Football fans in a Sussex village have welcomed news that the billionaire saviour of Chelsea Football Club lives next door.

Residents of Rogate, near Midhurst, reacted with surprise yesterday when it was revealed Russian oil tycoon Roman Abramovich has become part of their community, shelling out £12 million to buy the 300-acre Fyning Hill estate.

Neighbours said he had kept a low profile and had not been spotted around the village, despite employing 50 locals on his estate.

Builder John Griffith, 37, of Parsonage Estate, Rogate, said: "My son supports Chelsea and I'm sure he would like to give him a big hug if he saw him in the street. But I don't think anyone round here knew he lived there."

Mr Abramovich, 36, is now in control of the Blues after acquiring 50.09 per cent of the club's shares. He is reportedly ready to embark on a buying blitz to put Manchester United and Real Madrid in the shade.

One neighbour said: "I heard he had bought somewhere here. Apparently he has had property here for two years but we don't ever see him out and about. He must be quite a private person."

Mr Abramovich concentrates his business activities on trading oil products out of Russia's largest refinery in Omsk, in western Siberia.

He has a controlling interest in Russian oil giant Sibneft and shares in national airline Aeroflot and a television company, among other holdings, through Millhouse Capital, registered in Britain.

He owns a Russian ice hockey team and a 42-hectare country estate near Moscow with his wife and four children.

Although his exact worth is unclear, The Sunday Times estimated his wealth at £3.8 billion, which placed him at 19th in their Europe's Richest 50 list.

In 1999, he was elected to the lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma.

The Fyning Hill estate has three polo grounds, formal gardens, a lake, a 50ft outdoor swimming pool, a tennis court, a go-kart track, a clay-pigeon shooting site, a trout lake, a rifle range and an equestrian centre. It comprises a Twenties mansion, a second house, six cottages, a staff flat and four guest apartments.

Security is tight around the property, which is separated from public footpaths by electrified fences and a gate monitored by a surveillance camera.

The main house was once the scene of the biggest-ever burglary in Sussex. In 1983, a thief managed to evade massive security to crack open a safe and steal jewellery worth £800,000. Its owner, Jordanian businessman Taj Hajjar, put up an £80,000 reward but the burglar was never caught.

Media tycoon Kerry Packer bought the house in the late Eighties, before selling up in 1999.

A spokeswoman for Rogate Parish Council confirmed Mr Abramovich did not make appearances around the village and the council only ever had contact with the Fyning Hill estate manager.

A spokesman for Citigate Dewe Rogerson, public relations advisers for Mr Abramovich, said: "We are not privy to all his personal affairs. He is not a man who is interested in personal publicity."