By Tony Attwood
There were two utterly contradictory stories in the British press this Sunday. In the Sunday Times there was the tale of Manchester City deciding that they were going to sort financial matters out and try and get themselves within the requirements of Financial Fair Play.
The other papers ran with the story that their sporting director Txiki Begiristain has flown to Brazil for talks to sign the 20 year old striker Neymar at the end of the season, as a prelude to finally getting rid of Mario Balotelli. Although not overtly stated, there was a suggestion in passing that Balotelli would be offered at a knock down price so that whatever club he went to could maintain his City salary.
But Barcelona are also said to be after Neymar and few people seem to doubt that Santos will sell him. Chelsea and Real Madrid have also shown an interest, with the asking price being around £32m.
One of the interesting facts in this story is that Brazil would like their star to remain in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup but quite amazingly Brazil is currently ranked number 18 in the world. There is a partial explanation of this in that Brazil as world cup hosts is only playing friendlies (as they don’t have to qualify) but even so… 18!!!
While on this topic it is interesting to look at a few other rankings. USA is down to 28th in the world – despite having put in positive performances in the World Cup finals over recent years.
Here’s the rankings at the top:
Anyway, back to Manchester City – if they can’t do a deal in Brazil they will have a go at getting Radomel Falcao from Atletico Madrid – but then again both Chelsea and Real Madrid are in the market at around £48m – although not until the summer.
Chelsea are also after Bayer Leverkusen’s Andre Schurrle up front, and he will cost around £25m.
So what is going on? Are these clubs with the almost limitless finances going to try and balance the books and thus meet FFP, or not (and so stand up to Uefa and say “Ban us if you dare”?
In one sense they could buy players such as those mentioned and balance the books with a mass clear out. It is said that Man City have around 50 professional players on good salaries, and what they want to do is have maybe four or five world class players, and bring in lesser players in the remaining positions. Fire sales, this scenario suggests, will be the order of the day.
As the last story we published said, Uefa is starting to do the business, by banning Malaga from Europe for the next four years. But would they really do this with Chelsea and Man City?
Chelsea have long tried to get around the problem by developing their own youth policy – a story we have covered many times in the past. That, it is hoped, would bring through their own young players like Jack Wilshere while following the Arsenal model of investing in promising youth from elsewhere. Also there is talk of Daniel Sturridge going to Liverpool for £12m in January – but such a sale would hardly scratch the surface of their problem with getting to grips with FFP.
But the overall point is that Chelsea and Man City are struggling to develop their international exposure any further in terms of real revenue, as they have already made the leaps in sponsorship deals that Arsenal are only just coming to (such as the new deal with the Emirates).
So Chelsea and Man City are now in a position of finding it hard to move the marketing up further, while adjusting the cost of players’ salaries (the one truly big expense that could be brought down) is all they have left. Yes, setting up a youth system is good, but it takes time and there never are any guarantees that your promising youngsters will become the stars of tomorrow.
Although the AAA, in one of its more recent statements, has said that it is important that Mr Wenger should not be allowed to buy any more players, because his choice of players is so poor, the reality is that all top managers buy players who don’t work out. In fact as far as I can tell, Mr Wenger is a better judge of youth than most.
I can’t tell you, any more than you can tell me, which player or players at Arsenal really will come through and shine for us, but with Kyle Ebecilio, Damian Martinez, Martin Angha, Ignasi Miquel, Thomas Eisfeld, Nicholas Yennaris, Hector Bellerin, and Serge Gnabry, all lurking in our under 21 team, there is surely every chance that a couple of them really will make it in the next year or so.
So we end the weekend no wiser. Will Chelsea and Man City try to work within the rules of FFP, or will they call Uefa’s bluff? Whichever it is, this story will be one of the markers in the history of English football.
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