Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1132, 24 - 30 January 2013
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1132, 24 - 30 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

How money is ruining the beautiful game

Wealthy clubs can bring and buy any footballer they want but that, reports Marwan Zayed, is not fair

Al-Ahram Weekly

Going back in time to the eras of Pele, Maradona, Johann Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer and looking at the current era, one can notice some huge differences in several aspects of the game. Some of these differences are for the good of the game and some others ruined the “beautiful game” as football fans and experts worldwide call it. No doubt it’ll always be the beautiful game and we’ll always love it no matter what happens to it or around it. But that doesn’t mean that we should disregard the problems facing the game nowadays.
In recent years a monster called money invaded the game and affected it in a hugely negative way. This ogre is ruining teams, talent and the game itself. During the days of the superstars mentioned, football was played for the sake of the sport and not for the sake of money. Clubs did not have millions to spend, players did not demand millions to play and agents did not ask for millions to look after their players. Of course big superstar names earned a lot of money but their careers did not revolve around money – there’s a difference. Players did not switch clubs every season searching for more money.  They were loyal, passionate and dedicated to the cause of their clubs. Desire and love for the game were what based their decisions.
Taking a quick look at players these days, it’s easy to see that money plays a big role in most of the decisions they take. Glory, fame and loyalty are not a priority for players anymore. Money, money, money is all what they care about and we have several examples of this frightening reality. Maradona, arguably the best player in the history of football, moved from Barcelona, one of the biggest clubs in the world, to Napoli, a small club in Italy that never won a league or European title before then. This was a move that rocked the world of football and surprised fans all over the world at the time. Experts and fans thought it a step backwards for Maradona, however, the legendary Argentine had another opinion which he proved on the pitch. It was a win-win situation for both parties. Napoli won their first and only league title in their history, won the UEFA cup, Italian cup, and Italian super cup and finished second in the league twice. As for Maradona, many would say he is considered the best player in history largely because of his achievements during his seven-year stint at Napoli where he was crowned top scorer once and played a leading role in winning those trophies. He became a club icon and in honour of his achievements the club officially retired his No 10 jersey. This move was solely motivated by the passion to make history and not for money as Maradona could have earned more money at some other club. When asked about the move at that time and why he didn’t he move to a bigger club he said he wanted to make history with Napoli. True to his word, he didn’t disappoint.
On the other hand, many superstars today base their career decisions only on money. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Didier Drogba are some of the names that recently left their clubs to join inferior outfits in poorer leagues, especially Drogba, just for the sake of money. Ibrahimovic, fresh from starring at the Euros for Sweden, moved from AC Milan and Serie A to PSG and Ligue 1. Silva, who’s quickly becoming one of the brightest centre backs in the world, made the same move, while Drogba who won the only missing medal from his trophy cabinet with Chelsea, the Champions League, moved to the Chinese league to Shanghai Shenhua. The previous moves were all based solely on money as any one of these three superstars could have played at any top league and in any top team. Samuel Eto’o and Nicolas Anelka plus others who moved to the Gulf previously made the same moves for the same reason -- cash.
Another aspect of the beautiful game ruined by money is the talent that went begging because their clubs didn’t and still don’t give them a chance to shine. Clubs with extremely wealthy owners who are ready to spend millions to buy new players such as Chelsea, PSG and Manchester City are examples of clubs ruining talent. These clubs take the easy way out and instead of nurturing their young players and youth teams, go out in the market and buy all the bright young talent by offering them vast amounts of money that is difficult to snub.
The problem here is that these players bought by these high spending clubs spend most of their time warming the bench due the excessive number of stars at their new clubs. For example, Manchester City brought Adam Johnson who’s considered one of the brightest talents in England and who can be one of the best wingers in the world, only to buy some bigger names later. As a result, Johnson found himself relegated to the bench to make way for the bigger names such as Samir Nasri. Soon, the little kid lost his place in the England squad for Euro 2012 after being a regular figure in the national set up in previous times.
The same thing can be said about Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian boy was flying high back home with Anderlecht, playing week in week out and scoring goals for fun until he moved to England to join Chelsea. All of a sudden, he found himself warming the bench at the English club. An offer of 18 million English pounds to an 18-year-old boy was of course a lifetime opportunity for the boy to move to a big club like Chelsea, and Anderlecht. At the end of his first season where he played only eight league games and zero Champions League matches, Lukaku declared that he did not deserve the UCL medal after playing no part at all in the competition and said his first season in England was a very disappointing one and that he was kind of depressed for most of the season. The player moved to West Brom on loan this season to play regularly and his decision paid off as he’s scoring again for his new team so far. But a hugely promising talent turned into a wasted one in just eight months. Lukaku must now start all over again to prove he’s got the attributes needed to succeed at the top level.
These same clubs and others keep buying new players all the time only to relegate some other stars to the bench to get squandered by time. This is very common among clubs these days, specifically wealthy clubs. The problem with these wealthy owners and clubs is that they never ever look after their players’ interests. All they care about is star-studded squads that will grab the attention of football fans worldwide. Whether these players are forgotten by time or fulfill their potential is the least of the owners’ problems.
Just over a decade ago Man City were relegated from the EPL to the second division; 12 years later they’re the EPL champions. For some people this might seem an unbelievable achievement, however, it seems kind of silly and sad. It could have really been out of this world feat if they didn’t spend over one billion English pounds in the last three years. But they did spend that much, still do and will keep doing so. It’s understand the feeling of their fans when they clinch the league title in the last game of the season in the last minute of injury time from under the noses of their biggest rivals Manchester United. All of a sudden they’re champions of England thanks to crazy amounts of money spent.
The same thing can be said about Chelsea, a club used to competing for Champions League places every season and rarely made it before the multi-billionaire Russian arrived at the club. Roman Abramovich brought the club in 2003 and since then it has been on the up. After nine years under his ownership, Chelsea won the league title three times, FA cup four times, league cup two times and the Champions League once. A great record of course but could have been greater if all the work was done on the football pitch and not brought and bought with huge amounts of money.
You have to feel for the fans of Bolton, Wigan, Wolves, Blackburn and others that have become used to competing for mid-table places or just plain survival.
How can it be fair that clubs with everlasting amounts of money compete with clubs that barely afford the wages of their low paid players? It’s an impossible task, no doubt.
Fortunately and finally, the UEFA responded by introducing the UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations which was first agreed in principle in September 2009 by the Financial Control Panel of football’s governing body in Europe, the UEFA. The rules were drawn up to prevent professional football clubs spending more than they earn in the pursuit of success and in so doing getting into financial problems which might threaten their long-term survival. Although it came a bit late, the FFP regulations were a very welcome move by the UEFA.

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