With the creation of 24-hour news, transfer deadline day has now taken on the form of a Hollywood thriller. Sky Sports News has you on the edge of your seat, dangling carrots of information and keeping you captivated until the climax of the window closing. Will he, won’t he? How much?
When you go to the cinema, you expect to be entertained and we now demand that of transfer deadline day. We want big names, big moves and big money. But whilst Robinho’s ludicrous £32.5m move to Manchester City was a plot twist Martin Scorsese would have been proud of, it goes to show that money is turning the Premiership into a bloated, artificial blockbuster. It is the Waterworld of European football.
This is a trend off the shelves of Harrods. In the late 90’s, Mohammed Al-Fayed bought Fulham FC, pumped in some money, brought in players from the leagues above and bankrolled a four-year charge to the Premiership. Once there, he lost his nerve. Nowadays, as with everything, the millionaires are billionaires and they want bigger, faster achievements.
Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho and Avram Grant did a superb job at Chelsea, making them into a powerful force in European football. A blank chequebook doesn’t guarantee you success (see Los Galácticos 2003-2006), but the West Londoners would still be a top-eight team without Roman Abramovich’s wealth. Then came the flood: the Glazers to Manchester United, Lerner to Aston Villa, Gillett and Hicks to Liverpool, Shinawatra to Manchester City and even Mittal to QPR. The civil war at Liverpool aside, all those new owners have big plans and big budgets.
But where is the significance in a Premiership where foreign owners pick whichever team they can get their hands on, invest astronomically and, hey ho, find success? That is what will happen. Robinho to Manchester City isn’t a sign that the Premiership is the best league in the world; it is a sign that it is the richest league in the world. Maybe they’ll break into the top four, but only until the next billionaire comes along and picks from whoever is left. Charlton Athletic? They play in a nice part of London. Birmingham City? Great transport links. Or, heck, why not the Portuguese SuperLiga? Great weather, an untapped market and the Brazilians will know the language.
Is our league now so different from the hollow franchise system of Major League Soccer in USA? Every few years a new franchise comes along. The tired old Chelsea of the 90’s with their crumbling stadium and dodgy away kits were replaced with the new Chel$ki™ franchise; a juggernaut with impeccable facilities and a sexy TV channel. The tactically bereft Manchester City of two years ago with their expired England stars have now been replaced with Maracanã City™; a tourist attraction for Brazilians wanting a taste of the Premiership’s riches.
In the Spanish Primera División, they have a fluid league where in the past ten years, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Real Mallorca, Deportivo de La Coruna, Valencia, Villarreal and Sevilla have all broken into the top three alongside Real Madrid and Barcelona. No billionaires and huge investment, just healthy competition. The Premiership may end up with a similar fluidity in the years to come, but there will be nothing healthy about it. When the billionaires have become bored of their new toys, just what will be left of our beautiful game?