NEW YORK — Last year it was Manchester City. This year it's Paris Saint-Germain and their signing of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
They are clubs that are capitalizing on their owners' deep pockets to catapult themselves into Europe's elite. But with a new super team arising every year, it's easy to forget that Chelsea were the first to perfect the strategy.
"You look at PSG and a couple of other teams across Europe and you can see that they are in certain ways following what we would call the Chelsea model and our model is very clear," said Chelsea FC chief executive Ron Gourlay in a conference call with reporters in the lead-up to Sunday's match between Paris Saint-German and the Blues at Yankee Stadium (7 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer and Univision Deportes).
He went on to describe Roman Abramovich's takeover of the club in 2003 and how the club "had to make an immediate impact and that immediate impact was investing in the football side." That led to a total of 13 domestic trophies and a long-awaited UEFA Champions League trophy which finally came last season.
"Success landed very, very quickly," said Gourlay, who has been at the club since 2003. "That gave us the platform to build the football club on an international basis … Investing money into the team doesn't always work, but we landed very, very quickly."
Although not hesitant to splash the cash when deemed necessary — a reported $70 million was spent on transfer fees for this summer's three new additions — Gourlay says that Chelsea also turned their focus on strengthening the club's academy and maintaining an English spine throughout the team.
And as further proof of that global expansion, Chelsea has since been to the United States six times in the last nine years, according to the Chelsea chief exec. But in all that time they've never been to New York City, which makes Sunday's match a highlight of their 2012 tour.
"The main anticipation is about the Big Apple to be honest," he said. "Most of the guys have been to New York but playing at Yankee Stadium, it's the first game ever and no one can ever take that away from you … Our guys follow the Yankees and this is the real pinnacle of the two weeks [US tour]."
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