Given Abramovich was a major driving force behind the ‘Final Whistle On Hate’ fixture played just outside of Boston last night, it was perhaps not a surprise to see him there. Nevertheless, it was still a welcome sight for many Chelsea fans.
The absence of Abramovich from Stamford Bridge over the past 12 months has intensified the feeling of uncertainty around the club.
Chelsea’s path has never been smooth since he took over in 2003 — they have always seemed to lurch between success and crisis with little stability in between.
However, Chelsea supporters could always rely on the football enthusiast showing pleasure or otherwise from the confines of his box in the West Stand. But due to the UK not renewing his investor’s visa in 2018, the Russian billionaire has stayed away, with a lucrative project to rebuild the Bridge into a 60,000-seat stadium put on hold.
Despite constant denials from the club, there has been talk that Abramovich wants to sell up. Defender David Luiz, however, suggested otherwise in an interview earlier this week and the man himself looked as enthusiastic as ever as he watched Chelsea’s 3-0 victory over New England Revolution, going into both dressing rooms at the end.
What he thinks of Sarri’s behaviour before, during and after the club’s trip across the Atlantic remains to be seen. The Italian’s future as manager was already in doubt despite achieving the minimum target set for him when taking charge last July of securing a top-four finish and qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
Sarri’s relationship with fans has soured, although a win over Arsenal in the Europa League Final on May 29 would surely repair any damage. But he has risked upsetting Abramovich at a time when key decisions are made. The 60-year-old has done very little to promote a cause and occasion that was very close to his employer’s heart.
Many will have sympathy for Sarri’s views expressed last week, especially after Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s injury, on the timing of the New England Revolution game just a fortnight before a major final. He said: “Unfortunately, we have to go to the United States, and after that, we will have 10 days to prepare. It’s a tight schedule, which I don’t like, but there’s nothing to do.”
Yet while in America, Sarri did not speak to the media to promote the reason behind Chelsea being there at all. He also failed to attend a visit to the Holocaust Memorial with the squad.
No post-match duties were fulfilled, either, when the club’s following were desperate for an update on Loftus-Cheek, who appears to have suffered a ruptured Achilles.
It should be pointed out Sarri complained of feeling unwell on the trip and was ordered by club doctors not to attend the vigil to the Holocaust Memorial. But to go all that way and not hear a single word from the man in the dug-out is very odd, especially when on the morning of the contest, stories of Sarri being sacked were doing the rounds.
Abramovich might have something to say on the matter and that is always a worry for any Chelsea coach.