Arsenal stakeholder Usmanov good pals with Chelsea's Abramovich

Arsenal's latest major stakeholder, Alisher Usmanov, is close friends with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

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Usmanov, who has bought 15 per cent of Arsenal for £75 million and, many suspect, is poised to launch a takeover bid for the club, is an old friend of fellow oligarch Abramovich. They met in Moscow in the early 1980s when Usmanov was running a plastic bag making plant and Abramovich had a toy factory.

The pair became so close that Usmanov gave Abramovich's first wife, Olga, a job. "They had the same circle of friends," one Moscow associate told the Daily Mail. "Olga had been working at a secret chemical plant and Usmanov said to her: 'Come and work for me and you'll earn real money.' She did - with Roman's blessing."

It is unlikely that relations between the two will be so cordial in London. An Usmanov takeover of Arsenal would not only pitch the two men against each other in the battle for the Premier League title and European Champions League glory, it would also pitch Russia against America in the shape of Manchester United and Liverpool, both US-owned.

Usmanov's role at Arsenal also means the club now includes among its VIP fans the two sides of the bitter Kremlin power battle. Usmanov is loyal to Vladimir Putin, and a key player in the Russian president's strategy to restore the might Russia enjoyed in the Soviet era.

Putin's sworn enemy Boris Berezovsky, wanted by the Kremlin on a series of charges which he brands "political", also has a box at the Emirates.

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