Royal Madness: how one team spent 280m euros and got absolutely nothing

By Walter Broeckx

We all have read about the madness that has gone in to football when it comes to spending money. The likes of Chelsea and Manchester City with their financial doping is already well documented on this site in many articles.

And let us not forget it is a force which Arsenal have to live with and fight against on the field. Spending big and getting big and experienced mercenaries, I meant players, is something that we cannot do if you compare our means with the  almost  unlimited resources from some of our main competitors.

Most of the time we only see the big incoming transfers and hear prices where we Arsenal fans can only dream of.  Some of our fans desperate for silverware want us to try to compete with those teams.

But when Arsenal goes into the transfer market we not only have to face Chelsea and Manchester City who can outspend us any day but we also have to fight it over with teams from outside England. Teams like Barceloanus, deep in debt, and teams like Real Madrid, also deep in debt.

In recent days the press in my country has had a look at the spending from Real Madrid, particularly looking at the Dutch contingent of players that has arrived over there in recent last seasons: Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Royston Drenthe and Rafael van der Vaart who have cost them a lot of money the past years. Not only in transfer money but also in very high wages and extras which combined have made the club lose a lot of money on them.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy was in fact a bargain as he only has cost them 15 million euro. And he won them 2 titles in his 2 first season. So for the sum of 15M Real has bought a title. Van Nistelrooy then got injured and at the end they gave him away for free to Hamburger SV in Germany.  I don’t know what happened to Real Madrid as after that they thought that they had to spend more money in order to win more titles.

Since 2008 they have bought a shipload of Dutch players for a lot of money. Drenthe was bought for 13 million euro from Feyenoord. And he is the only player who still is part of Real Mad but they have given him on loan to Hercules Alicante.

Sneijder was bought for 27 million euro and sold on to Inter for 15 million. Real Mad gave Chelsea 36 million for Robben and have sold him for 23 million to Bayern.  Klaas Jan Huntelaar was bought for 27 million from Ajax and was later on sold to AC Milan for almost half the price 14 million. They had bought Van Der Vaart for 13 million from Hamburg and he now was sold for 11 million to our dear friends at the Lane.

If we add this together we can see that Real Madrid has spend a total of 131 million on these players and that only one of them brought them a title. So if we take him away we could say that they have spend 116 million on players and that it has brought them nothing. No titles, no cups, no nothing after 2008 when all that money was spent. Now all those players have left and they could get 63 million in total for them. Which means a total loss on these players alone of some 68 million euro.

And if that wasn’t enough the total Royal Madness came above water when they also added the sum of 96 million euro for Ronaldo and another 68 million for Kaka. And did this spending of even more money won them anything? It won them nothing.

Just try to imagine a total spend of 280 million euro (around £233 million) and the return so far is nothing. No La Liga, no Copa del Rey, no Champions league. And in fact this is not all as they also have spent even more money on other players like Xabi Alonso, Benzema and others.

In no way can Arsenal compete with the spending power of Real Madrid. But it hasn’t prevented us from going always further in the CL, the only competition we can meet them, in the past years.

Spending money you don’t have and putting your future at risk is something that you can try to do. But it will not give you a certainty to win anything. And I really hope it will remain like that in the future.

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37 Replies to “Royal Madness: how one team spent 280m euros and got absolutely nothing”

  1. Excellent article once again;

    This is one of the issues I think though, that rather than being a purely footballing issue goes far deeper than that, and really for me becomes an issue of fair play.

    If you can for a moment, try to forget the subtle brainwashing that Sky has provided us all with – and just think back to when we were younger…Comparing this to school field football:

    School team A, let us assume have fairly won their opening 3 games and are considered the team most likely to win because of their play and skill.

    If another team (Team B) suddenly started fielding new and unknown players who had been paid massive sums of money to topple the skill of Team A, what would the reaction be?

    The parents would most certainly complain about the lack of fairness and how we can’t expect these children to learn anything useful whilst the only thing that matters in winning!

    Apparently though, since the advent of Professionalism and now SkySports – we should just accept that money is now more important than any other aspect of the sport.

    People who just chase trophies using money as their vehicle; they just don’t realise the damage they are doing to the sport. It is the winning of the trophy in the correct manner that should be applauded not just buying it from the shop window and waiting for a richer team to usurp it from you in future. That is not football it is more like a stock market!

