Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Friday January 16 2009
The most sensational transfer football has ever seen is gathering apace this morning, reports that A.C. Milan are "mulling over" a bid reported to be in the region of £107m for their prized son Kaka are circulating. The Brazilian famed for expressing his subservience to Jesus through various tee short slogans might stand to trouser a cool £500,000 a week. Though one hopes though that if Kaka really does belong to Jesus, as he claims, that this will not be considered third party ownership and thus a repeat of the sordid Tevez to West Ham transfer saga. The audacity and sheer size of this proposed transfer has set even those of us decidedly less garrulous about transfers talking, the general jist of public opinion has seen a mixture of disapproving tut tutting and histrionic cries of "won`t somebody please think of the children?"
Firstly, I will address the moral issue, insofar as one actually exists. I have seen it reported in many quarters that the sort of sums being bandied about are unseemly and immoral, particularly whilst the media are doing their damndest to try and convince us apocalypse is nigh and "experts" predict the biggest economic slump in history. (Funny how none of these "experts" foresaw the economic crash in their crystal balls in January 2008). That God awful phrase that seems to punctuate every sentence uttered at the moment, "credit crunch" seems to have added some extra brimstone as we stoke our moral fires in disgust. I find this an incredibly hypocritical way of thinking, whilst we look on and take umbrage at such a pornographic splash of cash (or money shot if you want to take the metaphor further) as we struggle with our mortgages, there are small children in Rwanda perishing in malnourishment who probably couldn`t give a pitchers putt about "the credit crunch" and would probably look upon our complaints that we may no longer be able to afford Setanta with equal disgust. I am aware of these things, starvation, Third World debt, oppressive and brutal regimes. But it never prevented me spending thousands of pounds a year following a football team around the country and beyond. I also know that a £10 standing order or the odd Charity Run won`t resolve these issues, though they may do a wonderful job of temporarily assuaging my middle class, liberal guilt. That`s pretty obscene if you think about it. The money we spent on club merchandise this Christmas would likely have fed entire families in dire need. So what right do I, or most of you reading, have to lambaste an oil rich billionaire for spending a portion of his wealth on a footballer? Particularly from the comfort of my centrally heated, internet enabled flat. Socialism is a very marginal political philosophy in most of Europe, certainly in this country, but it`s funny how many people don the beret and become bleeding heart socialists when it suits them. This is the society we chose and continue to choose, the free market is what it is all about. We vote for it, we are complicit in it, we get what we deserve.
Now I have managed to make us all feel incredibly bad about ourselves, let us look at the implications a transfer such as this has on the game at large. As with most things in life there is a clear yin and a succinct yang. Our manager expressed concerns surrounding what this might mean for the transfer market. Especially during a time when the economic reality we inhabit is likely to mean a mass sobering up for football clubs demanding huge piles of cash (mentioning no names Zenit St. Petersburg) and for footballers inebriating themselves on the narcotic troughs of cash. Wenger described the proposed deal as "inflationary in a deflationary world." I will acquiesce to Le Boss` superior knowledge in this department, given that one of his degrees specialises in the subject. My degree was very worthwhile too, but analysing Jane Austen`s prose style hardly gives one a sumptuous command of the fiscal language. However, footballers, though not typically the brightest bunch, must be aware that these sort of exorbitant salaries are not going to be on offer at any other club. Will Kaka earning half a mill a week really encourage the likes of Arshavin to demand parity from Arsenal? You would think not. Once again, whilst City hold this gargantuan wealth, the whole of football at large is complicit here. If City were to come in for Fabregas and offered £150m, you can beat your sweet hiney that we would have no compunction about pocketing the dosh for ourselves. There again, the circular argument goes that this mass redistribution of Sheikh Mansour`s wealth will have a mass inflationary effect. If Milan do agree to sell Kaka for over £100m, their replacement(s) is likely to cost a larger sum, as the club they choose to purchase from will be fully aware that they have the GDP of Libya burning a hole in their sky rockets. Kaka`s replacement will be aware of this too when time comes to negotiate his salary. Though it would be great to see a player of Kaka`s peerless quality in our league, the overall destabilising effect on the transfer market and broadening gulf between the top clubs and the rest will likely mean a trade off with more in the debit column than the credit column.
There are also the effects on Manchester City football club. When you have one team mate earning close to ten times the amount his colleagues are, team spirit will be incredibly difficult to forge. Money has many properties, but alchemy is not one of them. Resentment will likely be cancerous; I imagine Robinho might beat the door down here. If you`re Wayne Bridge playing left back with Kaka ahead of you, there is hardly much incentive to fight for the team when one member of that team might well wipe his arse with your weekly pay cheque. The prospect of a mistimed tackle in training from a team mate, leaving Kaka`s leg in tatters will likely spell instant expulsion. What is clear is that Kaka will be untouchable; a spell of bad form will see him picked regardless. After all, you don`t spend £500,000 a week to keep your bench toasty. What is also clear is that the Sheikhs have made their play. This move reveals that they have no interest in building a football club in the manner that Randy Lerner has over at Aston Villa, this is now officially, transparent playboy stuff. The Sheikhs have bought this club as an expensive, ego massaging plaything, their interest is showing the world what`s between their legs as it were and not to build a sporting institution of legacy in any long term sense of the word. Villa have flourished because Lerner has ceded control of the club`s affairs to an excellent manager who understands the need for steady progress. What goes up; comes down just as quickly. (Arsenal`s recent decline has been much in the manner of their ascent, gradual. Chelsea`s fall will be equally as astronomical as their rise).
So where does that leave City? In the short term, success is inevitable. It`s not a question of "if" but "when" will they break into the Champions` League. Much in the manner of Chelsea during Mourinho`s reign, City can afford a scattergun, careless transfer policy. Throw enough shit at a wall and enough will stick. Just as Chelsea could afford to discard Crespo, Veron, Kezman and del Horno without pause for thought, City will be able to buy and buy and buy and sack managers and employ managers until eventually it all comes off. But in the long term, a transfer such as the one mooted for Kaka, and any other similarly wild transactions, will enslave City further and further to their owners. The Sheikhs may stick around for five years; they might stick around for fifty, during which time City can buy success after success. But the Sheikhs cannot and will not be there forever (they cannot afford immortality, they are just as given to the reaper as the rest of us), the sort of wage bill they will be supporting will ensure that City will be crushed by unserviceable debt in an instant. In the long term, Manchester City are going to go the wall and I find that a great shame for the game of football and for their supporters- who have always been excellent value in good times and bad. I maybe wrong, but I haven`t heard of any plans to pump cash into their already excellent academy, so when the fire sale that follows the Sheikhs departure takes place, there won`t be much for them to fall back on. All in all I find it a bit sad, but this is the "greed is good league" now and whilst City will lurch heroically from excess to excess for our entertainment like a footballing Amy Winehouse, much like Ms. Winehouse, you know it`s all going to end in tears. I hope when those tears are being shed, Arsenal fans might look back and be grateful for the prudence of the current board.LD.
Date:Friday January 16 2009
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