Between Mark, Manuel, Mourinho and Money


More money involved means that fans have to pay more; and that’s never bad news for authorities. Hence, no matter how much we question the obscene monetary levels and whether money wins trophies or not, the vicious cycle will go on…

Real Madrid were the leaders of the first transfer month of 2009, Manchester City are in pole position so far this month. Both their jersey stores will now have at least half a dozen new jerseys.

That seems to have got Barcelona intimidated. They found themselves linked in no time to Franck Riberry and Cesc Fabregas, making us wonder why a team that has won everything get so heavily involved in the transfer market. Don’t they have enough five feet tall world class midfielders?

The Blues got the pensive look. Chelsea’s jersey store seems all set to have the same jerseys, most of them ageing by a year. With due respect to Yuri Zhirkov, the Blues’ biggest signing this season is Carlo Ancelloti – and this worries Roman! The Reds are worried too – be it United or Liverpool – as the entire world seems to be targeting their players.

What’s conspicuously absent in the above two paragraphs is the word ‘football’ and whether money brings trophies. Transfer season is ‘ego’ season – for club presidents, coaches, players and agents. That’s the first definite thing you see when a club ‘wants to declare’ that they are getting more ambitious. We saw it often this century – with Real Madrid, Chelsea, West Ham, Manchester City and now again with Real Madrid.

Real will be tracked by the entire football loving fraternity this season just as they were tracked eight seasons ago. But how much did they win then? Man-to-man (even discounting the advantage of hindsight) Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, Luis Figo and David Beckham were bigger names than the current hotlists. Yet, in La Liga, they finished third in 2001-02, top in 2002-03, fourth in 2003-04 and second best to Barcelona the following two seasons.

The large chunk of credit for the two trophies they picked during the time went to the then coach Vicente Del Bosque; duly sacked a week after lifting Real’s last CL trophy in 2003. They lost way and later recovered winning two La Liga titles in 2007 and 2008. Another example, over a smaller scale, was West Ham; who did better once their biggest signings (of 2006) were gone.

Seemingly, on other side of the fence are Chelsea – who literally started winning trophies once money came in. In the period between 2005-2008, Chelsea are the best English team, even better than United. This they achieved independent of coaches. It’s this model that spurs the teams to spend. There is also no denying that the richer clubs are winning all the trophies but the debate isn’t yet over whether money is the biggest factor.

Even if I buy the argument, I am still left wondering how much must a club budget be to spend over a season. In 1982, Diego Maradona was signed for 3 million pounds and that was considered an obscene amount then. Today, you need 150 million pounds to buy a decent set of players.

Recession? You must be kidding! Where does that leave the ‘less richer’ clubs? Which model do they start believing in? At present, their best hope is to act as feeds to kings – develop a talent, make a star and sell at premium.

What they miss out is that, apart from having quality players, most champion teams also had the best tacticians in the business and/or teams that sprung from a robust internal youth system. But then who has the time for all this; we all love breaking news, don’t we?

As I write, Inter Milan and Barcelona seem over the top on, which could be, the most outrageous deal of the season. Inter Milan have got cool money, a top notch striker and possibly another player on loan. Barcelona feel that they have added a new dimension which they lacked last year.

It’s a fact that Pep’s team doesn’t optimize corners and free kicks (in the opposition half) and treats them as yet another wing attack. Also, they don’t get too many long range strikes, which could unsettle a ‘Chelsea-like’ defence. It’s in this area that Barcelona feel that ‘Ibracadabra’ will make a difference, particularly with his knack for special goals.

All this made Barcelona happy, and Inter too. Never mind that in the past fifteen years Inter have sold players of the calibre of Seedorf, Pirlo, Cannavaro and Roberto Carlos. In fact, you can make a world beating XI out of Inter’s deals!

Inter’s lucrative business deal will be tested later this season, and so too will Mourinho’s ability to make Inter excel in Europe. This brings us to two other managers who would soon get their happiness tested: Mark Hughes and Manuel Pellegrini. If their teams win, everyone will share the credit; if their teams lose, Mark and Manuel would be deemed misfits and will be given the boot.

And fans like us will splash money to buy the boot, the t-shirt, the stadium ticket, the pay channel charge and everything remotely connected to the beautiful game. CR7 fans will throw away the red jersey and now buy the white CR9 one and Madrid fans will buy one too. Real Madrid fans will also hope, one day they will buy the white jersey with the name ‘Messi’ printed on the back.

They can hope: that’s how money and football have married, and that’s how there’s a happy happy world out there.


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