  2. On the flip side, Arsenal has earned a significant amounts of money from the increased capacity of the Emirates stadium, as well as the clubs continued participation in the champions league. But for some reason, the club chooses not to spend a lot of money on new players. Arsenals net spending is more akin to a mid-table club, as oppose to an organization that wants to win a title every year. I understand that the club is in a great financial position, but I believe the club could do more in the transfer market to get solid players.

  3. ‘In no way can Arsenal compete with the spending power of Real Madrid. But it hasn’t prevented us from going always further in the CL, the only competition we can meet them, in the past years.’

    So long as there has been any match fixing……….

  4. Good Article.

    But it does not mean that they cant win titles. Chelsea have shown that spending a fortune can bring titles in. I can surely agree that spending money wont give guaranteed success but it does give a better chance.

  5. The reality Walter is the Dutch are far superior in footballing savvy these days. So, think about how well the Dutch do in professional football around the world. And, you just named only a few of the Dutch superstars…And, they are quality. Recently, the Dutch competed in the finals for the WC, The Eredivisie continues to produce def talent which the leagues from Europe drop big coin for. It would be interesting to see which countries, clubs, & organizations profit the most from selling their players. It is not always good purchases either. Look at Babel to LP. Interesting that’s all…

  6. Chelsea have proven nothing we didn’t already know. They spent £200M in season 1 – and came 2nd. They then spent a further £120M in season 2, and won the prem. Fair enough.

    They then spent roughly on average about £100M each season after that, and whilst they have won the league more than a few times – the point is each time they have had to spend big just to buy the league for that one season!

    And we knew from the off that if you spend fortunes you can always buy the league, but the thing you are depriving yourself of is REAL PROGRESS as a club.

    If you took away the source of income from Chelsea, even if they could afford to keep their existing squads – how many of you see them winning anything else? Arsenal may have won nothing in 5 years and this has put the manager under great pressure.

    But I am proud of Wenger’s work; because whilst our rivals are spending their way to instant success now – when the inevitable happens and the money goes away quickly and easily as it came … They will realise how little progress they have actually made. They invested heavily into each specific season to win that years trophy;

    And whilst they were doing that, we were investing heavily in our future – so that when the youth project comes to fruitition we will have no need to invest in ANY players to remain amongst the top clubs and compete for honours.

    In addition to this – he has given us a platform where we actually WILL start seeing masses of money available to spend on players, and rather than taking it AWAY from the club and hampering the progress of Arsenal as a whole – it will be there PURELY to supply us with new players and pay their salaries.

    So where as these clubs are planning for today, and not thinking about tomorrow. We have already started LIVING in tomorrow and are waiting for the other clubs (and the fans sometimes) to catch up!

    This is why no matter how many fans complain or what they say – people who can see the bigger picture will agree that Wenger has done the best thing ever for our club and that is guarantee that THE ONLY THING WE CAN DO IS IMPROVE year after year after year.

    Real fans can always see this and be happy about it.


  8. Here it is then nicky. A player costs two things: the transfer fee, and the salary. Add them together over the length of time the player stays, and you have the total cost of the player – most of which is not retrieved when the player moves on.

    To make this approach sustainable over time you need a source of income far in excess of the income from the ground.

    Which is why Inter Milan has run at a huge loss every year, and is sustained by its backers. Ditto Chelsea and now Man City. Which is why Barca ran out of money last season and ended up not even being able to borrow another cent from their bank to pay their players. Which is why teams that in the past could win the league or at least make an attempt at so doing (Everton for example) are now utterly bankrupt and dependent on the input of millions a year from their backers.

    So, to compete with all these clubs we can either take on a benefactor such as Mr Usmanov, or we can try to find another method.

    The trouble with having a benefactor is that the new UEFA rules mean that then in 2 years time we would not be able to compete in Europe.

    So, we find another way.

  9. Tony Attwood i really enjoy your articles since you always have facts to back the article. Wenger is a good manager who needs backing up by all arsenal supporters all over the world. Arsenal will rule the world if not this season but the seasons to come and those opposed to wenger will bite their thumbs! Watch this space! Gunners 4life

  10. Personally I see nothing wrong with buying a player that a club believes will improve the squad, so if you need three, you buy three or what ever number you need. If you can afford to buy a player that you believe is the missing piece in a puzzle then I don’t see anything wrong with it (must be my capitalist leaning) at what ever price the buyer and seller agree is appropriate. The fact is the world isn’t a fair place, you just have to do the best with what you have available. In Arsenal’s case develop, innovate and have intelligent management at all levels of the club.

