By Oliver Platt
If you thought Champions League glory might satisfy Roman Abramovich's appetite for success, think again. Chelsea have won every significant domestic honour in addition to their European title, yet the Russian still wants more.
The Blues' triumph in Munich will not be forgotten quickly. Their run to the final and eventual penalty shoot-out victory was a fairytale for a group of players who, until Roberto Di Matteo replaced Andre Villas-Boas as manager, had endured a miserable season.
Some were judged to be on their way out, past their prime; others supposedly represented the core of the next generation but had yet to prove their credentials as leading Premier League players.
There is a sense, however, that Abramovich has further hopes still. Under Jose Mourinho, Chelsea were twice crowned champions of England and compared favourably to any team the Premier League has seen since its inception in 1992.
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Abramovich wants to take another trip to the continent's summit, and he wants his team to do it in dominant fashion. Chelsea's regeneration was kicked off when the Russian sanctioned the purchase of Ramires, David Luiz and Fernando Torres in January of last year, and continued on Wednesday when the Blues confirmed the signing of Brazil's latest midfield architect, Oscar, from Internacional.
Influenced by the success of Barcelona and Spain over the past four years, Spanish and Portuguese will be two languages permeating the Chelsea dressing room strongly next season. Oscar has compatriots at the club in Ramires and Luiz, and will join Torres and Juan Mata, as well as Eden Hazard, Marko Marin and Daniel Sturridge, in attack.
Oscar thrives as a No.10 in the mould of a player such as Kaka, who went before him at his first club, Sao Paulo. He can also, however, operate on the right flank, a position he has adjusted to given the presence of Andres D'Alessandro at Inter, and it is there that he will likely start with the Blues given that Hazard and Marin both prefer roles on the opposite flank.
The collection of attacking midfielders suggests that Di Matteo is leaning towards a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Mata likely to shift to a more central role for the coming campaign. Oscar could play deeper in central midfield, but the Italian might prefer to keep the slender 20-year-old out of that more physical area of the pitch as he acclimatises to the demands of the Premier League.
His future, though, looks to lie somewhere in the middle. "He is one of the most intelligent players I have played with," said his Brazil team-mate Neymar, and he was certainly not the first to compliment Oscar's brains and maturity. He is mobile, and capable of breaking into the penalty area, but his real strength is in his ability to read and dictate a game.
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Others, such as Stevan Jovetic of Fiorentina and Willian of Shakhtar Donetsk, have been linked to the Blues but Abramovich's spending, for this summer at least, must surely now be drawing to a close. A right-back remains a priority, but otherwise there looks to be competition for places in every area of the pitch.
The risk the billionaire has taken is in allowing three different managers to oversee this spending. Liverpool handed Kenny Dalglish a transfer war chest, in an attempt to rejuvenate a club that had ailed since the departure of Rafael Benitez, despite the question marks regarding his long-term viability as Reds manager. Now, Brendan Rodgers is left with a number of players that do not seem to fit his blueprint.
Abramovich provides some sort of continuity, at least, in that he knows the type of player and style of football he is desperate to see at Stamford Bridge, even if their problems of managerial instability have largely been of his making. The sounding out of Pep Guardiola despite the remarkable turnaround in fortunes that Di Matteo produced demonstrated that the 42-year-old may not be standing on entirely secure ground.
Such is life under Roman. If Di Matteo can match his owner's ambitions, he will have done a magnificent and, in many respects, unprecedented job at the Bridge.
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