Chelsea’s Club World Cup Win Completes Abramovich’s 19-year Ambition To Be The Best In The World. As the opportunity arose, Roman Abramovich clapped his hands together only once.
Chelsea owner, sitting with his legs crossed in the VIP area of the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, high-fived with his assistant as a smile spread over his face, briefly visible with his black mask dropped after taking a sip of still water.
The worth of a Club Globe Cup title may be questioned more vigorously in Europe than the rest of the world, but the Blues’ 2-1 victory over Palmeiras in the final on Saturday crowns them as the best club side in the world.
It is a watershed moment in Abramovich’s 19-year odyssey, which began with the purchase of Chelsea in 2003 with the explicit goal of gaining world dominance.
The manner in which they reached the pinnacle over these 120 minutes, securing the 21st trophy of his reign, is emblematic of his lavishly funded approach: the goals were scored by two of Chelsea’s three most expensive signings, £97.5 million striker Romelu Lukaku with a towering header and £71 million midfielder Kai Havertz with a 117th-minute penalty either side of Raphael Veiga’s spot kick that forced extra-time.
Abramovich arrived at the ground shortly, flanked by executive director Marina Granovskaia. Before engaging in a lengthy talk with technical and performance director Petr Cech, the duo embraced head coach Thomas Tuchel, who had flown in less than 24 hours ago to help deliver this latest win.
Cech was a player in Chelsea’s only previous final in this competition, which they lost to Corinthians a decade ago, and he addressed the squad here in Abu Dhabi before one of their training sessions earlier this week, detailing why this was an opportunity not to be missed.
Cech believed Chelsea were underprepared in 2012 because they believed other prizes were more important and, in any event, they believed they would win it at some point given how good they had become. Cech had a stellar career, but he never had another shot in the Club World Cup.
Only five clubs in history have won every major trophy: Juventus, Ajax, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, and now Chelsea. This is the illustrious firm Abramovich intends to maintain, the mission statement that has influenced a harsh hiring-and-firing culture of management and a £2 billion investment.
“We’ve won it all,” Chelsea fans frequently sing. That is absolutely correct.
He continued to speak with Cech as the Chelsea squad gathered in the center of the platform and captain Cesar Azpilicueta lifted the trophy. After a few minutes, the Russian millionaire stood slightly apart from everyone, arms behind his back, taking in the festivities until Cech rejoined him.
That specific combo, along with past mainstays John Terry and Didier Drogba, who were also in attendance, are more familiar with Chelsea’s ascension to the top of the game than anybody else. They will also be aware of the challenge of remaining there.
Those who believe that this competition is both technically the highest honor on offer and merely a footnote to their season in the context of Premier League and Champions League efforts will be concerned about the challenges that lay ahead.
Palmeiras were difficult opponents, not least because of the 15,000-strong crowd that transformed this particular portion of Abu Dhabi into a Sao Paulo suburb, a sea of green and white visible in vast sections of all four sides of this stadium.
Even an hour before start, the noise was deafening, and it persisted throughout the game, providing a defiant soundtrack to their team’s contain-and-counter game plan, willfully giving territory and possession in an attempt to expose Chelsea on the break.
It nearly worked. Dudu squandered more than one promising counterattacking opportunity, while Chelsea labored to generate much, which was time-consuming and often sloppy with the ball.
Tuchel, who missed Wednesday’s semifinal win against Al Hilal due to a positive COVID-19 test, made some startling changes, dismissing Jorginho and Hakim Ziyech while restoring Mason Mount to the starting XI.
Mount lasted less than a half-hour as he appeared to battle with a recurrence of the ankle injury that has kept him out of action recently, with Christian Pulisic being introduced ahead of Ziyech to replace him.
The substitutions appeared to contribute to a disorganized performance, but one substitution, Callum Hudson-Odoi for Marcus Alonso, paid off when the England international scored from a left-wing-back position. Lukaku’s soaring header from Hudson-55th-minute Odoi’s cross was worthy of the occasion and his salary.
VAR was Chelsea’s adversary before becoming a friend. Thiago Silva was ruled to have handled in the box in the 64th minute as he challenged Gustavo Gomez. Raphael Veiga converted the subsequent penalty.
What followed was, to put it mildly, a shambles, and the clearest sign that Tuchel still has work to do to make Chelsea more lethal against opponents ready to defend to the extent that Palmeiras did here.
There were at least two system changes: Lukaku and Hudson-Odoi were withdrawn when the scores were equal and both were having good nights, and Pulisic was instructed to play left-wing-back.
Pulisic and Ziyech were spotted bickering with each other while pointing in different directions at one point. The disarray was palpable as Chelsea tried to restore themselves and the game appeared destined for a penalty shootout.
Instead, three minutes from the conclusion of extra time, Azpilicueta’s shot struck Palmeiras defender Luan on the arm, prompting Australian referee Chris Beath to give a penalty.
Azpilicueta deftly absorbed multiple Palmeiras players’ attempts to dislodge him as he cradled the ball over the spot before passing it to Havertz. The man who scored the game-winning goal against Manchester City in the Champions League final last May delivered the global title this time, sending goalie Weverton the wrong way.
Luan’s agony was complete when he was sent off following another VAR review for chopping down Havertz as he burst through, but Palmeiras’ race had already begun. As the referee deliberated, Abramovich indicated to one of the two minders stationed behind his seat that he wished to go down to the pitch at full-time.
Since withdrawing his visa application amid a diplomatic crisis between England and Russia in 2018, Abramovich has been a rare visitor to Stamford Bridge. But he was in Porto to witness his team’s Champions League victory, and he was not going to miss it.
Tuchel is aware that what happens next is never far from the owner’s mind.