    What I take issue with is a small minority of clubs skewering the transfer landscape of the entire global football market so it is extremely inflated and also the abuse of financial position to intimidate and influence clubs conducting player transfers that they are not even party too. I also feel a sense of injustice when you see and hear certain big clubs buying or unsettling players that they don’t really need or want to just to weaken competiton – especially when it involves very young players as they potentially take away their future by benching them for years.

    The big clubs should have faith in the valuable players and ability of manager bought in without resorting to disabling other clubs. It sort of reminds me of that scene in Gladiator when Maximus gets knifed by Commodus in order to tilt the odds of him winning the fight further in his favour even before he steps foot in the collosseum, in our case the football pitch.

    That is the main reason I smile when a club like Man Citeh loose or Real Mad get knocked out of the CL because it feels like justice or…Erm vengence?

  11. Tony,

    I used to like your blog. Even agreed with many of the things you said.

    But of late, like the endless drivel of the “Arsene should resign” brigade, I’m also feeling nauseous of your eternal optimism.

    Every man has his fault. Wenger is no exception.

    He has done great things for Arsenal, nobody can ever deny that.

    But off late he is just being stubborn and resting on his past laurels.

    I respect his financial policy. Its amazing what he does with a bunch of kids and a small outlay. But it is not good to go the extreme of stinginess.

    We needed a new Goalkeeper. The whole world knows that, including Wenger. It is confirmed that several bids were made for Schwarzer, clearly pointing out that a replacement for Almunia and Fabianski were needed. Money was available. We had full three months of transfer window. GK was an area which bit us hard last season having lost numerous points due to pathetic GK. But do we have a Goal Keeper? No.

    You can’t defend the indefensible.

    Wenger has had a great past, but off late he is letting down the fans, the team and the club by not completing the final piece of jigsaw.

    I (like many others) have been extremely patient and tried to defend his actions and empathise with the reasons why he has not been spending.

    But after so many years, when the money is available as acknowledged by the board and by Wenger himself; and the need for GK is also obvious (again acknowledged by Wenger); if he gambles with the season one or two million kids; I wonder about his ambitions.

    Not signing a GK was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for me.

    I have nightmares by the thoughts of Almunia/Flapianski dealing with Stoke’s rugby players (you may criticise them all you want, but you should be prepared to deal with it!) and Rooney and Drogba man-handling poor Koscielny.

    And nobody is asking him to spend £50-100mn and go bankrupt which is the argument your blog seems to make whenever anyone complains about the lack of reinforcements.

    You don’t have to compare getting essential reinforcements to the financial doping of Chelsea and Man Shitty.

    I can go on and on.. but the truth is that Wenger is done 95% of the things right which are severely let down by the 5% of the mistakes he does by being extremely, unexplicably and unreasonably stingy and stubborn.


  13. I also wanted to add that the reason Read Mad had so many Dutch players was to try and ‘buy’ entertaining football like Barca and Arsenal. That is why Cappello was sacked even though he won the league – its not his management style or capability. This is also why Mourinho has been taking pot shots at Wenger recently saying that our way of playing doesn’t win anything. He has been given the biggest career test so far, Real Mad want him to win and play aesthetically pleasing football at the same time. However I am sure they will settle for winning and enjoying the Mourinho off field show at Barca’s expense for at least a season.

  14. Sammy, I don’t believe that Wenger has done it all completely right, but I don’t believe there is any evidence that he is stubborn either. I think he has made mistakes as everyone does with a few of the players he has bought, and not bought, but that doesn’t have anything to do with being stubborn.

    I support his philosophy, and I think his application of that philosophy has been brilliantly executed. The mistakes have been minimal.

