A man who was at Stamford Bridge when the Russian initially took over in 2003 has described his introduction to the squad as “surreal”
Former Chelsea midfielder Sebastian Kneissl has opened up on Roman Abramovich arriving at the club training ground with six limousines in tow, admitting he expected the new owner to be a “bodybuilding type” while also revealing how he managed to score a penalty past Carlo Cudicini.
Kneissl began his career at Chelsea back in 2000 and spent five years on their books before being sold to Wacker Burghausen.
The German didnt make a single competitive appearance for the Blues but was still privy to some memorable moments, including when Abramovich was introduced to the first-team squad.
Abramovich successfully completed the purchase of Chelsea for £140 million ($184m) in July 2003, and his subsequent investment in a star-studded playing squad and the best managers in Europe has led to the club enjoying the most successful period in their history.
19 years, five Premier League titles and two Champions League crowns later, Abramovich is selling Chelsea on and inviting bids in excess of €2 billion, but Kneissl still remembers the nerves he felt before meeting the Russia billionaire for the first time.
“He came to our training ground, six black limousines arrived and sped towards our ground. I thought Holy sh*t, what is happening? There were always five or six limousines, they changed their route every time because they feared an attack on him,” the 39-year-old, who retired in 2014, has told GOAL and SPOX.
“Nobody knew in which car he was. Surreal. He then came onto the pitch. We lined up like we do at an official match. He went by, player by player, looked everybody in the eye, said hello and tried to say something in English. John Terry introduced him to every player.”
Kneissl added on his first impressions of Abramovich: “It was funny, because I thought some Russian giant would show up. Some bodybuilding type. But thencame Roman who israther small and thin. And he was just happy to be there.
“That was nice. He was shaking your hand and seemed like a kid unwrapping his presents on Christmas.”
The former Germany Under-20 international also recalled Abramovich waiting until the end of a training session before requesting to take a penalty against the clubs then-No.1 goalkeeper Cudicini.
“He watched our training session and wanted to take a penalty in the end,” said Kneissl. “He tried against Carlo Cudicini and you do everything because hes paying you.
“If Carlo would have saved that penalty, Roman would have paid out his contract with his pocket-money and would have told him to leave!”
Abramovich announced his decision to sell up shortly after Russia began their invasion of Ukraine, and has insisted that his exit is in the “best interests” of the club amid reports he could face sanctions as the conflict continues.
Kneissl says the 55-year-old has always enjoyed the full respect of the Chelsea playing staff, and has described how passionate he was about making the club great from top to bottom as his exit draws nearer.
He also touched on Abramovichs passion for the game when asked about his regular appearances in the dressing room: “After victories he liked to celebrate with the team. Not in the sense of I am going to down five beers but just to be there, to be happy, to high-five people.
“And then he was gone. From the start you could sense that he wanted to turn things around at Chelsea. It was fun because he also cared about the academy, about rebuilding the training facilities.
“You wont find a player who says anything negative about Roman Abramovich.”