Roman Abramovich almost never bought Chelsea, it has been revealed.
The billionaire oligarch initially wanted to invest in a Russian club and tabled an offer of £20million for the then Moscow giants in 2003. Abramovich even signed Alexei Smertin, the Russian midfielder who later briefly played for Chelsea for the side, plus Brazilian star Elber Giovane and Swedish striker Henrik Larsson.
But the deal fell through due to an eleventh hour increase in demands from Torpedo's owner Vladimir Aleshin.
Three months later Abramovich bought Chelsea instead. Businessman Alexander Mamut, who was going to be Abramovich's partner in the buyout, revealed last night how disappointed the oligarch was that the deal didn't go through.
He told the Daily Mail: "I had been a fan of Torpedo for nearly 40 years and I asked Roman in early 2003 to join me in buying the club because I couldn't afford it myself.
"We agreed with owner Vladimir Aleshin that we pay him £20m for it, a third immediately, a third after 12 months and a third after two years.
"It was before real money came into Russian football. Everyone laughed at us, asking if we couldn't think of a better use for our money.
"In fact we were only paying the £20m for the brand name in effect, Aleshin wasn't selling us the stadium or even the team bus! But we agreed because we wanted to try and make a super club with real foreign stars. It was before he bought Chelsea, and Roman Abramovich was full of energy and desire to invest in Russian football."
Mamut added: "Pini Zahavi was also negotiating for us with Jose Mourinho, who was supposed to manage the team.
"But when we came to sign the papers Aleshin suddenly said: 'So, guys, I want all the £20m now and in cash.' After that I lost all interest in football, but not Roman. Shortly afterwards, in June, 2003 he bought Chelsea, his firm Sibneft sponsored CSKA Moscow and he founded National Academy of Football in Russia."