Hellboy, as we all know, files down his horns to “fit in”. Peter Kenyon probably does it so as not to excite too much comment in the boardroom. But there’s no escaping the comedy pair that have been strapped to his bald pate this morning. The Chelsea chief executive has been cuckolded, and in no uncertain terms, by a billionaire even richer and with an even murkier past than Chelsea’s own.
Astonishingly, Roman Abramovich and his dream team of advisors have been outbid and out-manoeuvred in their hunt for Felipao Scolari’s primary summer transfer target. Yes, Robinho has gone to Eastlands.
Yes, while SW6 were thrusting and jabbing with ever-increasing bids in their rush to sign the youthful Brazilian from Francoist comedy troupe Real Madrid, Suleiman Al-Fayim nipped in quietly under their noses and – on behalf of the UAE royal family, if you believe the rumours – bought one of the most exciting prospects in world football. Manchester City, eh? Who’da thunk it.
Mark Hughes, reacting with all the aplomb of a man who orders a Citroen 2CV from the local garage and wakes up to find an F-16 fighter parked in his driveway, was “delighted”. How, then, should Chelsea fans feel about being gazumped by a man keen to advertise himself as the “new Abramovich”? And, just out of interest, how does little SWeeP feel knowing that the man who was going to steal his spot at Chelsea has just been bought by his alma mater? Admittedly, City don’t have quite the same riches in those roles that Chelsea’s squad can boast, but it’s an interesting pickle all the same.
The Robinho thread on the CFCnet forums, which at the time of typing runs to 141 pages and well over 3000 entries, contained a mixture of bemusement and amusement. Surprisingly little bile, but I think it’s fair to say that, throughout the saga, no one here has felt particularly excited or thrilled at the prospect of the lad’s arrival. But why? After all, he’s been saddled with the “new Pele” label. He can, when he feels like it, play some sublime moves on the ball. He does score, although perhaps not with the frequency that his recent employers might have hoped.
As Chelsea fans, did we expect the transfer in the bag from the moment it was announced? After all, Chelsea never announce. Despite the hysteria that follows the majority of our transfer dealings, the club rarely (if ever) issues a statement until the signature’s dried on the page. So was the astonishment at this morning’s news down to complacency on our part? And will we see City attempt to hijack any big money move orchestrated by the top few teams from now on? Perhaps some sort of memo has been leaked to the shadowy cabal of super-agents around the world: whatever you’re negotiating with Madrid / United / Milan / all the others, City will add 25% and chuck you a little signing bonus. Perhaps?
Then there’s our consistent failure to find a winger, or wide attacking player, who comes as advertised. Since 2003 the club has signed Joe Cole for £6-odd million, Arjen Robben for £12m, Duff for £17m, SWP for £21m and Malouda for £13m. All, for various reasons, have moved on, or vastly underperformed, or both, with the exception of the club’s player of the season for 07-08: Joe Cole. In Robinho, I half-expected an easy-on-the-eye lightweight who’d manage 20 league games and the European ties, who’d get thumped a lot by mid-table clogging full-backs, and eventually retreat into a rather sullen shell. I’m probably doing Felipao a disservice here. Or perhaps I’m just jaded at the paucity of attacking threat that we seem to possess without Drogba. Why should the latest one be any different?
Anyway, for we Chelsea fans, last night’s news was a fairly momentous moment. Roman’s experiment – something that, lest we forget, had never been tried before, anywhere – has come to the end of its first phase. You see, there’s someone out there who’s even more gauche than us. In the opera house of football hierarchy, it puts us one step closer to the front of the stalls. But it does mean getting elbowed out of the way – every now and then – on the way to the interval drinks.