Thomas Tuchel has admitted that he and his players are worried and distracted by the “uncertainty” created by the Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, being named in parliament on Thursday.
Tuchel said he was aware that Chelsea could be affected if the UK government targets Abramovich with sanctions after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The manager acknowledged that Chelsea could not ignore that a Labour MP told parliament that Abramovich was identified by the Home Office in 2019 as having links to the Russian state as well as to “corrupt activity and practices”.
Telling MPs that he was quoting from a Home Office document leaked to him, Chris Bryant suggested that the UK should seize Abramovich’s assets and bar him from owning Chelsea. Bryant also questioned why nothing more had been done about the 55-year-old’s UK assets given this official verdict.
Abramovich has put huge sums into Chelsea since buying the club in 2003 and Tuchel faced questions about the situation before his side face Liverpool in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final. Tuchel said that his mind was “clouded” after the outbreak of war and he was asked about the potential impact on Chelsea employees and supporters if Abramovich were targeted by sanctions.
Abramovich has vehemently disputed reports suggesting his alleged closeness to Vladimir Putin and Russia or that he has done anything to merit sanctions being imposed against him.
“I am aware of all these scenarios and I am aware of all these discussions at the moment,” Tuchel said. “I would love to take my right not to comment on this until there is a decision made. But we are aware of it and it’s distracting us, it’s worrying us. To a certain degree I can understand the opinions and the critical opinions towards the club, towards us who represent that club. I can understand that and we cannot fully free ourselves from it.
“Maybe people understand that me as a coach or the players, we don’t have the insight what is really going on. At the moment we don’t feel responsible for all this. We feel that it is horrible and there can be no doubt about it. War in Europe was unthinkable for me for a long period. The impact is clear and the discussions have an impact. Let’s be a bit more patient and understand what the measurements will be and then we have to maybe deal with it.”
In 2018 Abramovich withdrew his application for a new UK investor visa, amid worsening links between the UK and Russia. Abramovich has an Israeli passport and has since travelled to the UK using that.
Last November he attended his first Chelsea match at Stamford Bridge in more than three years and he has continued to give the club huge financial backing. Chelsea won the Champions League last season and collected the 21st trophy of the Abramovich era with the Club World Cup this month.
But Tuchel accepted that Chelsea could be under a harsher spotlight now and he did not shy away from a question about Abramovich being named in parliament. “You’re right, we should not pretend that this is not an issue and I agree,” Tuchel said. “The situation in general, for me and for my staff and for everybody here at the Cobham, for the players, is horrible. Nobody expected this.
“It’s pretty unreal, it’s clouding our minds, it’s clouding excitement towards the final and it brings huge uncertainty. Much more to all people and families who are actually more involved than us. And our best wishes and our regards and thoughts are obviously with them.
“Still, there are so many uncertainties around the situation of our club and of the situation in the UK with scenarios like this that it makes no sense if I comment on it. We are aware of it, we have not so much inside information as you think and in the very end, and don’t understand me wrong, I think it’s also derived from the team and from the staff, and I include myself, to be maybe not political. To do do sports and to focus on sports. Not because we are hiding. The situation is clear, it’s horrible, there is no doubt about it.”
Tuchel said that he would not try to take his mind off the crisis in Ukraine before the Liverpool game. “I think you can’t,” he said. “I think the situation is too big and it is not an isolated situation somewhere. It concerns Europe, it’s in Europe and we are part of Europe. We cannot say let’s put this to the side. It’s the opposite. We have to live with it right now. There is no running away from it.
“There is no shutting the doors and now we focus on football. We are still privileged to live in peace and freedom right here where we are right now. And we are still privileged to have a game of football, to have an emotional but peaceful environment with fans in the stadium.”