During Real Sociedad‘s second consecutive 2-0 victory over a decent Olympique Lyonnais side, two things occured to me. One, as previously blogged about, was that Sociedad are a genuinely likeable team that it’s hard to wish anything but success on. Second, the notion that in an age of football dictated by record transfer fees and unbelievably high wages, that maybe the small Basque club from San Sebastián club are proof that money is still not the be all and end all of the beautiful game. This is perhaps the notion that encourages such positive sentiment from neutrals toward the club, aswell as the expansive and attacking style of play engineered by Philippe Montanier and continued this season by Jagoba Arrasate.
Under the Frenchman last season, Sociedad’s exciting style of play garnered many admirers for the club, (myself included) and thus far this season, his style remains unaltered, despite Montanier’s departure to Stade Rennais. While obviously clubs with excess money, and the nouveau riche of Paris Saint Germain, Monaco and even Manchester City will still have the lion’s share of success and trophies, there are exceptions to the widely accepted view that more money equals more success. In Sociedad’s native Spain, Valencia provide an example of exactly this, having enjoyed continuedChampion’s League campaigns and league success in Spain despite being broke for the past decade, totally unable to even finish building the Nuevo Mestalla. In Manchester City’s England, Everton continued to exceed all financial expectations under now Manchester United manager, David Moyes, and in Paris Saint Germain’s France, only as recently as 2011/12, lowly Montpellier trumped the oil-rich Parisian outfit to the league title despite their entire squad costing less than PSG’s recently signed Argentinian playmaker, Javier Pastore.
These clubs provide exceptions, admittedly, but it cannot be argued that money is not usually congruent with success. Paris Saint Germain followed Montpellier’s shock title with a league win of their own, Spain’s La Liga title is dominated by the TV-rich duo of Barcelona and Real Madrid, and England’s Premier League is an incredibly hard setting for any club to break into an established top six without serious investment. The financial “have’s” make it very difficult for the “have-not’s” to enjoy continued success, but this is precisely what Real Sociedad are trying to do. Despite a setback this weekend drawing with an average Elche in La Liga, Arrasate’s team bounced back admirably by completing the job they started two week ago in such style*. The 2-0 win in France has been followed by the same result in The Anoéta tonight, completing a comprehensive Champion’s League qualification, and there will be some far richer teams than Los Txuri-Urdin hoping to avoid them in the Group Stage draw later this week.
In Spain, La Liga’s television revenue is distributed very differently to that of the Premier League. Real Madrid and Barcelona earn more through television money than the other 18 clubs put together, and this unbalanced distribution of wealth makes it very hard for the other teams in the league to even consider a challenge over the 38 game season. La Real though, will hope to maintain their league standing from last season, and establish themselves as La Liga’s 4th best side, ousting the aforementioned Valencia, at last succumbing to the effects of selling their best players to avoid financial ruin year after year. This 4th place finish may not sound much (especially to Arsenal fans of late), but in a league where 1st and 2nd are foregone conclusions and Atletico Madrid are well on their way to making 3rd place a similar situation, 4th can only be considered a successful season for a club.
The benefit of such a finish, albeit through a qualifier, is the potential for a succesful Champion’s League campaign, and while the thinness of Sociedad’s squad is evident in the league, a shorter competition may suit them infinitely better. Sociedad’s first XI, in particular their lethal frontline, will be a match for anyone and expect a few potential upsets if Sociedad are drawn against any of England’s four Champion’s League participants. It is through this competition, and the money it generates for it’s participants, that Sociedad will look to thrive upon, perhaps breaching the gap between themselves and their financial betters.
All in all then, even a well ran, brilliantly organised team like Sociedad will inevitably struggle to compete against those with far more financial muscle both at home and in Europe’s competitions, but with a bit of luck, and a few more pieces of inspiration like Griezmann and Seferovic’s goals against Lyon*, the San Sebastián outfit may be able to provide a genuine feel good moment of a team without the backing of an oil-rich owner exceeding expectations and proving that even in today’s economics dominated football world, money isn’t everything.
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