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Chelsea are back in fashion – but Roman Abramovich is out in the cold

Special report: A young, resurgent side are delighting fans but the club’s billionaire owner is feeling the chill after years of being welcomed by the British establishment

In the final minutes of Chelsea’s crisp win over Crystal Palace in their last home match Frank Lampard put a fatherly arm around 18-year-old Billy Gilmour before sending him scampering on to become the sixth academy graduate to feature in the Premier League derby. At the west London club which first imprinted an oligarch’s stamp on English football, Chelsea’s sparkling, homegrown version this season – a club legend appointed as manager promoting young players – is the unexpected result of fundamental contradictions running through the club.

The most obvious is that Chelsea have effectively been forced to give these opportunities to teenagers who just months ago were pining for moves or loans to get some playing time. In February Fifa banned the club from making any new signings for two transfer windows after Chelsea were found to have serially breached the registration rules in the ferociously competitive trawl for under-18 players from overseas.

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