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Money: the language of European football

Roar Guru
17th September, 2011
1

Little did we know when Roman Abramovich took over in 2003 at Stamford Bridge that he would not only steer Chelsea away from mediocrity and establish it as one of Europe’s finest, but nearly a decade on, pioneer one of footballs most controversial movements.

Football is cauldron of politics, sport, opinions and passion that divides and unites – from tactics, styles and approaches in relation to the very way it’s played there is always an objector or an unimpressed critic.

The same goes for how a club is assembled.

Traditionalists would loathe the extravagant spending and the bullying of even the most prestigious clubs by way of intimidating transfer offers and wages, while the pragmatists would praise it for the boldness and audacity.

Abramovich is the prime example, stepping into the most draining and pressure cooked environment that is the elite European footballing scene.

Love him or hate him, Abramovich and Chelsea have no doubt had remarkable success over the last decade.

A cabinet of trophies Chelsea could only have dreamt about, even under the tutelage of managers of the calibre of Ruud Gullit and Gianluca Vialli who promised so much in the laste 90s and early 00s, have been won during the Abramovich era.

Despite claiming the FA Cup in 1997 and 2000 a reputation and history of underachieving and the elusiveness of that hallowed league title blighted a club that was thereabouts but never a threat to the English elite just prior to Abramovich’s arrival.

An embarrassment of riches have helped it secure its place among Europe’s finest and their vindicated success has caused others to follow suit.

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Now, as we stand on the cusp of a significant change in European football, we can examine who is destined to break into the continent’s elite, having adopted Chelsea’s formula.

Manchester City

We can go back as far as 2008, with the arrival of ill-fated arrival of Robinho after Sheik Mansour bought out the ‘Citizens’.

The arrivals of Kolo and Yaya Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor, Nigel De Jong, Vincent Kompany, Joleon Lescott and Carlos Tevez followed when they just missed out on Champions League qualification.

But last season’s arrivals David Silva and Edin Dzeko plus this summer’s swoops on Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy has gotten Etihad Stadium excited again, especially with their spectacular early season form.

They now have the depth and quality to trouble anyone and have the necessary nucleus of players and synergy amongst the group to forge an identity of their own as a hard, tough and explosive unit.

Their financial muscle has transformed this previously run-of-the-mill team into a continental superpower.

Malaga

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The La Liga outfit has strengthened its squad considerably, with a spine containing the likes of Jeremy Toulalan, Julio Baptista, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Joris Mathijsen, Joaquin, Martin Demichelis and Santi Cazorla.

They are perhaps still in the early stages of its transformation, but have a team capable of finishing top four as threats such as Atletico Madrid, Villareal, Valencia and Sevilla have all weakened as the Island club have grown.

Sheik Al-Thani’s euros have turned this modest team into a potential giant on the domestic and continental scene.

Paris Saint Germain

Having been bought out by another wealthy Arab investment group in Qatar Sports Investment, PSG, who have long flirted with mediocrity belieing its status as one of France’s big three, have responded with the capture of hot property Javier Patore as well as Jeremy Menez, Kevin Gameiro, Diego Lugano, Salvatore Sirigu and importantly a replaciement for departed legend Claude Makelele in Mohamed Sissoko.

This compliments an already established and competent squad containing captain Mamadou Sakho, Clement Chantome, Blaise Matuidi, Nene and Mevlut Erdnic and Mathieu Bodmer, PSG are more than capable of toppling the dominance of Lyon and Marseille and delivering a first European crown.

Napoli

Napoli have not been bought out or been invested heavily, but solid financial management has allowed the club from Naples a spot in the Champions League and a return to its former glories, when one Diego Maradona was ruling the roost.

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Paolo Cannavaro, Andrea Dossena, Walter Gargano and Gokhan Inler provide the steel while stars Marek Hamsik, Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi provide the spark and brilliance to reward the tireless engines of Christian Maggio and the on-loan Goran Pandev.

Having combined shrewd but important buys with the nurturing of local talent, Napoli may well be able to maintain a sustained period at the top and break the local dominance of the Milanese clubs.

Anzhi

The Russian team have secured a real coup in signing Samuel Eto’o, and while Yuri Zhirkov and the evergreen skipper Roberto Carlos represent the only players of any real pedigree in a team that finished 11th in the league last year, the millions that are burning in the pockets of its owners will surely mean they mean business and next summer could be a real shock to the rest of Europe.

If an 87 million euro offer was truly offered for Porto marksman Hulk on the last day of the summer transfer window, there is no limit to who they could poach in the future.

Stoke City

Don’t know, don’t ask. If Man City’s spending power is equivalent to that of the Reserve Bank then the Potters’ is about that of the local bank.

Most alarmingly, they have already splurged nearly £20m on a double swoop for Wilson Palacios and Peter Crouch from Tottenham and now Tony Pulis’ men are ready to take that next step.

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Last years FA Cup runner-up should get used to preparing for both domestic and continental competitions as they are in the Europa League this season because they are potentially a threat to poaching a 6th or 7th table finish in the future.

Secure and experienced centre halves Ryan Shawcross, ex-Chelsea man Robert Huth and England international Matthew Upson as well as former Los Blancos defender Jonathan Woodgate present one of the best defences in the league.

Jermaine Pennant, Wilson Palacios, Cameron Jerome, Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones pose a literally ‘big’ threat up front and while they lack class and creativity, that’s not really a worry as their direct and long ball approach means this team may trouble many with its distinctive strengths in size complementing its style.

It may all be a false dawn, but it is nice to see another English club other than the usual spending and getting results.

It is quite clear that the the expanding funds of teams have meant that they have been able to attract some of the biggest stars on any scale and while it has taken some longer than others it is all coming together for some of Europe’s newest emerging powers.

Money has fundamentally changed football and it is now the only way in modern football to break the shackles and have any real meaningful impact on the game, from Chelsea right through to Anzhi.

The future is bright, but at what cost?

The financial fair play regulations have begun, but really if the desire is there then any means is acceptable in my view to achieve the seemingly unachievable.

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What impact do you think these teams can potentially have now, and into the future, and is money the only way to get quick and definite results?