Is money becoming an overriding feature of the beautiful game?
It is almost three weeks since the European Championships in France came to a climax, a tournament to forget for England and one to savour for the likes of Wales, Iceland and the eventual victors Portugal.
Silly season had began and a few days ago Juventus shelled out a cool £75.3 million for Gonzalo Higuain, making him the third most expensive transfer in history.
In a world which has recently seen major volatility in the global economy following the UK’s surprising exit from the European Union, football’s own economy has not been effected one jot, instead fees for players and their along with contracted future wages have visibly sky rocketed.
Higuain comes with an impressive goal scoring record (36 goals in Serie A last season, a record) and will definitely bolster the Juventus front line. However, he by no means is the first name to pop into your head when you’re thinking of a consistently world class performer, a few individual honours to his name, but nothing ground breaker, he didn’t even feature in last season’s Ballon D’Or squad. Yet still worth upwards of £75 million. On a side note, a deal likely to be around £100 million for Pogba?
Ten years ago that would be unheard of. The mind boggles. However, it just shows just how much money now talks at an elite European domestic level, if teams don’t have the financial backing behind them they will get left behind at the highest level (in the most part – Leicester winning the Premier League will never happen again).
Market inflation is clear to see, to put things into perspective, in 2003 Manchester United acquired Cristiano Ronaldo for £15 million (after add-ons), in 2016, Jordon Ibe signed for Bournemouth for the same price. Now, no disrespect to Ibe, as a player who came through the ranks as a youngster at my club Wycombe before moving to Liverpool, I respect his talent, however, if you compare the two players abilities at this stage in their career, and their possible potential, there is no comparison.
But who is to blame for this baffling level of inflation we now see in the footballing market place? Well, clearly there are multiple factors that have a bearing.
A transfer has three main ‘actors’ – the clubs, the player himself and the player’s agent, all of which have different requirements that should be adhered to in order to complete a deal. It seems to me that clubs are charging more for players to pay for their insane wage bills, as well the shear amount of money at clubs disposal the market level is being pushed ever more skywards. You could argue introducing wage caps would solve this problem, but players will just go elsewhere.
In order to attract world class players you need to offer competitive wages, and with clubs becoming richer and China starting to entice players away e.g. Hulk, Ramires and Pelle to name a few, wages and player prices will continue to rapidly grow, it is a vicious cycle of greed from a player’s perspective. Let’s be honest no player dreams of playing in China.
Greed isn’t a trait that used to really exist in football, players wanted to play football because they loved the sport, they wanted to play for their home team and they wanted to win for themselves and the fans. Back in 1996 Alan Shearer signed for Newcastle, at £15 million it was a lot at the time, a record fee, but the rest as they say is history – an enigma, a cult hero, he cared for the club and the club cared for him. However, these days things are different, players come and go, with many players (and their agents) always looking for that next big pay-day, a reason why China is such a coup for many players these days – who wouldn’t say no to over £200,000 a week to kick the ball about a bit, without having to show any passion or care for the club you’ve signed for. It has become merely a power game – sign a player for obscene money – gain from commercialisation. This is business, not football.
Unfortunately, the ever increasing popularity of football isn’t benefiting football supporters, who dedicate their time and money to supporting a club, but instead football ‘consumers’, those who go to big game once in a lifetime, or sit in front of their Sky TVs week in, week out, those are the people these clubs at the top of the footballing pyramid are catering for – with clubs being obliged to sign big players by these so called fans, only ever seen on YouTube highlight reels, just to keep the peace. With the hardened supporters then having to pick up the pieces in terms of increased ticket prices, and watching eleven players on an ego trip kick a ball about for a six figure sum.
With broadcasters now shelling out £5.14 billion for broadcasting rights – a 71% increase from three years prior – and with Premier League teams seeing between £65 million and £100 million of this figure, you can understand why player prices are rapidly inflating – and why valuations that used to be outlandish now don’t even raise a solitary eyebrow.
Regretfully this is the world of football we now live in, and it is very unlikely to change anytime soon, if anything the 21st century footballing mantra of money buying success and riches will only escalate. Give it 20 years and £75 million for a 28 year old will be a comparative steal.
Featured Image – All Rights Reserved by Maycon Chaves.