Daily Telegraph

ROMAN ABRAMOVICH’S Russian money revolution has kick-started the transfer season but he may not be able to stop the market in this country from dying.

The Chelsea owner’s expected buys of Juan Sebastian Veron from Manchester United and Joe Cole from West Ham this week will take his spending close to £60 million.

Bar the £7 million paid to Real Madrid for Geremi, all of his money has gone to English clubs. The effects are that Abramovich has almost certainly helped West Ham avoid administration, and has provided clubs with the money to go out and buy from Premiership rivals, and that includes the richest club in the world, Manchester United.

However, according to a highly placed source in English football, who has had dealings with Abramovich, the transfer market is unlikely to survive in its present form. Insiders feel the rash of signings fuelled by Abramovich are a one-off spending spree.

“While Abramovich may be the transfer angel from Russia, in the long term only the top players will be able to command transfer fees, the rest will go on frees,” he said.

“Before Abramovich arrived just a month ago, the transfer market was dead. I have never known it so quiet. We did not know then this Russian existed let alone that he would be buying Chelsea and we were waiting for Manchester United to sell David Beckham to Real Madrid and hope some of that money would trickle down to the rest of the Premiership. But, in the event, some of Manchester United’s Beckham money went abroad and United have got some of the Russian’s money.”

Since being relegated, West Ham have disposed of Paolo Di Canio, Lee Bowyer, Les Ferdinand, Glen Johnson, Trevor Sinclair, Frederic Kanoute and now, depending on a medical and personal terms, Cole. Cole’s signing would mean Abramovich having paid West Ham £12.6 million, following the £6 million purchase of Johnson, the 18-year-old who is seen as one for the future.

The Cole transfer has caused great indignation among supporters and the spokesman for the West Ham Supporters Trust said: “I feel physically sick that Joe has left and gutted that he will be playing next to Frank Lampard at Chelsea. It can hurt when you see that.

“I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if we go into administration. It’s an appalling thought but you wonder how West Ham have managed to stay out of receivership this long.”

West Ham are maintaining a brave face and non-executive director Trevor Brooking, who took charge of the team at the end of last season in the absence of Glenn Roeder, said: “I read some report today that we were in financial meltdown, which is absolute nonsense — we need to bring players in and there are no financial constraints from outside.”

However, Brooking made it clear that West Ham had to have a summer sale. “There was £17.5 million we needed to get in and the key factor is now the [Cole] deal has been done, there is no need for further deals.”

But West Ham could be persuaded into completing one more, thanks to the effect of Abramovich’s spending. The money he is to pay Manchester United for Veron could help persuade the champions to further their interest in West Ham’s Jermain Defoe, a player long on manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s wish-list.

Abramovich is to pay £12.5 million initially for Veron (another £2.5 million will depend on performances) and this should be more than enough to get Defoe.

West Ham have reduced their Premiership wage bill from last season — when they were the seventh-highest payers — by selling many of their highest earners. But they start the season on Saturday knowing how different the finances of the First Division are. Away to Preston, they will receive £10,000 for the live televised match, as against £600,000 for their televised Premiership games.

On top of the wages was heavy spending on the ground, and the extension of one stand cost nearly £40 million, more than it cost Southampton to build a new stadium. They are unlikely to turn down an offer of £10 million for Defoe.

Abramovich’s impact on Southampton is also striking. The club received £7 million for Wayne Bridge. Of that, £1.75 million has been used to buy Neil McCann from Rangers and some could be used to buy Kevin Phillips from Sunderland. The stumbling block here is the wage Phillips gets at Sunderland — in excess of £25,000 a week, when everybody at Southampton is on less than £20,000.

Wage levels were also a problem when Graeme Le Saux moved on a free transfer from Chelsea to Southampton, as he was on around £30,000 a week at Chelsea. But Abramovich paid him a ‘leaving present’, making up the wage difference. The Russian also paid the fees of Le Saux’s agent, and those of Bridge’s, even though it meant the Bridge deal cost him more than £8 million.

© Mihir Bose


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