Champions League qualification does not always attract world class players
When a team fails to qualify for the Champions League, the first thing on every fans’ lips is ‘we will not be able to attract world class players now’. Similarly, fans automatically think qualifying for the Champions League means that world class players will want to join. This is not the case, at all.
Take Liverpool for example. Since 2008/09, where they had previously qualified for four successive seasons, they have qualified to compete in the Champions League just twice. Inconsistency will not attract world class players, and this is showing by the type of players Liverpool buy year in, year out.
Mohamed Salah was a great addition to their side, but otherwise they have bought Andrew Robertson, who is by no means a poor player, but he’s certainly not world class or Champions League level right now. Their other targets were Virgil van Dijk, who has no experience or Champions League football, and Naby Keita, who doesn't seem like joining.
When the Reds finished in second place in the league in 2014, they could still only buy Premier League proven players. They also spent lots of money on players who have now flopped, the likes Alberto Moreno, Lazar Markovic and Mario Balotelli. The one world class player they did wish to buy, Alexis Sanchez, chose Arsenal, indicating how just one year of qualifying doesn’t immediately mean world class players will want to join.
This is no disrespect to Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp was a massive coup, and he himself can persuade world class players to join. However, if they play poorly in the Champions League and miss out on qualification again next season, it will only prove that they’re still very inconsistent and justify a players decision not to play for them.
Now take teams like both Chelsea and Arsenal for example. Chelsea entered their 2013/14 season without Champions League football, and did so again last season. But, it did not affect their club or mean they could no longer buy world class players. In 2013 they bought Willian, Nemanja Matic and Kurt Zouma, who are all still part of the club. Then, last year, they acquired the services of N’Golo Kante, Michy Batshuayi, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso, and three of those players were instrumental in a title winning season.
Now this is Arsenal’s first ever season without Champions League football, but the Gunners have still bought Alexandre Lacazette and are hoping to add Thomas Lemar once they sell some squad players. Lemar is said to be extremely keen to join Arsenal even without Champions League football, further emphasising the point that missing out on the Champions League or qualifying for just one year is practically irrelevant.
The point being made is that there are numerous factors as to why players join football clubs. Ambition and the Champions League is a big part of that, but other things are too.
Money is now one of the most crucial parts of a transfer, regardless of the club. For example, even Chinese teams are being able to buy world class players with money. In the Premier League, since Sir Alex Ferguson left Manchester United, they have finished fifth, sixth and seventh in three of the four seasons. They have still bought Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Anthony Martial, Angel Di Maria and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, showing money talks. Manchester City are another example of how important money is. Without ever finishing in the Champions League they previously bought Robinho, Edin Dzeko, Yaya Toure and David Silva, who were all incredible signings.
Secondly, the manager plays an important role in a player wanting to join. Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger are all able to attract world class players and have done so in recent years, but Klopp has been unable to do that so far in his short time at Liverpool.
Liverpool are just an example of this in the Premier League. Tottenham also have the same problem, mainly due to them being unwilling to pay big money and contracts for players, along with building a new stadium. It’s unlikely teams like Hoffenhiem or RB Leipzig in Germany will be able to attract world class players either, as it is their first season in the Champions League.
It has always been such a big thing to fans to qualify for the Champions League and attract the world’s best players. However, consistency and a big wage packet is what’s most important to players now, not one year of qualification for the Champions League every three seasons.