Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

English Game to Suffer as World Is Seduced by This Spanish Siren

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

English Game to Suffer as World Is Seduced by This Spanish Siren

Article excerpt

Byline: John Carlin

FIVE and a bit years ago, Roman Abramovich was sitting in the VIP lounge at the Bayern Munich stadium with his eyes glued to a small TV set. The place was packed with eminent football personalities chatting noisily, but Chelsea's Russian billionaire owner was engrossed, oblivious to the hubbub, like a child watching his favourite cartoons.

His eyes were fixed on a succession of images of goals and spectacular pieces of play by Real Madrid's 'galacticos', Zidane, Ronaldo, Figo, Beckham, Roberto Carlos. In the room also was Florentino Perez, then president of Real Madrid. The occasion was a Champions League game, about to start, between Bayern and Real. Perez caught sight of the mesmerised Russian and, turning to his companions, cried out -- half jokingly, half in genuine alarm -- "Turn the TV off!

Don't let him see that!" Perez's concern was that Abramovich, with his bottomless pockets, would seek to filch his star players.

As it turned out, he didn't. Yet Real Madrid, having been poised at that moment to win it all, had a calamitous end of season, and ended up with nothing.

The of gravity the game driftEngland Spain is where Chelsea went on to win the Premier League for the next couple of years and Real went from bad to worse, forcing Perez to resign.

interest Now Perez is back, returned by acclamation last month to the Real presidency, and it feels as if he's never been away.

He has continued where he left off in the business of grabbing galacticos, this week's acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka for a combined total of [pounds sterling]140million marking the spectacular start of a summer spending fest that has not ended yet.

Meanwhile, Abramovich keeps dreaming that one day he'll be able to construct a Chelsea team in the all-singing, all-dancing style of that glamorous Real side that made him drool in Munich all those years ago. …

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