Money can buy you a lot of things, but it cannot guarantee World Cup glory
Roman Abramovich spends more money on a swanky five-course meal sitting than the total of some countries’ GDPs, but here’s one thing that the oligarch can’t buy: a place for his country at the 2010 World Cup.
If the Republic of Ireland were the unlucky victims of final-night qualifying, then Russia undoubtedly were the major casualties on the evening, having lost 1-0 away to Slovenia which eliminated Abramovich’s pride and joy on the away goals rule.
It’s said that Abramovich is bringing his huge ocean yacht to nestle snugly into a bay on the Cape coast for the 2010 extravaganza, and that he has employed an army of staff and servants to cater for his every expensive need.
Yet, one of the world’s richest men is not going to have a side to cheer.
Over recent years Abramovich has plashed out more than R7.2 billion in trying to make Chelsea the most successful football club in the world. He might have seen Jose Mourinho twice hand him the English Premiership (after a wait of 50 years) but in his demand to have the European Cup delivered, he has gone through a raft of managers.
One of them was Guus Hiddink, the experienced Dutchman who steered Chelsea into calmer waters last season before handing back the reins, after which Carlos Ancelotti was handed the tricky assignment. Hiddink had been a caretaker manager of sorts, and he returned to Russia with the specific task of not only taking Russia to the World Cup, but seeing them qualify for the knockout stages.
Abramovich is not used to losing and certainly is not used to his money being spent without a tangible return. He’s invested millions into the Russian system and made Hiddink a rich man in his own right. Roman’s not going to be happy and Hiddink, surely, won’t be tasked with taking the country to the 2014 World Cup.
With the identities of all 32 countries now known, Abramovich isn’t the only millionaire crying into his vodka.
Spare a thought for someone like John O’Shea. The Irishman might have a couple of English Premiership winners’ medals in his drawer, but when he returns to Manchester United training the magnitude of Ireland’s unfortunate defeat at the hands of France will only then start to hit him.
Or more pertinently, at the hands of Thierry Henry.
While the likes of Wayne Rooney, Edwin van der Sar, Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand talk in excited terms about the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, what does O’Shea do?
Each time the World Cup is mentioned, every side bet that is struck, every tale of how their respective countries are going to get their hands on the most prized trophy in sport, O’Shea will feel as though a dagger is being plunged through his heart.
And that is a similar scenario right through the English Premiership in particular – for it is the most cosmopolitan league in the world. Yet, it would hurt more if you’re a Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool player.
These dressing rooms are filled with millionaires and massive egos and it’s not overstretching the point to suggest that someone like United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, might sit down with O’Shea and ask that the player receives counselling to overcome the disappointment.
For Abramovich though, the blow will be far more severe than any he has suffered to his pocket.
While lost millions can quickly be replaced by a successful deal brokered over breakfast, he will have to wait another four years, at the very least, before his beloved, self-funded Russia, can dine at the top table again.