This is the modern way
For the last few years I’ve been watching the football world change to such an extent that it’s hardly recognisable. When you consider the success the beautiful game has enjoyed since its inception in the 1800s, and its popularity, we sometimes ask ourselves ‘why are they changing that?’ or confidently state that ‘they’ll never make it work with that system’. We’re all armchair experts at times, sometimes we can look a bit daft, and we have to accept the game doesn’t stand still for anyone whether we like it or not.
The obvious area in which we can see a huge difference is with money. The amount of cash being pumped into football is a clear indicator of its popularity. UEFA have had to introduce regulations to stop countries from purchasing clubs and making it impossible for teams to compete, we obviously know this as Financial Fair Play. Teams like Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain have been a tad unlucky with this; they’ve spent within their means, re-developed communities and strived to build an empire – sadly for them the authorities recognised that football would be in danger of being predictable if they could spend as much as they wanted. It’ll be interesting to see how PSG talk their way out of the £198 million they paid for Neymar, surely they can’t cook the books that much.
For the teams without oligarchs or sheikhs to bankroll them, there’s plenty TV money to throw around, especially in the Premier League. The last EPL television package was in excess of £5 billion for a three year deal, this gives each club a staggering £80 odd million per season in TV revenue (that’s just from Sky and BT) – some experts feel that this figure will continue to rise, the likes of Amazon TV haven’t got involved yet. The purists hate this, they want working class lads entertaining them. I’m not saying I want overpaid ego maniacs stepping on to the field every week, but who should get the money? The fat cats in the boardroom? The TV companies? I feel that the people responsible for the entertainment are the players, if they create this much wealth then it should go into their pockets. Other than staggering salary packages, this TV money is driving up record transfer bids – why would Swansea not hold out for £45 million for Gylfi Sigurdsson? They know Everton have the cash so they stand firm, all clubs are the same.
My only complaint about the way finances influence English football is the effect it has on youth development. Clubs simply overlook academy products because foreign players have a bit of experience, this means that Manchester United buy Marcos Rojo for approximately £18 million and allow Jonny Evans and Michael Keane to leave for less than £10 million combined. I’m not saying I think Rojo is a bad player, it’s just short sighted. Chelsea are the worst for it, their youth team seems to be the best every year but they never break into the first team on a regular basis. Gary Neville always said the cream rise to the top, it doesn’t necessarily seem to be the case anymore. It doesn’t seem to be worth the risk for managers whose jobs are constantly on the line.
I know I’m going to sound old beyond my years now, but… In my day the most successful teams kept hold of their managers, Manchester United are the obvious example – under Sir Alex Ferguson they won 13 Premier League titles. Bolton Wanderers finished in the top 8 in Sam Allardyce’s last three or four seasons, when you consider that the league was the strongest in Europe at that time it’s even more impressive. Before David Moyes arrived at Everton they hadn’t finished in the top half of the table for six years, apart from the odd blip the Toffees regularly punched above their weight in the eleven years that Moyes was in charge. Obviously I’m talking about relative success here, Liverpool won a European Cup in this period, and finished in the top 4 pretty much every year, but the managerial merry-go-round before this period allowed them to lose their grip on dominance. So, let’s compare this to the ‘modern way’ – Chelsea sack their manager pretty much every other year, this has seen them win the Premier League 5 times during the Roman Abramovich era, they’ve even thrown in a Champions League and loads of cups for good measure. Arsenal, on the other hand, have come nowhere near the league title or the Champions League for a long time – that’s their reward for sticking by their manager. I think we’ve got some of the best managers around in our league; Conte, Pochettino, Klopp, Guardiola and Mourinho all have some serious ability, I wonder if the modern way will continue with them.