Splashing the Clash
Money cannot buy you happiness- or at least, not in my opinion- but can it buy football trophies? That seems to be the view amongst many football supporters and the view is shared especially by followers of the English Premier League, perhaps the most watched football show on the planet.
When the league title was won by Manchester City last season, there was uproar not only from the Blue side of Manchester, but other parts of England as well. “Anyone but United or Chelsea” is what you would hear on the streets. The last seven years saw the League title won by Chelsea thrice and Manchester United four times. Similarly in Spain, Real Madrid had finally got the better of rivals Barcelona when they won the Spanish La Liga and Italy saw similar changes when Juventus displaced the Milanese duopoly of AC and Inter.
The pattern of the game was changing, no doubt. Some would say the game had seen changes of seismic proportions. So what was driving this sudden surge of resistance?
The answer, according to various sources, is money. Take Chelsea for example, a club which came into the spotlight in 2005 when they won the English league for the first time after 50 years. Despite their record breaking performances during the 38 game season, Chelsea became one of the most hated clubs in England. Supporters from other teams claimed the team had “bought the title”, referring to the injection of funds from the Clubs multi-millionaire owner Roman Abramovich in order to buy big name players, as opposed to other clubs who ‘developed young players into superstars’.
These words were once again echoed in the streets of England when Manchester City won the league title because the club spent close to €500 million since being bought by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008. Real Madrid, likewise, have spent close to €400 million during the process of dethroning Barcelona and getting their hands on trophies. The cash was splashed on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo (€96 million), Karim Benzema (€40 million) and Angel Di Maria (€25 million). Chelsea has also spent millions in their quest for the most prestigious trophy in European football, with one of the recent acquisitions being the £50 million signature of Spanish striker Fernando Torres.
Was this the way for clubs to get their hands on silverware? What about the clubs who are keener to develop young players rather than spend millions on player purchases? The first club that comes to my mind is Arsenal, another of the big names from the English League. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been criticized on occasion for trying to think like an economist, having spent close to just €150 million on player purchases since 2005! That compares to nothing next to the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City or Real Madrid (of course, these are also clubs with filthy rich owners). Arsenal fans speak proudly of how their club produces talented players such as Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and now Barcelona player Cesc Fabregas. However, the club has not won a single trophy since 2005 to date and this seems to have caused a change in supporters thinking. Everyone with a stake in Arsenal wants to see star players come to North London, and we all know what needs to be done if that is to happen. That’s right; Arsenal will have to splash the cash so to speak. This is what they have done with big names like Lucas Podolski, Oliver Giroud and Santi Cazorla recently being unveiled at the Club.
So is this to be seen as a new trend in the footballing industry? I would think so, since the trend has caught up to French club Paris Saint Germain and Russian Club Anzhi Makhachkala. PSG for one, have recently acquired the services of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Argentine Lavezzi. Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala has made Samuel Eto’o the highest paid footballer in the world, and the second highest paid athlete after American Tiger Woods.
Certainly a thought provoking shift in the world of football, and one which requires a lot of attention from the sport’s governing bodies. After all, paying a truckload of money for a player also encourages player power. No one, remember, is bigger than the club.