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Inside story of Roman Abramovich’s first Chelsea summer with record spend inside hours

Here’s a quiz question to dazzle your friends – how did the 2003 Champions League tie between Manchester United and Real Madrid change the course of history for Chelsea?

If anyone needs a clue, it completely altered the transfer market forever, too.

Well on that warm Old Trafford evening there was someone sitting in the posh seats who was about to fall in love with football.

Roman Abramovich, who accepted the late invitation from a friend for what turned out to be a classic 18 years ago, watched on enviously.

The Russian billionaire left the stadium wanting a club of his own, and he wanted it quickly.

You see, people like that don’t do hanging around – and with that much money burning a hole in his pocket, we were about to see why patience just wasn’t practical.

Russian rubles became the game’s currency of choice back in 2003

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Soon after his visit to Manchester, Abramovich headed to the capital.

It is said he reached a deal to buy Chelsea after around half an hour of negotiations with Ken Bates.

He paid £140m to take control at Stamford Bridge – and in the process became the richest owner ever in the Premier League.

“I don’t want to throw my money away, but I want to have fun,” he told the BBC in what turned out to be one of his only interviewers after taking charge.

Hernan Crespo was one of the early star attractions
(Image: GETTY)

We were about to discover that he would leave his chequebook to do all the talking for him.

The football world was about to witness a spending spree like never before and what happened that summer dramatically flipped the game as we knew it.

If twitter had been around at the time, it would have crashed most mornings as Chelski was born as Russian rubles became the game’s currency of choice.

It was a show of transfer aggression that world football had never seen before in a time when a few million meant a lot.

Real Madrid’s…

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