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Chelsea 2.0 taking shape

Abramovich intends to win it all again, and he's going to do it in high style

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In early November Chelsea Football Club announced a profit of about $2.2 million for the fiscal year ending last June.

A few weeks later Paris Saint-Germain let slip that Blues' left-back Ashley Cole would be moving to the French capital in the summer, and on Wednesday midfielder Frank Lampard admitted he may be leaving the London side in a few months as well. That same day David Luiz, typically a defender, played in the centre of the park against Monterrey in the Club World Cup.

Bit by bit we're seeing the Blues of the future take shape; we're learning what Chelsea 2.0 will look like over the next few seasons.

First, the finances.

While a profit of $2.2 million is rather modest, it represents a significant improvement on losses that, since Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003, had grown to about a billion dollars.

The trend from red to black also indicates Chelsea will be ready to comply with UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations next autumn, and given the financial depths from which they've come they will likely be permitted to declare a small loss as well.

This sort of thing wouldn't have mattered a decade ago, but with Financial Fair Play conformity required for entry into the Champions League it's of vital importance at the moment, and given Chelsea's ambitions in the next two transfer markets that modest profit cannot be overstated.

At the top of Abramovich's latest shopping list is Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, who has already scored 19 goals in 15 matches in all competitions this season while taking Atletico Madrid to second place in La Liga -- six points back of leaders Barcelona and five points clear of local rivals and reigning champions Real Madrid.

Falcao will be the most highly sought-after player between the upcoming January transfer period and the closing of the summer transfer window next September.

But Chelsea wants him more than most, and Abramovich is rumoured to be willing to blow the competition out of the water with a contract other clubs simply won't be able to match.

He'll be able to offer those wages because neither Cole nor Lampard, who together make about $478,000 per week, will be at the club in July. And, who knows?

Captain John Terry's days at Stamford Bridge may be numbered as well. His recent suspension for racist remarks made to QPR's Anton Ferdinand and current injury troubles have combined to see him start just six of 16 Premier League matches so far this season, and at 32-years of age it's safe to say the club is making plans that won't include him much longer, anyway.

Perhaps Abramovich's biggest hope is that it will be Pep Guardiola making those plans before too long.

Guardiola, who won three Spanish titles and two Champions League crowns in just four seasons in charge at Barcelona, has been linked with moves to pretty much every big, European club in recent months, but Abramovich is thought to be mulling a package worth nearly $160 million over four years that would put the offers from the 41-year-old's other suitors to shame.

An adherent to the stylistic philosophies of the Barcelona tradition, Guardiola could potentially give Abramovich what neither money nor silverware has so far delivered: universal admiration. Abramovich wants Chelsea to be loved, and the brand of soccer employed by Guardiola stands a better chance of delivering that affection than any signing or trophy ever could.

Imagine a Chelsea side with Thibault Courois eventually replacing Petr Cech in goal and, from right to left, Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill, Terry (for now) and Ryan Bertrand in defence. In front of them would be six outfield players who would mix and mash positions but could include an attacking line of Victor Moses, Falcao and Juan Mata and a supporting trio of Oscar, Eden Hazard and David Luiz.

You may not have to imagine much longer. Abramovich won everything there was to win with his first Chelsea side, and now he intends to do it all again -- and this time in style -- with Chelsea 2.0.

jerradpeters@gmail.com Twitter @jerradpeters

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 15, 2012 C8

History

Updated on Saturday, December 15, 2012 at 2:41 PM CST: amends headline

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