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Monday, 27 February 2012

Fair Play At A Price

Since time immemorial, Uefa’s financial fair play rules have been skulking around in the shadows of polite chat in football circles. It was Arsenal’s Herbert Chapman who first busied himself snaffling the brightest and best from across the country – Alex James, Cliff Bastin, Eddie Hapgood, Herbie Roberts and David Jack – in the late 1920s in a bid to thwart Michel Platini jr jr jr and the other suits at Europe’s governing body as he pre-empted said regulations*. From Chapman to latter day incarnations, managers have always attempted to prize as much filthy lucre from their chairman’s cold hands as possible. And after a quiet January transfer window for once, following the batshit mentalness of last year, bracing oneself for an equally capricious summer of transfer activity would be a sound idea.

This is in no small part due to a) aforementioned Uefa rules set to FINALLY come into play in the 2014-15 season and b) English clubs’ relatively poor showings in the Champions League (at the time of writing, this was both Manchester clubs out and Chelsea and Arsenal on the verge of following suit). Despite Europe’s top teams enjoying rising incomes in recent years, debts have spiralled in concert and to avoid a monumental bursting of the bubble, most would agree that Uefa had to step in. While this may well prove to be beneficial in the long term, it also paves the way for big old wads of cash to change hands at this season’s end. And Napoli could be one of the biggest losers as Chelsea/and or Manchester City ruin everything for everyone. Again.

It’s been a joy watching Napoli this season: Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik have lived up to their billing as they’ve terrorised defences, both domestic and continental. But beware a wounded Roman Abramovich – the Chelsea owner would not bat an eyelid on pissing on everyone’s collective chips by dismantling this Napoli side. Nor would Sheikh Mansour for that matter, but I’m focusing on the Russian because he has form on this. Remember Andriy Shevchenko? Everyone loved him, right? He was the sort of player who should never have played in the Premier League, instead watched from afar and prized as a thing of immense beauty that we were lucky enough to see once or twice a season should AC Milan draw an English side in the big cup. But oh no, Abramovich just had to get involved didn’t he.

Remember Michael Ballack? I used to love watching him for Leverkusen and Bayern Munich. The epitome of efficiency, technique and that very German sense of entitlement (merited it was too), Ballack was, like Effenberg and Moller before him, a totem. And therefore one that should never have left German shores, or at least arrived on English ones. Again, it is perhaps my unique neuroses on the subject but certain players shouldn’t come to England, in order to retain their ‘otherness’ and aura. I’m infinitely glad that some of my heroes never graced the Premier League: Fernando Redondo, Rui Costa, Hristo Stoichkov, Gheorghe Hagi, Romario, Lilian Thuram, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Pavel Nedved, Roberto Donadoni; it would have cheapened them for me, seeing them trot out in the Carling Cup against Dagenham & Redbridge (apologies to any Dagenham & Redbridge fans, only mild offence was intended). If English owners stuck to my motto that ‘Marquee signings are for Madrid’, the world would be a much better place.

Remember Fernando Torres anyone? *pregnant pause*

Anyway, back to Napoli. Napoli are great. Run of Play’s Brian Philips sums up the situation eloquently as ever here at Grantland and he’s absolutely spot on. It’s a cracking football story. Enjoy them this season, because if Abramovich has his way, he’ll have Cavani and Lavezzi on a plane to Heathrow before you can say “David Luiz isn’t a defender”. And then they’ll both inevitably take an inordinate amount of time to ‘settle in’ and the media will question whether they can adapt to the English game or not because they couldn’t score at Carrow Road, and the whole thing will have been sullied as they bugger off to Juventus or PSG with nine goals between them. Please Messrs. Abramovich and Mansour, I implore you, don’t ruin everything for everyone else. I’ll even allow you to buy Christian Eriksen or Eden Hazard.

*This isn’t true

1 comment:

  1. Of course, you ignore the fact that Fernando Torres was a goalscoring machine in his first two seasons at Liverpool, which is why Chelsea were persuaded to stump up £50m for him.