LONDON -- Roman Abramovich, Chelsea's billionaire owner, won't be emptying his wallet quite so quickly to land star talent.
Since Abramovich took over Chelsea in 2003, the Premier League club has spent about $540 million on player transfers. This year alone, Chelsea signed striker Andriy Shevchenko on a British-record transfer fee of $59 million and agreed to pay midfielder Michael Ballack one of the highest salaries in world soccer.
"Our strategy is to bring up our own players through the academy, which we have invested a lot in, and we hope that will give results," Abramovich said in his first interview in three years, with The Observer newspaper published Sunday. "We will be spending less in the transfer market in future years."
Abramovich made his fortune from oil when Russia's public utilities were privatized in the 1990s. In inflating soccer's transfer market, Chelsea's methods have been questioned. Last year the club was found guilty of illegally approaching defender Ashley Cole while under contract with Arsenal. Cole moved to Chelsea in August.
When asked if his business practices were too aggressive, Abramovich replied: "It's difficult to say." In any case, defending champion Chelsea has become a club people love to hate.
"Everyone likes the situation where the leader loses," Abramovich said. "We don't have financial problems -- that's probably also a factor. But you need to give credit: the number of Chelsea fans has increased substantially. There are two groups: ones who love the team and those who don't like it."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press