While Kiev resists the blows of the Russian Army and Mariupol expands our cartography of martyr cities, Londongrad falters. For days now the Anglo-Saxon press has been certifying –who knows if prematurely– Londongrad Crash, the reign of luxury, money and power (pardon the redundancy) of the Russian oligarchs in the British capital. The 2010 book Londongrad: From Russia with Cash; The Inside Story of the Oligarchs, by Mark Hollingsworth and Stewart Lansley chronicles how the Russian economic elite first settled in and then controlled luxury London. McMafia, which can be seen on Amazon Prime, would be a series version of the same story, although reality, as usual, has no competition.
Money, the oligarchs who settle in London, have plenty of it. Class, good taste, distinction, noble titles and friendships between royalsnot so much, and despite the fact that they bought everything they could and more, there are things that you simply have or don’t have. Roman Abramovich, one of the best-known faces among the residents of Londongrado, now symbolizes his fall, forced to sell a Chelsea that after investing tens and tens of millions managed to win a couple of Champions. The British press reports that the luxury real estate market in London is in disarray, flooded with mansions that have been put up for sale before it’s too late. There is no need to worry, irony The Economist: other rich foreigners will occupy the space left by Russian money. The same goes for the petrodollars of the Gulf countries, from Londongrado to Al-London, thanks to that money that buys football teams (PSG, Manchester City) and World Cups that everyone knows will be played in stadiums literally built with blood in the hands. And nothing happens.
Of course, nothing ever happens until it happens. I see Nasser Al Khelaifi’s tantrum at the Bernabéu and I fantasize that the deep root of the outburst of the richest loser in the world of football is that feels like time is running out. We tolerate, entertain and reverence the oligarchs who are friends of dictators while we look at them with our yellow glasses of happiness: they give us a few crumbs of their fortunes, they sign up cracks for our teams and from afar we can admire their yachts when we stroll through the mouths of our urban ports. But when it gets out of hand (and a dictator, the hand usually goes away sooner or later, against their own or against others) sometimes we decide to put on blood red glasses and then it is as if the blindfold had been removed: we see them as they really are, coarse, tacky and essential accomplices of criminal and liberticidal regimes.
I imagine Al Khelaïfi threatening a Real Madrid employee with death because in his heart of hearts he doesn’t know if next year his emir won’t have turned the tables, and he will have taken to invading a neighbor, or bombing someone else’s house or repressing his own. Al Khelaifi sees Abramovich leave London and he knows that he can stop being Parisian just as easily, one day you shine brighter than the Eiffel Tower and the next you’re a stinker, not just the oldest lose of the world of football but the right hand of a regime not pleasant
In reality, Al Khelaifi and Abramovich are the distorted mirror of our old Europe, who has relocated almost everything, including his soul, but keeps the savoir faire of what was, like second-hand books, vinyl in the days of streaming and the reign of club football. Both have been forgiven everything for money, but love is interested, Al Khelaifi cannot plead ignorance while he watches how in the gardens of the mansions of Londongrado the sign of ForSale.Nor can those who sell the houses plead ignorance, they keep the best tables in restaurants for them, they repair their yachts, they deposit their checks, they set their best diamonds for them, they roll out red carpets for them, legislate tailor-made laws for them and applaud their signings for the club of their lives that will go from flirting with relegation to the Champions League in a couple or three seasons. With the dictators and their oligarchs there are few ignorant people and many blind, deaf and dumb people with thick wallets, that Schröder is not the name of a football coach.