In the Old World there were four models for football teams:
a) The KGB Fulham approach in which rich owners spent anything they wanted to buy success
b) Manchester IOU and Liverpool I spend more on new players than they receive each year in the hope that one day someone will buy them out
c) The Arsenal approach in which finances are kept under control, with a strong youth policy and a profit on player transfers.
d) The borrow-borrow approach in which everything is gambled on immediate success. Leeds and Southampton are perfect examples.
The authorities started to deal with option d) a few years ago by punishing clubs going into administration getting punished by points deduction.
The Chelsea option is now seen to be covered in flaws. First there is the utter and complete failure of their desire to be self-sufficient.
In December 2008 Peter Kenyon said that the KGB would be self-sufficient by July 1 2009. The full story was covered in the Guardian, and included the clear statement that there was “a commitment that would ensure they are no longer reliant upon Roman Abramovich’s interest-free loans to cover costs, from players’ wages to forays into the transfer market.”
There is now no sign of that, just as there is no sign of the KGB’s youth policy. That “policy” was utterly destroyed by Jonjo Shelvey, the 17-year-old midfielder at Charlton, turned down the chance to join Chelsea for £3.5m. He turned them down because not one single player who has joined Chelsea’s youth squad has got within a million miles of EPL football. Not just at Chelsea, but anywhere.
So that leads us to method b – the Liverpool/Manchester model. I’ll focus on Liverpool, but the same points can be made about Manchester IOU.
Rafael Benítez is one of the big spenders in an ongoing desperate attempt to win the EPL. Last win 1990 – forget Unbeaten Seasons, doubles, and all that stuff. Forget 91 years since we entered the top division. This is desperation land.
When the owners did a deal with RBS last month it is now clear that they agreed to repay £60m debt IN THE NEXT YEAR. In simple terms that is over £160,000 a day – for a club that is losing money. No wonder Benítez can’t even afford to buy Michael Turner from Hull.
Now to get this in full perspective, remember that Benitez was very slow to sign his new contract with the American owners. When he did so he did it because (as was widely publicised) he got a deal which meant he could spend EVERY YEAR what he received in transfer income PLUS £20m.
We know also that the owners are fellows of dubious character – after all they said they would not do a leveraged buy out, but did. And they said they would use the £350 to buy a new stadium. But, somehow it slipped their minds – tricky thing this memory lark.
So they said, “ooops sorry when we said Mr Bean you could have the money what we meant was, you couldn’t have the money”.
Benítez has so far spent £37m on Johnson and Aquilani – peanuts by the normal standards of Liverpool. About £17m has come back from selling Leto, Arbeloa, Jack Hobbs, Paul Anderson and Keane to the tinies in January.
So he is £20m down for £30m, so surely he must have another £10m to spend, at least. But the owners are not being that forthcoming. That might be it. After all, where the hell are these guys going to get £60m from by the end of the season?
Here’s a quote from Benitez. It is hard to believe it is from Benitez because it just doesn’t sound like him. But believe me it is.
“We have to work with the players we have at this moment and keep working with the scouting department…. We had some money but I will not talk about figures. When you talk about the figures I think it is clear. I will not say anything. I don’t have the answer. We are working hard with the players we have and the money we have. Always it is difficult to compete in the Premier League with clubs who have more money…. To sign better players than we have now is not easy. If you analyse it you have to spend big, big money to sign these players. We have to manage with the players we have and I am pleased with them and hopefully with the experience of last season they will be better….
“I think we have some young players who need to improve… The priority was to extend the contract of the senior players to make sure we kept the spine of the team….
I would say to everyone who thinks about Arsenal and Wenger and says, “Spend Spend Spend” – just compare where we are to the others.
Manchester IOU look to be not spending. Liverpool I definitely in serious financial trouble and not spending. KGB Chelsea finding that even a young Charlton player won’t sign for them because of the failure of their youth policy, while their much flaunted “sufficiency” policy hits the dirt. Manchester Arab finding that just waving money at players doesn’t work any more.
Compare Arsenal who this year bring in the following players who did not play anything like a full season last year…
Eduardo, Rosicky, Arshavin, Wilshere, Walcott, Fabregas, Vermaelen, Gallas
All of them were out for long spells last season either through injury or because they were yet to join us. Even if half of them suffer injuries for half the season we will still be far better off than last year.
No wonder clubs are not saying, “Hey let’s do a Portsmouth and find a rich Arab.” No, they are all saying, “Let’s do an Arsenal.”
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