The Vitesse-Chelsea connection
It would be fair to say that the quiet city of Arnhem isn’t exactly one of the must visit destinations for any tourist visiting the Netherlands other than for World War II history buffs and obsessed Audrey Hepburn fans (she was schooled there). Things changed, however, when Vitesse became the first club to be subject to a foreign take over when Georgian Merab Jordania acquired the club in 2010. Since then Vitesse have emerged as real contenders to the established elite and they have now become a team perfectly capable of challenging for the title. One notable aspect of this is their link up with Chelsea. We’ve already looked at the pros and cons of such arrangements and here we take a closer look at the relationship between Chelsea and Vitesse and ask: Just how much of an influence have Chelsea players, and perhaps more importantly their owner had in Vitesse’s rise?
The most confusing and therefore the most intriguing thing about Jordania’s takeover of Vitesse was the question of how he raised the necessary funds. His main business venture at the time was from a company that primarily focused on arranging player transfers, TV contracts and high profile friendlies. Of course it sounds like a profitable business but in reality it wasn’t producing that much, let alone enough to own a club in the Eredivisie and provide enough money to turn the club into title contenders. Where then is the money coming from?
The odds are that Jordania is a front for another investor and that is where Chelsea start to become involved. Jordania and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich are known friends and Jordania has admitted to attending Chelsea games with the Russian when the Blues aren’t playing at the same time as Vitesse. It is unclear though just how much, if any financial involvement Abramovich has with the club. The answer is probably nothing because UEFA has very strict rules in clubs entering the same competition with a person with mutual interest in both clubs.
The smart money then starts to point one of the Chigrinsky brothers. The older and richer brother Shalva has been linked to the club on occasions by the Dutch media but his relationship with Abramovich is frosty at best so his involvement is improbable. The more likely scenario is investment from the younger brother, Alexander. The media shy property developer is a well-known friend of Abramovich and in fact Jordania has admitted that it was Alexander Chigrinsky who introduced him to Abramovich.
Regardless of where the money is coming from it is clear that there is more to Jordania than meets the eye. He is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades having spent time as the President of Dynamo Tblisi, manager of the Georgian national team and President of the Georgian Football Federation. He was removed from his position as the latter following allegations of corruption and he has been in prison twice, once for tax evasion and once for embezzlement. A shady character indeed but Vitesse have reaped the rewards of Jordania’s ownership.
Chelsea are really yet to profit from their “partnership” with Vitesse in terms of signing players but Vitesse has been a useful outlet for the Europa League winners’ fringe players. There are three players from Chelsea currently on loan at Vitesse and a couple more have spent time there this season.
Tomas Kalas has been at Vitesse for the past two seasons and his development over that time has been remarkable. It is easy to forget that when Chelsea signed Kalas in 2010 he was one of the hottest defensive prospects in Europe and the reported £5.2 million that Chelsea paid is a considerable fee for a 17 year old. I saw him play in the English FA Youth Cup and having grown accustomed to seeing more tough tackling defenders Kalas’ ability on the ball was very apparent. The raw talent was there for all to see and I was concerned Chelsea would just let his potential waste away. Whilst he has been playing extremely well for Vitesse the likes of Nathan Aké seem to have risen in the pecking order and a move away this summer looks likely with West Bromwich Albion rumoured to be interested.
Patrick van Aanholt was originally brought through the youth team as a potential understudy and replacement for Ashley Cole. Things haven’t worked out for him and the ascent of Ryan Bertrand means van Aanholt has spent a lot of time on loan. He took time to settle at Vitesse but recently he has been playing well. The Dutchman has said in an interview recently he will want more of a promise for first team football and in my opinion he will probably be sold, perhaps back to Vitesse.
Gael Kakuta, a youngster more famous for his transfer rather than his performances also started slowly but has shone recently. He has been even more unequivocal in his assessment of his situation at Chelsea recently, stating that the squad is too big and he will probably move away in the summer. The Mexican Ulises Dávila also spent time with the club but unfortunately the move did not work out. Slobodjan Rajkovic and Matej Delac also enjoyed spells at the club. The former picked up quite some playing time, for the latter it was a rather frustrating period. The only real success was Nemanja Matic, as he was part of the transfer that brought David Luiz to Chelsea.
The link is clearly a benefit to both sides. Chelsea are able to send their players who are not good enough for the first team to a club that is challenging at the top of the Eredivisie. Vitesse can take talented youngsters from a bigger club and use them without incurring the cost of their wages. Of course there is an argument that a partnership like this might stall the development of Vitesse’s academy but there is little danger of that. Vitesse haven’t got one of the more established academies in the Netherlands and although they have a couple of talented young players, they are not overflowing with them as opposed to other sides. One potential eventuality that we could see over the summer would be the first case of Chelsea signing a Vitesse player ahead of their European rivals. Wilfried Bony is the player that is on everyone’s lips right now and there will be a host of clubs chasing his signature this summer. Chelsea, and Roman Abramovich’s relationship with Vitesse and their hierarchy could prove the difference in this transfer saga and it might well prove to be the case in the future.
This piece is written by Pete Sharland, a Chelsea fan currently studying History down in Southampton. Like so many others he is looking to forge a career in the wonderful world of football journalism. Outside of England he has an unhealthy obsession with Stade Rennais and is a keen follower of Parma as well. A writer for various sites, who has been featured on Sabotage Times, Squawka Sports and Back Page Football amongst others, Pete prefers not to specialise and covers the game in all countries from all countries. Furthermore, he is editor of Off The Post News and presenter of Surge Radio. You can find him at Twitter: @Psharland55 .