John Terry has been heavily criticised by a Labour MP for praising Roman Abramovich as ‘the best’ following his announcement he has put Chelsea up for sale, with the politician then asking in Parliament: ‘What will the people of Ukraine think of the former England football captain?’
The Russian billionaire released a statement on Wednesday evening in which he said he is looking to sell the Premier League side and that he is writing off the £1.5billion debt he is owed by the club.
It came as Abramovich – who has reported links to the Russian regime – is seeking to distance himself from Vladimir Putin and sanctions imposed on Russia by the west over its devastating and illegal invasion of Ukraine.
Chelsea fans immediately responded to the statement by expressing their gratitude towards Abramovich, with the club winning 21 trophies since he became owner back in 2003.
And few were more glowing in their praise than former Chelsea captain Terry, who captained them to 16 trophies under Abramovich – including five Premier League titles – and said: ‘Thank you Roman. The Best Owner in the WORLD.’
However, the former Blues and England centre-back’s statement has not gone down very well, with MP Chris Bryant leading the criticism as Ukrainians continue to lose their lives following Russia’s invasion last week.
‘I think @JohnTerry26 you should take this down ASAP,’ Mr Bryant said. ‘The people of Ukraine are being bombed, shelled and murdered while you celebrate Abramovich.’
John Terry has been heavily criticised by a Labour MP for praising Roman Abramovich as ‘the best’
Then speaking in Parliament , Mr Bryant added: ‘I do not know if you’ve seen this but he [John Terry] has posted a photo with Abramovich who is one of Putin’s crony’s. What will the people of Ukraine think of the former England football captain?’
It comes after Mr Bryant, using parliamentary privilege to avoid legal action, alleged earlier this week the tycoon is selling his home and an apartment because he is ‘terrified of being sanctioned’, adding that he feared the government will soon run out of time to act.
Social media users were also quick to call out Terry’s post, with one stating: ‘You’re an idiot JT. Try thinking of other people for a change.
Others just simply tweeted: ‘Absolutely shameful,’ while another posted a reply to his tweet which read: ‘You should be ashamed. This is not a time to glorify a oligarch.’
Others were critical that Terry had shown a lack of sensitivity given the war in Ukraine, with another tweeting: ‘Read the room John. Think before you tweet.’
MP Chris Bryant hinted the tweet was in poor taste as Ukrainians continue to lose their lives following Russia’s invasion
Meanwhile, others added in reply to the ex-defender’s tweet: ‘Plenty in Ukraine and Russia would disagree,’ and ‘John Terry is the gift that keeps on giving. The only issue is nobody asked for the gift.’
Some Chelsea fans did also extend their thanks to Abramovich, with one tweeting: ‘We’ll miss you Roman. Thank you for the incredible moments.’
And famed Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville believes Chelsea fans will have ‘a lot of affinity’ for the Russian after he put the club up for sale.
Speaking on Sky Sports, Neville said: ‘They’ll have a lot of affinity for Roman Abramovich will Chelsea fans and rightly so. I think I’ve had most of them on my timeline since I have them a hard time over his charities trustees comments on Sunday at the final!
‘But the reality of it is, Chelsea will be OK. Irrespective of whether you like the idea of Russian money coming into English football or not, Roman Abramovich has been a very good owner for Chelsea Football Club.
‘There are worse owners who are English. My home-town club Bury has a terrible owner who sent them bust. Derby’s owners at this moment in time are British. We’ve got an issue in football with ownership generally, not just international ownership or ownership coming from money that we may not like.’
Terry captained Chelsea to 16 trophies under Abramovich, including the 2012 Champions League
Former Chelsea captain Terry labelled Roman Abramovich the ‘best owner in the world’
Abramovich now hopes to end his near two-decade spell as owner with a £3bn sale, although there are serious doubts over whether he will receive bids near that figure.
In a statement on Wednesday night, Abramovich said: ‘I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart,’ he said in a statement.
‘In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the club … I will not be asking for any loans to be repaid.
‘I have instructed my team to set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated.
‘The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine. This includes providing critical funds towards the urgent and immediate needs of victims, as well as supporting the long-term work of recovery.’
It has also been reported Abramovich had already begun a ‘fire sale’ of his sprawling London portfolio as he tries to offload Chelsea and £200million worth of properties.
Abramovich is worth £10.4bn ($12.5bn), according to Forbes, and owns a £150m Kensington mansion, a £22m penthouse, and more than £1.2bn of yachts, private jets, helicopters and supercars in Britain and globally.
Abramovich has instructed American bank the Raine Group to handle the sale of west London club Chelsea.
Sources claim Abramovich believes Chelsea is worth more than £3bn – but the likelihood of receiving such offers appears small and is likely to inevitably lead to him lowering his expectations.
Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss claims he has been approached and is considering an offer as part of a consortium which also includes Todd Boehly, the co-owner of baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers.
There are strong indications that Abramovich will receive at least two firm offers for Chelsea by the end of the week, but a buy-out could be spoiled if Abramovich is sanctioned by the UK Government.
There is a sense that securing an American buyer would be Abramovich’s best route to a sale because investment from China, the rest of the Far East and Eastern Europe has dried up for political reasons.
