Chelsea's summer spending spree has similarities to 2003

Roman Abramovich spent £120m in the summer of 2003 and a year later Chelsea were Premier League champions… now prepare to witness a team where the spending has almost DOUBLED in a bid to reach the top again

  • Chelsea are sending shock waves in football with their summer spending spree 
  • Blues have splashed out £229m on six new signings as they look to close gap 
  • The expenditure is not new concept and resembles the summer of 2003 at club
  • Roman Abramovich signed 13 new players after taking over the club that year 

Chelsea are sending shock waves through the world of football with their spending spree this summer. 

The Blues have splashed out £229million on six new signings as they look to bridge the gap to reigning champions Liverpool and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

But such lavish spending is not a new concept at Stamford Bridge and this summer resembles the summer of 2003 when owner Roman Abramovich took over the club.

Roman Abramovich got chequebook out this summer, like he did when he took over the club

Chelsea signed Bayer Leverkusen playmaker Kai Havertz for a whopping £89million

The Blues have got themselves a new No 9 in RB Leipzig’s lethal striker Timo Werner for £53m

The Russian got his chequebook out and splurged just under £120m on 13 new players following his arrival in west London. 

The Blues managed to qualify for the Champions League at the end of the 2002-03 season but the club was in need of an injection of something new – and Abramovich provided that.

His big spending not only transformed the club but dramatically altered the game as a whole, changing the picture of England’s transfer market financially.

CHELSEA’S SPENDING 2003 vs 2020 


Glen Johnson £6m (West Ham)

Geremi £7m (Real Madrid)

Wayne Bridge £7m (Southampton)

Damien Duff £17m (Blackburn)

Joe Cole £6.6m (West Ham)

Juan Sebastian Veron £15m (Man United)

Adrian Mutu £15.8m (Parma)

Hernan Crespo £16.8m (Inter Milan) 

Claude Makelele £16.6m (Real Madrid)

Alexei Smertin £3.5m (Bordeaux)

Neil Sullivan £500,000 (Tottenham) 

Jurgen Macho free (Sunderland)

Marco Ambrosio free (Chievo)

TOTAL: £111.8m


Kai Havertz 89m (Bayer Leverkusen)

Timo Werner £53m (RB Leipzig)

Ben Chilwell £50m (Leicester_

Hakim Ziyech £37m (Ajax)

Thiago Silva free (PSG)

Malang Sarr free (Nice)

TOTAL: £229m 

Abramovich’s first summer 17 years ago saw Real Madrid duo Geremi and Claude Makelele come in, midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron from Manchester United as well as attacking pair Adrian Mutu from Parma and Inter Milan’s Hernan Crespo.

That quintet of big signings equated to £71.2m. Add to that the arrival of Glen Johnson and Joe Cole from West Ham, Wayne Bridge from Southampton, Damien Duff from Blackburn, Alexei Smertin from Bordeaux and Neil Sullivan from Spurs, the total expenditure reached £111.8m.

‘We have the resources and ambition to achieve even more given the huge potential of this great club,’ Abramovich said on completing the takeover. 

Right back Glen Johnson was the first signing of the Abramovich era 17 years ago

Joe Cole followed his West Ham team-mate Johnson is making the move across London

Johnson was the first signing of the Abramovich era and in the same day they announced the acquisition of Duff, Bridge, Geremi and Marco Ambrosio. Stars like Ronaldinho and Andriy Shevchenko were also linked with moves to the Blues. 

That summer they did acquire the talented Makelele, Veron and Cole – who headed through the door on the same day – as well as Crespo. Five new recruits started the first league match of Abramovich’s ownership. Veron opened the scoring in a 2-1 win over Liverpool in August 2003. Just months earlier the Blues had got one over their rivals to claim Champions League football.

The spend-spend-spend approach did not have an instant impact in the 2003-04 campaign as the Blues fell short in all competitions, finishing second in the Premier League and exiting the Champions League at the semi-final stage. But the foundations were there and that summer kick-started Chelsea’s rise to a whole new level. In 2005 they were crowned Premier League champions.

Chelsea signed the talented central midfielder Claude Makelele from Real Madrid for £16.6m

Hernan Crespo also came in as 13 new players headed through the door in that first summer

Sixteen major trophies later, including five Premier League titles and a Champions League and Chelsea were in need of some new faces once more – and Abramovich has delivered.

The Blues have got themselves a new No 9 in lethal RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner for £53m as well as the highly-talented playmaker in Kai Havertz for a whopping £89m. While Ajax winger Hakim Ziyech was the first addition through the door this summer at a cost of £37m to bolster the attacking ranks. 

In Frank Lampard’s debut season in charge in 2019-20 it was the defence that was found wanting. But the Blues have looked to rectify those issues at the back with the signing of Leicester left back Ben Chilwell for £50m and the arrivals of Thiago Silva and Malang Sarr on free transfers.

Chelsea’s £200m-plus spree has attracted plenty of attention. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp took aim at the club following their summer spend.

Summer of 2003 at Chelsea resembles the 2020 summer window – Hakim Ziyech has joined

Chelsea have also brought in Leicester and England left back Ben Chilwell for £50m

He said: ‘We live in a world with a lot of uncertainty. For some clubs it seems to be less important how uncertain the future is — owned by countries, owned by oligarchs, that’s the truth. 

‘We’re a different kind of club. We got to the Champions League final two years ago, we won it last year, and became Premier League champions last season by being the club we are, by being led the way we are led. We cannot just change it overnight and say, “So now we want to behave like Chelsea, now they’ve signed a lot of players”.’ 

The Merseyside giants finished 33 points above the Blues as they ran away with the Premier League trophy but Lampard responded to Klopp’s comments by reminding him how much his title-winning squad cost.

Lampard was unable to bring in new arrivals in his first summer at the helm due to a FIFA transfer ban but he introduced young stars into the first team and the Blues finished in the top four last season.

The new-look Chelsea begin their new Premier League campaign with a trip to Brighton on Monday night. Win emphatically and a few more ripples will be felt in the world of football. 

Frank Lampard’s new-look Chelsea face Brighton on Monday night in their first game of season

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