  15. Great article!!!! Tony 1 question. Although we can’t compete finacially with clubs such as city, Madrid, Chelsea and barca surely we can still buy world class players. Am sure u want be able to answer this cause I suppose it’s only wenger that knows but we are in a great finacial possition, yes? And I agree we can’t spen £35 million on anyone BUT we needed a keeper and he was untreated in buying schwarzer but didn’t want to pay 4million why? That’s hardly Spending lots. Anyway fantastic article keep it up. Oh and 1 last question.. Do u personally think wenger will spend in January…thanks alot

  16. What you have to understand is that the Premier League is a global brand and is heavily promoted by the FA. If you come down hard on those teams that are trading/operating beyond their financial means then the Premier league now longer becomes a viable COMMODITY. Sky and those forms of media stop investing which means less money and ultimate the collapse of not 1 or 2 but several clubs who depend on outside revenue to survive as a going concern.
    Personally, I think the FA are delaying the inevitable. Manu can’t continue to trade with high debt, the grim reaper is knocking on the door of Liverpool, Roman will call in his debt and Chelskie will be in the sh@* and the Arabs will become so impatient with City as they’ll prove time and time again that they lack the experience of winning titles. It is simply not sustainable having so much money/debt in football and things will have to change for the good of the game.

  17. This is bullshit! We are not demanding of unnecessary spending but atleast, fair enough. Sir Alex spent £58M and achieved all what we need within 3 years, increasing good things to there museum yearly! Hahaha! Wenger busy going after contract free players (chamakh j.cole). I wonder my team, my heart attack, am just waiting for a day that i will die of strock because of AW.

  18. True, plus we are competing with these clubs, just in a different way with a different philosophy.

  19. It is obvious that all the fans are looking for now, and not the future, even one of the fans says Wenger 5% wrong in his ways. I will agree that Wenger has made his choices and a few i have not agreed with, example
    1. Not buying another attacker with aerial ability, dont see Van persie as a striker and from the looks of it bendtner and Persie going to have a injury full season. Chamakh needs help.

    2. Defensive buys should have been in early to develop an understanding(although we had a good start), from the matches we seen the defense still has a long way to go, but i think they will get there before facing the other big two

    3. The Major problem Keeper, which gives the defensive line confidence, i hate seeing Fabianski i thought he should be sent on loan anywhere to get back some confidence and bring in Woj if not buying a new keeper. Almunia has been fairly good but still lacking some confidence.

    Obviously we can not compete with the big teams on finance, but the big teams are up for a fight this season cause i think this season is ours.

    Real nice article

  20. This time next year Walter you will be able to probably say the same about Manchester Citeh ….. 🙂

    They havent changed one bit from last year, terrible on the road and decent at home that will NOT be enough to break into the champions league spots.

    There is still not better feeling than been an Arsenal supporter.

  21. Nicky, Nicky, Nicky….come on now. The toll of financial troubles is always on long term basis. The likes of Chelsea, Man City will eventually realise the folly of such mercurial spendings. See Barcelona for example, (as you noted) had to borrow to sustain players wages. Eventually, i think, the bank will loose confidence… silverware or non.
    Secondly, Man City/Chelsea can spend wildly in a bid to to leave a mark in the premiereship. Wenger has won a fair share of trophys and has no point whatsoever to prove to anybody except to get to the Champions League each season with a young set of players at minimal cost. And who knows, maybe he’ll return with some silverwares this season.
    Thirdly, Mr. Wenger has not won any Trophy the last five seasons and is under little or no pressure… it means he is doing his job right..
    Nicky, hope you reason along with me….
    Weldone Tony…

  22. It makes me laugh actually – I think I must be the world’s ONLY Arsenal fan who DOESN’T actually want us to go and buy all these players we were linked with. Seriously I just don’t see what they are adding to the squad apart from numbers. And incase you have yet to see the squad list – we have loads and loads of players already!

    I WANT Arsenal to win the league. I do not want Arsenal to buy the league AT ALL because our youth project is so close to completion it just seems like a massive massive shame to go and ruin it at the end.

    Maybe I am just an old idealist; and I am not being realistic, like many people on here have accused me of. But I will take some convincing, because even the WORST seasons we have had recently, or some shocking results like losing to Wigan and Spurs within the same month – do not perturb my belief in Wenger’s vision for the future.

    Because he is putting something back into football that is more valuable than £60M players, or even back to back titles – and that is MORALS and A WINNING SPIRIT which is most definitely missing from pretty much every club in the prem.

    I am not talking about the JT style ‘winning spirit’ cheating and winning at any cost. I am talking about the winning spirit that people around the world identify ENGLAND with.

