How Chelsea and Manchester United have dispelled the myth of the Champions League lure
Jurgen Klopp, the manager of Liverpool was quoted as saying “failure to qualify for the Champions League has had an impact on Liverpool’s transfer ambitions.” I was thinking of this statement critically, then the next second I hear N’Golo Kante has moved from a Champions league eligible club, Leicester City, to one which placed mid-table in the previous season. Looking at these two events, you can agree that they appear to be contradictory. So then I began to investigate the popular myth that “Champions league is a requirement for signing very good players”.
Elite footballers join new clubs with greater pull or attraction than their previous club. This attraction might generally be in the form of getting better wages, getting more exposure and winning trophies. I should say that the most important of this three is probably the wages being offered. As much as footballers would like to be exposed to global audience through premier competitions, like the Champions league, they need some form of motivation.
Is there a better form of motivation than money nowadays? I don’t think so. In reality, it happens that usually the Champions League clubs are the highest paying clubs. This makes it easier for footballers to mask the fact that they moved to a new club for the monetary gains. Diego Forlan was quoted recently saying “Of course money is important in football. Players speak about it all the time because newspapers speak about it. Players speak about net amounts, not gross. What’s the point in earning good money if 80 per cent of it is paid in tax?”.
The case of Manchester United is a curious one and would be a good case study for my reasoning in the previous paragraph. Despite the fact club has been out of Europe’s premier club competition in two of the past three seasons, they have been able to attract top class footballers such as Angel Di Maria, Henrik Mkhitaryan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Juan Mata and most likely the most wanted footballer in Europe now in Paul Pogba.
This is evidently a transfer ‘success story’, despite the notion that they will struggle to attract talents without Champions League football. One thing resonates and that is the wages they tend to offer are mind blowing. Take for example, the case of Mkhitaryan. The Armenian was courted by both Arsenal and Manchester United. The former are Champions league eligible at the moment and United have the cash to spend. In the end, his choice was fairly ‘easy’, he chose better wages.
Another point to note is that, if the Champions League weas so important, as people make it, why don’t more players dream of playing for clubs like Ajax, Bate Borisov, Kobenhaven, Celtic and others (with no disrespect)? This also suggest that players are looking for something more than ‘just Champions league qualification’. Obviously other factors come into play. These other factors can be in the form of the manager in charge of the potential new club. Zlatan Ibrahimovic signed for Manchester United mainly because of Jose Mourinho, for example.
A more realistic hypothesis is that it is highly unlikely that a top player will sign for a club that appears to lack the ability to sustain Champions league. The longer a club spends outside of the Champions league, the greater the impact on the club’s revenue, loss of profile and subsequently its ability to sign players. We should also keep in mind that a club which has the ability to maintain Champions league has a good chance of competing for both both domestic and international titles. Liverpool went out of Champions league reckoning for five straight sessions and the consequences have been dire. Not surprisingly, they keep missing out on many of their major transfer targets.
The Champions league is a prestigious competition that features most of the best players in the world, making it a very strong attraction for talented players. Though it is an indicator of club strength and power, a lack of sufficient evidence disputes the notion that the Champions league is a stand-alone factor when it comes to signing elite players. Europe’s top competition may be very important for a lot of players, but so is a club with an ambitious project and having the resources to achieve those targets. The likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure joined Manchester City because they believed in the club’s projections and ambitions.
I will end by reminding you that N’Golo Kante rejected Champions league football with Leicester City to sign for Chelsea. What motivated him? The wages or was it the ambition of Chelsea? Or was it the recent history of Chelsea? Your guess is as good as mine.
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