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Man C, Chelsea and now PSG find out: money does not guarantee success in football

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“Making the Arsenal” – is available on Amazon, Arsenal on line, the Woolwich Arsenal site and in the Arsenal store.

By Tony Attwood

After Manchester City beat us 1-0 in the League Cup, having had one shot on target I suggested it was the most expensive shot in football history, if one added up the cost of their squad on that day.  Not my best line, but you know, you get good days and ordinary days when writing a blog.

But still, it made me think.  Prior to that we’d all noted how despite the millions spent on their team, Chelsea were unable to guarantee trophies – and certainly not able to achieve their goal of winning the Champs League.

Since then we have had the failure of Manchester U and Manchester C (both rich clubs with huge incomes – although in the case of Manchester U with huge outpourings to non-football matters too) to reach the next round of the Champs League itself.  Plus the failure of a Redknapp inspired transfer dealing club to make it into the knock outs of the Europa League, placing them at the same sort of Euro standard as Birmingham City.

But of course it is not just England that has clubs run by people with huge amounts of dosh.   It is happening in Russia, in Spain and in France – and certainly in the latter case they seem to be experiencing the same problem.

In France we have PSG who shot to the top of the league on the back of the investment from overseas, and we now have the news that Monaco, who have suffered total collapse in recent years and linger at the foot of the second division, are just being taken over in a similar way.

And yet, and yet, money still isn’t the instant route to success that the rich boys like to think.

We can see this not just because our Manchester chums went into the Europa League, but because PSG emulated Tottenham by going out of the Europa League this week.

PSG scored two goals in the last five minutes at Parc des Princes in a 4-2 win against Athletic Bilbao but  Salzburg beat Slovan Bratislava 3-2 and so it is they and Bilbao who go through.

And what will PSG do?  Most likely sack their coach Mr Kombouaré – nothing personal it is just what very rich clubs do when they don’t get everything their own way.  Carlo Ancelotti might take a pot shot at the job.

PSG are owned by OSI of Qatar and spent €82m in the summer.  They are joint top of the league and still in the Cup (but not the league cup).

I remember when Chelsea first got their billions, a journalist on Radio 5 asked fans who would win the league next year.  One guy said, “Chelsea – this year, next year, the year after and every year until Abramovich gets fed up.”  And it was tempting to think that.  But it hasn’t happened.

Of course money is needed, and money helps, but it does not guarantee success.  Indeed in some ways it can be an impediment, because the temptation is to buy so many players in so quickly that the settled team never appears.   Yes of course Man City have no real problem with Clichy being banned from their game with us for his red card – they probably have 15 left backs sitting around somewhere ready to play.  But I really do believe that the fight, and the spirit, and the drive that can come from a team that doesn’t have such a level of resources is often missing in the mega rich clubs, such that when they shuffle the team around, they don’t get the best out of the players.

Players go to rich clubs for money – sometimes an extra £2 a year on top of the £4m a year already being earned.  They also speak of going to rich clubs to win things, and I can understand this.  (Indeed as I write the current blog series on the Dark Years at Arsenal when Swindin and Wright were the managers, I feel for some of our wonderful players of the era who never won anything with the club).

But I believe they also want to play at lot – and it was obvious to many observers, I believe, that when Flamini went to Milan, his performance on the pitch suffered because he was reduced to occasional first team starts, plus for a fair number of matches coming on towards the end, as a sub.  Nasri isn’t suffering the same fate exactly, but I think he is declining somewhat from a lack of being in every possible starting line up.

Money helps, there is no doubt, but it doesn’t buy success, and so I begin to wonder how long the new club owners will continue to kid themselves that it can buy success.

People do kid themselves for years on end.  If you went to a school in the UK where the headteacher lectured you in assembly each day about behaving properly and working hard, you’ll have experienced exactly that situation – the mindless belief in the face of all the evidence that a 50 year old lecturing a bunch of teenagers on a daily basis actually achieves very much.

In the end I expect they’ll stop doing it, and go and buy something else instead, although that eventuality is still probably quite a few years away.

But in the meanwhile, I am rather heartened.  Not only does money not buy you love (as the Beatles said some time in my youth) money doesn’t automatically buy success in football either.  It can work – but not always.

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4 comments to Man C, Chelsea and now PSG find out: money does not guarantee success in football

  • WalterBroeckx

    I sure hope that money doesn’t buy the CL trophy for a long time. In a way it did already because all the debt that all thos winners have made was also some kind of financial doping but we cannot but hope that one day they will all pay the price

  • Piers Fallowcherry

    There’s also the question of diminishing returns as the circle of bloated ownership widens.

    When Abramovich bought Chelsea, he was pretty much the only game in town when it came to hoovering up talent. City, of course, have taken it to another level and their owners appear to have deeper pockets than any. With the others, PSG, Malaga, that bunch at the far end of Russia and the rest joining the party – and let’s not forget the eternal wallet of Real Madrid – the old truth will come back to bite ’em: there’s only ever so much talent to go round.

    Having untold wealth ain’t so much when the other guys have got it too.

  • Shard

    Tony,
    I think they won’t walk away from it. Because I don’t think they’re in it for the ‘success’. Success helps them stay there and keep those pesky fans quiet, especially when the media just says spend spend spend, as the solution to everything. But, football as an industry, despite the millions (billions?) it generates, is a loss making industry. Only Arsenal in the EPL make any significant profits. The rest, even if they do make profits are so low so as to not be able to justify the amount of money being invested. If the owners of Blackburn spent 40m on any of their businesses, they might have had some return on it. My guess is that football operates as a way to launder some money. (Birmingham’s owner is being tried for it) That’s the only way it makes sense that so many rich people are putting in so much of their money into it. Rich people don’t become rich by giving money away. Leave alone for some trophy.

  • Damien Luu

    Totally agree with Shard, especially in cases of Russian owners. The oil boys might just be stupid, or having too much money that they don’t know where to throw to, though.

    It will be a very long way to the fairness, but we can and should be proud of the Arsenal way all the way.