However, Abramovich’s reported links to the Russian regime could lead to reluctance to deal with Chelsea.
Similarly, rival clubs are apprehensive about dealing with the club. And Sportsmail understands prospective signings are uneasy about joining Chelsea, given Abramovich’s connections to Putin.
Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss (R) says he could form part of a consortium to purchase the club
In Ukraine meanwhile, Kyiv was struck by four large explosions overnight as dramatic images revealed a near-totally destroyed tower block in the nearby city of Borodyanka as Russian forces kept up their bombardment on the Ukrainian capital.
Dramatic images emerged today of a strike on Borodyanka carried out by Russian forces on Wednesday, which was followed by four more strikes on Kyiv itself overnight that targeted the main train station and radio and TV stations in the city.
But the capital has so-far been spared the worst of Russian shelling – inflicted on the likes of Mariupol and Kharkiv – because a 40-mile convoy of vehicles intended to take it out has been stuck nearby for three days without making any progress.
The head of the convoy is still around 18 miles from the centre of Kyiv, Britain’s MoD said early Thursday, and meeting ‘staunch’ resistance from Ukrainian forces as it gave an upbeat assessment of logistical problems that seem to be plaguing Moscow’s forces as they try to encircle the capital.
How Roman Abramovich went from penniless orphan to one of the world’s richest men
By James Gant for MailOnline
Abramovich, 55, has gone through a remarkable rise having been born a penniless orphan in Saratov, south west Russia, and raised by parents in Siberia from the age of four. He started off flogging plastic dolls on a market stall after dropping out of two colleges, but has been accused of using ruthless determination to become one of the richest men in the world before he was 40.
His first move into making serious money came during the perestroika – meaning openness – reforms as the Soviet Union started to wind down under Mikhail Gorbachev. The changes loosened the regime’s grip on businesses, meaning oligarchs could rise by making their firms legal and buy up state-owned companies.
His fortune boomed when he linked up with Boris Berezovsky, who run the national car dealer firm Lada, but who was also close with President Boris Yeltsin. It gave the rising businessman key access, which was pivotal to making huge sums in post-Soviet Russia, and he even lived in a flat in the Kremlin.
When the USSR’s industry was carved up at the top table, Abramovich was there to make his first few billions – mainly by buying up oil company Sibneft. Berezovsky and Abramovich purchased the firm for just £100million using the controversial loans-for-shares program – when it was estimated to be worth around £600m.
It was the starting blocks for the tycoon’s huge wealth, with him raking back around £1.8bn from the sale of Sibneft. The bulk of Abramovich’s UK wealth is to be found in Evraz, a steel and mining giant listed on the London stock market, which he is the largest shareholder.
Aside from business, Abramovich also worked in politics, becoming the governor of the far eastern Chukotka region in 2000 – after winning 92 per-cent of the vote – and pumped £180million into it. Abramovich lost a number of properties during his 2007 divorce from his second wife Irina, with whom he has five children. She bagged a £30million home on the Riviera called Chateau de la Croe as well as an estate in Sussex called Fyning Hill, which Abramovich had bought for £18million.
She fared better than his first wife, Olga, who he married when he was still a penniless student back in the Soviet Union. When Abramovich, then 20, spotted Olga, a 23-year-old daughter of a high-ranking government diplomat, across a crowded restaurant in Ukhta in Russia’s Komi Republic in 1987, he was shy. Afraid Olga would reject him, he sent a friend over to ask the geology student to dance. They later married and went on to share a one-bed flat in a tower block with Olga’s daughter Nastya – from a previous relationship.
But when Olga’s marriage to Abramovich ended in 1989 – amid him working long hours to make his fortune – he gave her only enough money to live on for two years. He rented another flat for her further out of Moscow, but on the understanding she and her daughter would later move back into the flat on Tsvetnoi Boulevard because Olga wanted Nastya to attend a better school near there.
Abramovich soon shacked up with Irina, a London-based former Aeroflot stewardess who wed the Russian tycoon in 1991 as the USSR crumbled. The then Ms Malandina met him when the Chelsea owner travelled on an Aeroflot plane when she worked as a flight attendant. Her father had died when she was two, and she grew up in poverty in the Soviet era.
During their marriage he switched from being a powerful but reclusive figure in Russia’s post-Soviet rollercoaster business and political world to becoming a household name in the West as owner of the London football club. Their life together was compared to living in a ‘gilded cage’ with security guards who formerly worked for Russian and British intelligence.
They parted on good terms in 2007 – with their divorce settlement a closely guarded secret but thought to be £150million – and did not speak ill of each other. Abramovich married his third wife, the magazine editor Dasha Zhukova, in 2008 but they divorced in 2017 and she is now with billionaire shipping heir Stavros Niarchos. Dasha had son Aaron Alexander and daughter Leah Lou with her ex-husband and said they were committed to jointly raising their children together.
Court documents filed in New York showed Abrahmovich and Zhukova finalising their divorced in 2017 showed the settlement included over £90million worth of property to Dasha – including a Manhattan mansion. More recently he has been romantically linked to ballerina Diana Vishneva.