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Football has evolved over the past two decades involving the financial side of the coin, and it continues to do so.
Nowadays, players have more power and wealth than ever before, which for me is a sign of more negatives than positives for the game.
Lionel Messi, arguably the best player in the world, has devoted all his life to his childhood club Barcelona in Spain. The club helped him overcome a growth hormone deficiency at 13, paying for his medical treatment. Since then, Messi has given back to them by helping the club win trophies and scoring many goals in the process.
The contract extension was met with relief among fans, knowing beforehand that there was some doubt over whether he would stay.
Big spenders Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City offered lucrative bids, which Messi was having second thoughts about. With money the key factor in Messi’s mind at the time, it only shows how times have changed.
Paolo Maldini. Francesco Totti. Steven Gerrard. Alessandro Del Piero. These were legends that put their childhood clubs before money, because for them it was about representing a club with passion and emotion.
Juventus’ relegation to Serie B over a decade ago is a great example. Legends such as Del Piero, Buffon and Nedved all chose the colours of black and white before money. Zlatan Ibrahimovic left because of money, taking the easy way out.
Totti once said, “they taught us in school that family is the most important thing, did you ever hear of someone who left his poor parents to live with rich strangers?.” A quote like this will never be heard of again.
Loyalty is a thing of the past now, but how did it all come to this?
1995 is where it all started, with a player named Jean-Marc Bosman who wished to move to another club with his contract expiring. This was overruled by FIFA’s governing body, which is now referred to as a ‘Bosman transfer’ when players leave as free agents.
Prior to the Bosman ruling, professional clubs in some parts of Europe were able to prevent players from joining a club in another country even if their contracts had expired.
This has changed the complex of transfer business. Players with one year on their contract for example have the power to force a move away elsewhere as clubs don’t want to lose out on money for the player.
The mid 2000s came along and it was there where ownership started to be a controlling factor in the world of football.
Many billionaires have decided to spend crazy amounts of money on clubs with billionaires such as Roman Abramovich of Chelsea, Sheikh Mansour of Manchester City and Nasser Al-Khelaifi of PSG.
To be fair, the billions being spent have helped those three clubs mentioned win domestic league titles and have helped compete in the Champions League (and so it should), but it doesn’t change the fact that its simply just a game about who can offer the most money, something that in my view shouldn’t be happening.
UEFA have introduced the Financial Fair Play system where a certain amount of revenue needs to be made by a club in order to spend big, which has resulted in transfer bans to big clubs such as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
However, these punishments and rule changes are never going to fix the problem completely.
Every summer transfer window seems to read the headline ‘record transfer fee’. Having a world record fee on your back is hard not to think about as a professional, just ask Paul Pogba.
After being poorly treated in Manchester, he said in an interview that he never wanted to come back. The Frenchman was considered a flop since his move back to Manchester United for $105 million.
This market inflation doesn’t do any favours for any players. Just let them be and get on with the game. Ridiculous amounts of money shouldn’t be needed.
Agents are a nightmare in the modern game. They are now able to control their clients futures simply for their own benefits of earning as much money as possible.
Mino Raiola is a real culprit of this. He was able to pocket $27 million of the transfer money for Paul Pogba’s move from Juventus to Manchester United.
Just recently, young teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma stated that he wanted to stay at AC Milan for life and be captain one day because he was a supporter growing up. He refused a $6 million contract extension, simply because he had Raiola whispering in his ear encouraging him to move to Real Madrid or PSG because of the promise of more money.
That money being spent on already rich agents should be going towards better causes such as the grassroots setup at youth academies.
It sums up what is wrong with modern day football.
I understand that large amounts of money being thrown around can help small clubs kick on and create a healthy economy in world football, but don’t expect loyalty to appear at your favourite club.
Unfortunately, Messi’s attachment to one club will most definitely be the last we witness.