' medals.
Florent Malouda, right, and Michael Essien, two signings that cost Chelsea several millions of pounds, have shown return on their investment with Premier League winners' medals.

The battle of the billionaires takes place this weekend with Manchester City welcoming Chelsea, the league leaders, to Eastlands. Both clubs have spent lavishly since being taken over by their respective owners. Roman Abramovich, the Russian oil tycoon, acquired the London side in June 2003 and immediately set about investing capital to create a side capable of winning first the Premier League and then the Champions League.

Abu Dhabi's own Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bought City in September 2008 with a similar goal, but starting from a lower position as the club had not won a trophy for 33 years when he took over. Last weekend, Chelsea fielded a team against Blackpool worth in excess of £145 million (Dh835m); City's side for their match against Wigan Athletic was valued at close to £175m. Five years ago, when the two sides faced off in Manchester, City's first XI was worth just £16.3m - more than 10 times less than today's team.

Since Abramovich's takeover, Chelsea have won three league titles, three FA Cups and two league cups - the club's first league and cup double coming in only the second year of the Russian's tenure. With City having narrowly missed out on a place in the Champions League this season, the pressure is on Roberto Mancini, their manager, to bring success to the blue half of Manchester in Sheikh Mansour's third year at the helm.

City will undoubtedly continue to spend in search of silverware, but Chelsea are now at a stage where wholesale changes are not required. Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager, was quiet in the transfer window this summer, purchasing only Yossi Benayoun and Ramires, the Brazilian. Sheikh Mansour, in contrast, sanctioned signings in excess of £107m in a bid to strengthen. And yet already Chelsea find themselves seven points ahead of the wealthy rivals in the race for the title.

Only Chelsea have conceded fewer goals than City, but perhaps an indication that their massive investment in strengthening at the back as well as up front is paying off . @Email:gmeenaghan@thenational.ae