By Stefan Coerts | Dutch Football Editor
Over the past few years, several European clubs have been taken over by rich foreign owners, a trend that started with Roman Abramovich at Chelsea in 2003. The Russian oil tycoon immediately started flexing his financial muscle upon his arrival in London and was rewarded for his investments when the Blues won their first English league title in 50 years, hardly 24 months after his arrival.
Abramovich's success at Chelsea didn't go unnoticed elsewhere and his example of taking the reins at a football club has since been followed by several other wealthy people and foreign investment groups. Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala, La Liga side Malaga, Premier League table-toppers Manchester City and French giants Paris Saint-Germain are just a few of the more renowned clubs that are currently in the hands of billionaires and have spent considerable sums of money in an attempt to dominate their respective domestic leagues.
One of the less illustrious sides that was taken over by a flamboyant owner is Eredivisie club Vitesse, where Merab Jordania took over in the summer of 2010. And, unlike his colleagues, the Georgian businessman has no intention of spending money like a madman, despite his considerable resources, as he has different plans with the Dutch outfit and is thinking long-term rather than short-term.
Inevitably, expectations were sky-high at Vitesse when Jordania completed the takeover of the Dutch club. Former chairman Maasbert Schouten, the selling party in the deal, even went as far as to say that Vitesse would win the Eredivisie title within three years and subsequently make it into the Champions League.
Vitesse have the ambition to win the Eredivisie within three years and want to play in the Champions League
- Maasbert Schouten
"Vitesse have a glorious future ahead of them following this takeover. The club have the ambition to win the Eredivisie within three years and want to play in the Champions League," said Schouten upon the presentation of Jordania.
Nevertheless, things didn't go according to plan in the Georgian's first season in Arnhem. Numerous players came to the Gelredome, but none of them were of the stature Jordania had promised, and the majority of the new arrivals left again shortly after. To make things even worse, club icon and head coach Theo Bos was replaced by Albert Ferrer halfway the season. The Spaniard proved to be one of the most incapable coaches ever to have been in charge of an Eredivisie club and Vitesse only just escaped relegation.
Things have significantly improved in Arnhem in the past few months, though. Jordania started his revolution with the decision to replace Ferrer with John van den Brom, who not only has a history at the club, but has also proven to be a excellent coach.
Additionally, the Vitesse owner did some great business on the transfer market in 2011, despite the fact that his hefty €55 million [£47m] transfer kitty remained largely untouched. The Arnhem side acquired the services of stars such as Wilfried Bony and Giorgi Chanturia, while promising youngsters such as Renato Ibarra, Alex, Anderson and Valeri Qazaishvili all found their way to the Gelredome as well.
Wilfried Bony | Vitesse's undisputed star player and leading goalscorer
Perhaps the most positive development for Vitesse is not the improvement of the squad though, but Jordania's insistence to improve the club's facilities. Papendal, the club's current training ground, has been around for 40 years and has served the club well in the past. However, it's hardly suited for an ambitious Eredivisie outfit like Vitesse and is hopelessly outdated.
This need for improvement was quickly acknowledged by Jordania, and he immediately started planning the building of a new training complex, costing an estimated €8m [£6.8m]. The Vitesse supremo received some good news from the municipality of Arnhem halfway through October when the club's plans were approved, with construction set to begin in January 2012.
The club's steps forward off the the pitch have been accompanied by an encouraging start to the 2011-12 campaign. Despite losing their last two Eredivisie games, Vitesse find themselves in joint-fourth position after 13 matchdays and making the end-of-season playoffs for European football seems to be a realistic option.
Although there's little chance that they will actually play Champions League football by 2013-14, an ambition set after Jordania's arrival at the club, Vitesse are clearly on the rise again after a number of difficult seasons.
With conditions improving both on and off the pitch, the successes of the 1990s, when the club were regulars in Europe, could very well be repeated in the not-too-distant future. Only very few Vitesse supporters would have been dreaming of that possibility back in 2010.
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