Is money the root of all evil, even in Football?
With most European domestic seasons in full swing, now would be a good time to take a step back and see how the top 5 league tables are shaping up as we head into the Christmas period. In England, the Premier League is a hotly contested affair with Manchester City top of the league by just 2 points.
Shifting to France, free-spending PSG hold a vice grip on top spot with their closest competitors, Montpellier, 14 points adrift. It should be noted that the second and sixth-placed teams are separated by only 3 points, a testament to the sheer dominance PSG display in their competition.
LaLiga in Spain is also a tight affair as Barcelona lead Sevilla by 1 sole point at the summit of the table. No surprises in Italy, as Juventus are top of the league with 13 wins and 1 draw from their opening 14 Serie A matches, putting them 8 points ahead of second-placed Napoli.
Germany has sprung the biggest surprise by far of any of the five leagues, as Borussia Dortmund have a 7-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga while the Bavarian giants, Bayern Munich, are below their usual standards occupying the fourth spot.
Another season of football, another fairly predictable quintuplet of league tables. Predictable? Football isn't supposed to be predictable! Leicester won the league 3 years ago for heaven's sake! Yes, but I would argue, as many pundits said at the time, that this is a footballing 'miracle' and won't happen again for many years if not decades.
Why is this the case now? Why is it impossible for smaller teams to win, consistently challenge the biggest teams and have a chance at trophies year in and year out? Easy answer, money has ruined the competitiveness of the game.
Yes, Manchester City are not miles ahead in the Premier League race, but very few people doubt that they will win it again this year. Ever since their wealthy owners took charge in 2008, Manchester City have won 9 trophies in 10 years. To put that into perspective, they had won 20 trophies since their inception in 1880.
PSG are in the exact same boat, dominating every single one of their domestic competitions (albeit except for the 2016-2017 season when Monaco were Ligue 1 champions). It has created a culture in football that is heard time and time again when big clubs don't spend the hundreds of millions they are expected to "they did not spend money, they will not compete this year".
Not only has money become the predicting factor of who will win trophies, but buying power of certain clubs has completely destroyed rivalries between clubs. In the 2011-12 season, Borussia Dortmund did the unthinkable and beat Bayern Munich to a league and cup double under Jurgen Klopp. They played high tempo, attractive, attacking football that produced results.
Cue a few transfer windows and Bayern Munich's spending power and that title-winning team was picked apart. However, it wasn't the classic inflated price tags that forced Dortmund to sell to their bitter rivals, but the lucrative contracts that Bayern could offer.
Players like Lewandowski left on free transfers (giving the club that gave them the opportunity, no profit) while players like Mario Götze and Mats Hummels were bought and then announced just hours before big matches for Dortmund (such as the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid).
This isn't a one-off story, Leicester had two of their best players purchased by teams in their league and have struggled to replace them (Mahrez to Manchester City and Kanté to Chelsea); this won't be the end. Every year poorer teams have to endure transfer saga after transfer saga for their top players when they are trying hard to build a lasting legacy.
Those "look what starting 11 this team could have had" articles are not going to stop any time soon. I fear that as money becomes more and more concentrated on a select few number of teams, there will be no point in supporting poorer teams as the gap in the competition will continue to grow.