Exclusive: Marcel Desailly reveals how Roman Abramovich almost pulled out of buying Chelsea at last minute

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Chelsea won 18 major trophies under Roman Abramovich before he was forced to sell the club due to alleged links to Vladimir Putin.

Former Chelsea captain Marcel Desailly says everything could have been different at the club had they failed to qualify for the Champions League in 2003.

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich broke the British record when he paid £140m to then-long-term chairman Ken Bates to become the owner of Chelsea football club.

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Bates bought the club in 1982 for just £1, while taking on debts of £1.5m. While Abramovich had to cough up almost £80 million to cover up debts by the time he took over.

And in almost 20 years Abramovic transformed Chelsea from a club on the brink of going bust into one of Europe’s elite, winning two Champions League trophies, five Premier League titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, two Europa League, one UEFA Super Cup, one Club World Cup and two community shields.

But all that could be hinged on the squad of 2003 ensuring that they qualified for the lucrative Champions League competition for the first time in their history.

Former Chelsea skipper Marcel Desailly revealed Abramovich was actually contemplating withdrawing his bid from the club had they failed to qualify for the Champions League.

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The World Cup winner exclusively told LondonWorld: “We were not guessing that Roman Abramovich was going to buy the club, we had done everything for it. In the deal for Roman to buy the club, the condition was that Chelsea would be in the Champions League and so if we had not qualified for the Champions League he would have withdrawn his offer. We had pressure because for it to happen it was important to be in the Champions League.

“I think the last match of the season was against Liverpool and we needed at least a draw or something like that and this was so important for the future of the club. But he was coming linked to the fact that the club was supposed to be in the Champions League.”

Desailly himself scored and helped the Blues beat Liverpool 2-1 on the final day of the season, to ensure their qualification for Europe’s premier club competition. Steven Gerrard was sent off with minutes to go.

Coincidentally Chelsea will not be playing in next year’s Champions League having ensured a difficult season under new owners Todd Boehly and Clearlake consortium.

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