European football: The power of money


More and more of football's elite have begun being backed by cash strapped owners and investors who prefer to throw money at their problems.

Foreign investors offer obscene amounts of money for superstars, in hope of conquering Europe. This begs the question, have motives changed for footballers? Do top superstars now prefer higher pay-checks istead of sporting objectives? Based on peculiar recent transfers, you would be hard pressed to argue otherwise.

Considering Hulk spurned the advances Chelsea in order to join mega rich Zenit last year, as did Axel Witsel who chose the Russians over Arsenal and Juventus to name a few. Samuel Eto, at the time one of the world's most coveted players, opted to join Anzi Makhachkala in 2011, while Didier Drogba joined Shanghai Shenhua F.C (although that journey was short lived.) Need I continue? Players are not the only to blame, this excess of money causes clubs to spend recklessly, often investing in players with inflated prices. The likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid were, of course, the original mega rich clubs, splashing cash from many years before, but it's the recent rich influxes that have many football fans questioning the logic of some of these transfers.

Manchester City got the ball rolling when they announced in 2008 that Abu Dhabi United Group were to take over ownership of the club. Cue the bold assertions and the promises to become one of Europe's best, and let the overpaying begin. First in was Jo, the overrated and under-performing Brazilian. At a whopping price of around £19 million. Factored with his dismal performances, that £19m brought City just one league goal in nine appearances. Also on the list of underachievers, Robinho, Tel Ben Haim, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Adam Johnson, Jerome Boateng, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure, and Scot Sinclair, all who struggled to make much of an impact despite massive price tags. 

In more recent years, Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri can be added to the list, costing City upwards of £50 million . While last year's Premier League Title and 2011's FA cup can be argued as consolation, still obscene amounts have been wasted.

Next up, Russian club Anzi, who also had ambitions to take over Europe. Offering huge wages and world supremacy, superstars such as Samuel Eto'o, Roberto Carlos, and Balazs Dzsudzsak all lined up in the hopes of success. Yuri Zhirkof and Christopher joined the list of recognisable names, as did Lucina Traore, who spurned quite a list of admirers before opting for Russia. 

My question is this? Why would such established players opt to take a chance to join an unproven side rather than join a club known for success? Answer me this, is a couple more zeros worth playing for an under-performing side? Too often in recent times, players are lured by money rather than respectable footballing sides.

PSG became the next side to enter the fray of big business, although their success speaks for itself. Their major investments such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lucas, Thiago Silva, and Blaise Matuidi to name a few, helped them comfortably conquer France and become genuine title contenders.

Zenit St. Petersburg is another who recently threw their name into the hat, luring big names Hulk, Bruno Alves, and Axel Witsel to Russia. While all our quality players, my bone to pick lies with the teams they spurned. Hulk quickly became one of Europe's hottest properties after a string of performances for Porto. Chelsea, the then FA Cup winners and eventual Champions League winners were reported to be hot on his trail before the Brazilian opted for Russia. Madrid and Munich were other mooted destinations. Axel Witsel denied the advances of Arsenal and Tottenham, both respectable clubs plying their trade in the world's best league, while also spurning a few clubs in Spain. Bruno Alves was seen as possible replacement for Carles Puyol at Barca as well as a possible partner to Rio Ferdinand after Nemanja Vidic was stricken with injury in 2010, but instead chose Zenit. With all due respect to Zenit, what would allure these footballers to join a side relatively unproven compared to the mooted suitors? My guess is a massive pay-check.

Last but not least, is Monaco, led by the money hungry Radamel Falcao. Easily one of the best pure strikers there is, Falcao was the subject of intense bidding wars, none seemingly large enough for his then club Atletico Madrid, who demanded upwards of £60m for the hitman. Falcao himself pledged his allegiance to Atletico Madrid, spurning the advances of powerhouses Chelsea and Bayern Munich. 

After astonishing goal returns for both Porto (41 goals in 51 matches) and Atletico Madrid (52 goals in 67 matches), Falcao stock's began to rise and he quickly became one of Europe's most coveted. For years, fans and pundits alike demanded Falcao try his hand in England or perhaps Germany, still Falcao refused to budge. 

The Columbian then jumped ship to newly promoted french side Monaco (although, a historically successful side in French football.) The player claimed to be following in the footsteps of his "idol" Thierry Henry. Don't insult our intelligence Falcao, you might as well have said; 'I will be making tons of money!'

I would have respected you more. Falcao has effectively ruined his chance of winning the Champions League as well as a league title from a major country, I just hope the money was worth it. Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez, also jumped shipped in search of success, with Moutinho in particular with a point to prove. The playmaker had ample chances to join England's best in the past, but declined. The latest to join the revolution is the ageing Ricardo Carvalho, who will be sparred of criticism, as he has done his fair share of traveling and winning.

The moral of the story is, players involved in big money transfers to average or rebuilding teams are contributing to a world of football I fear is evolving in the wrong direction. Financial fair-play can't come soon enough; and as for you footballers who choose to chase big money, I hope your new pay-check can buy you replica trophies, because that it the only way you will see one anytime soon.


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