Football: It's all about money!
You heard me right. The Premier League and the La Liga has reached a stage where it has become not as much about football and good management, as it is about throwing your owners’ money at the right players and getting them to play for you. It seems as though management has become less about getting the best out of your players, and more about getting the best players available to play for you. There are plenty of instances to prove it, and it is the reason I find it hard to care too much about what’s happening in the transfer window. Money wins. Every single time.
Examples? Well the most obvious example would be Manchester City, wouldn’t it?
A club that remained in mid-table obscurity for many years, it cannot be said that the sole reason for City’s rise in the Premiership is good management on Roberto Mancini’s part; because it is largely down to buying quality players using City’s owners, the Abu Dhabi United Group’s seemingly bottomless pit of money.
A sizable amount was spent on players that were brought in to the first team and thrown out quicker than they could say ‘I want to play in Europe’. Just ask Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz. City spent an unprecedented 100 million in the summer of 2009, on players that are now almost peripheral to City’s plans for the future. Tevez is on his way out, Adebayor has been forced to train with the reserves, Robinho has left for supposedly greener pastures at Milan, Roque Santa Cruz went back to Blackburn on loan for first-team football, and Kolo Toure is yet to make a return from his 6-month suspension.
Were it not for other signings that made the difference for the Sky Blues (Yaya Toure and David Silva to name a few), this sheer waste of money would not have gone unnoticed. Most people are quick to point out the fact that it is brilliant that Mancini has brought City silverware in almost no time, but spending over 100 million, two seasons in a row, to end up with only the FA Cup, is, make no mistake, no stroke of brilliance. It is obviously a sign of things to come in the sense that these signings will help City move on to bigger and better trophies, but just the fact that they got there by simply throwing money, whether at clubs or players (or both), is quite sickening to accept.
Want another example? Wayne Rooney’s supposed departure from Manchester United last season. For those of you who’ve already forgotten what happened, to put it simply, Rooney said he wanted to quit the club because they ‘lacked ambition’ (which probably meant that he was irritated that United hadn’t made any big-money signings in the summer) – Ferguson promised that new signings would come in the summer, and would prove United’s ‘ambition’ – he also gave Rooney a brand-new 200k per week contract to shut him up. Wayne Rooney performed a dramatic U-turn, signed the contract, and helped United to their record-breaking 19th Premier League title. Yes, in this case, giving Rooney more money might have been necessary to prove that they had ‘ambition’, and also considering that he is, quite literally, United’s marquee player. But to the point where money offered in one’s contract (along with money spent on transfers) is what ultimately decides whether a player wants to stay or not? Ridiculous.
One more? Well, this one is particularly funny, because I remember so many Liverpool fans bad-mouthing City and particularly Chelsea, for the way they simply threw money at players – including at that time, their prized possession, Fernando Torres. Watching him go must have been quite painful, but with the way things are going right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if most Liverpool fans have forgotten how good Torres was when he was a Liverpool player. ‘King Kenny’ has spent well over 100m in 2011 alone, and with players like Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson commanding large transfer fees, Liverpool have almost ‘done a Manchester City’ so to speak, by spending unnecessarily large amounts of money on certain players, and thereby inflating the transfer market.
And how can one forget the La Liga? There is a reason that the many people joke that the La Liga is contested in two legs, one at the Bernabeu, and one at Camp Nou. Barcelona and Real Madrid both make huge amounts of money, a lot more money than any other club in the La Liga, through commercial deals and television revenue. This money is invested into their respective squads by buying world-class players, and therefore, bringing in even more money through merchandise. It must be said though, that balancing their books and breaking even does not seem to matter one bit; no matter how big each club’s debt is, they will continue to spend huge amounts of money (not to mention, find petty solutions to try to break even; Barcelona apparently banned color printing and scanning AND are now inviting fans to marry on the pitch of the Nou Camp (at a price, of course!). The La Liga, bar the sheer star power of the squads of both Barcelona and Real Madrid, and the manner in which Barcelona demolish their opponents, is quite frankly, a joke.
At the moment, it really seems as though nothing can be done about this problem. UEFA’s much-talked about Financial Fairplay regulations are supposed to be UEFA’s strong stand against clubs spending money that they do not make – but these rules are far from strong, and there are plenty of loopholes, as City have shown recently with their record-breaking deal with Etihad. It is obvious that the owners at City wanted to balance the books, and needed a way to make it seem as though money was being transferred ‘according to the Financial Fairplay rules’. So what did they do? They transferred 400 million to Manchester City’s coffers by using Etihad Airways’ name (Etihad is apparently owned by people in the Abu Dhabi United Group), in an unprecedented sponsorship deal. Why does it seem so obvious that this is the perfect example of City literally cheating the system to break even? Because Etihad has never posted a profit since it began operations. No joke.
And what is most unfortunate is the fact that spending money has been the only way to win titles in the recent past. Clubs like Arsenal with managers who try to make shrewd signings without spending too much money managed to win trophies for many years, but with Wenger’s purse tightened considerably after the move to the Grove in 2006, along with the unbelievable market inflation that has left only certain clubs able to afford any player they’d like, Arsenal, considered by many as the quintessential club when it comes to financial stability thanks to their strong business model, has not been as successful on the pitch as they’d like to be.
Also, with the same clubs winning over and over, the chances of quality players moving to other clubs have reduced considerably. For example, in the La Liga, Valencia and Deportivo La Coruna must have been clubs that many top players wanted to move to about 10 years ago. At the moment though, top players want to move to either Barcelona, or Real Madrid; moving to any other club would not be seen as a step forward for any young prodigy.
The same with the Premier League – Chelsea and Manchester United are arguably the most exciting clubs to move to for world-class players, and this is not how it used to be. I am quite certain when I say that many players would have done anything to be a part of the Invincibles squad of 2004, but I would be lying if I said that Arsenal could still attract the most talked-about star players in the world. Playing for a club that wins silverware on a regular basis is of utmost importance for top players, and unfortunately, that limits their choices to at the most, two-three clubs (when it comes to the EPL and the Spanish League, that is).
I’d like to point out that while the Premier League and La Liga will not change any time soon, there is still hope. The Bundesliga, for one, is an amazing league considering the fact that a variety of clubs have won the title in recent times. Assuming Financial Fairplay becomes extremely strict and stringent, while clubs that solely rely on spending money to stay at the top will struggle, other teams that have arguably brilliant managers, that unfortunately cannot make the step up to the top at the moment because of a lack of money when compared to clubs like United or Chelsea, will have their chance to put their names into footballing history.
Bringing in solid rules that cannot be tricked by clubs and owners alike would shake things up in both England and Spain, and that would be extremely interesting to watch. I know a lot of this could sound like a load of nonsense, but just look at what happened to Formula 1 – Ferrari and McLaren had arguably monopolized the sport for many years, until the FIA introduced new regulations that required every team to redesign their cars. The result? Jenson Button winning the title at Brawn GP, a team that had almost quit F1 before the season began! A complete overhaul in the world of European football would be extremely interesting, especially when every manager and team have to literally start afresh in certain ways. I’m not saying that all players’ contracts should be terminated and an IPL-esque auction should take place, but change every now and then is necessary, and the UEFA need to realize this when they enforce the Financial Fairplay regulations.
So to put it simply, unless UEFA fix their Financial Fairplay regulations and rules, and fix the loopholes, teams will continue to cheat the system on their way to the top, regardless of how this looks from a moral perspective. There are hundreds of other examples to show that football in England and Spain at the moment is all about money, but after reading all of this, I’m assuming that you understand what I’m trying to say!