    You know, stiff upper lip and posh English gentry values 🙂

  23. This article is misleading in the sense that; 1. it gives wrong impression that arsenal fans want Wenger to invest heavily in the team, 2. that fans thinks that investing heavily in the team equals success. Please don’t undermine the fan’s intellect. There are plenty of arsenal fans, who are loyal, don’t demand instant success, appreciate Wenger’s work and are generally happy with way the club is run.
    However, we also know that sometimes you just have to grab the moment. Wenger could have bought Chamakh last Januari, and played him up front rather than Arshvin. Who, knows what could have happened to our season. If there was a need for defender, then why take on Sol in January. Go and get a decent defender. Club like Arsenal can’t rely on defenders like today’s Sol and Silverter. Almunia might do very well( and I am supporting him as I will any other Arsenal player ) but we do need quality No1 and no2 keepers. If Van Persie gets long term injury, we are left with only one fit and experienced striker, Chamakh.
    This is obvious weekness in the team. We will again end up playing one of our attacking midfielder up as a striker, like Diaby. I think its time to start playing Theo through the middle to develop him in to an awesome striker that we all know he could be.

  24. Great article, i have read the comments from both sides of the coin, for and against. On the balance of things, would Schwazer really be that much better than Almunia? will he save us 3 points a season against the big teams? i dont believe so, but well i might be wrong.

    I think we could have spent 10 million on Shay Given and still not won the league, the philosophy of Wenger and our great club has been slowly gathering force and i just hope to prove us ryt that we win something this year. i believe what this group of players need is to feel how good winning together is. then they will want more.

    If we go for Mezut Oezil, do you think we will outbid Real Madrid or Chelski? no! in many cases, i feel like some fans want to see the likes of Essien at Arsenal and Kaka, the truth? if we went for them, we will be outbid, so we have to face reality

  25. Sam I like your tone, and the things you say – at last somebody who can put the point across without resorting to ranting tantrums and verbal blow trading 🙂 Sir I salute thee!

    Yeah I guess you could be right, we could have shelled out for Chamakh last season and chucked him in the mix instead of Andrei ‘Meerkat’ Arshavin and maybe we would have come out of it better.

    But on the other hand he could have flopped, caused disruption to the team or just for us to do even worse.

    I guesss Wenger thought it was more prudent to wait until we could get him for nothing, give him a full preseason and start a fresh season – rather than throwing him into the deep end and hoping it all worked out OK.

    But that last bit – if I ever see Diaby playing as a striker I don’t quite know what I will do.

    Certainly not start supporting ManU 🙂 Hehe that joke will never get old, thanks to the ‘fan’ who did that article!

  26. Sam,

    In the spirit of this site and all who contribute to it I think you know or (otherwise read a recent article posted by Mr. Blythe) that the author will never try to mislead its readers into thinking something that is not true. I get it you may be pissed off that certain things could have been done differently in the past. But, as I am not in the contract negotiations or you…. It seems ridiculous that Wenger or even administrators of contracts would not have done as you have cited in order to win last year. It is obvious that the gents who run this club intelligently know and feel the pressures of not winning trophies. For me what is not known is what your beef is in light of the fact that you complain about Chamakh who we now have for free. Those other individual instances you complain about were things this team had to cope with last year as you recall. It was not always good but what I saw that was excellent was we finished third and almost won the league, we are now in the 10th year of CL play, our fortress is complete, and now the new campaign has begun and we are undefeated with our young-guns of the past maturing into solid PL challengers. What is authentic is our club, our manager, and this site. I ask you where are you in this pursuit? Are you AAA or Untold?

  27. To say a club spends millions and may possibly win nothing is hardly a misleading statement, I think it is perfectly legitimate.

    Look at City, what have they won having become (by a large margin) the Premier League’s biggest spenders. Infact I think that makes them Europe’s biggest and probably the worlds biggest spenders (although that is not certain).

    I understand how you feel, but I also feel I must defend the author of this article – who in my experience of reading everything he has produced has never tried to mislead me with the articles, and usually talks alot more sense than some less reputable sites (no names of course!)

  28. Tony,

    Thanks for responding to my comment; and also for acknowledging that Wenger has made mistakes (because most of the time your blogs give the impression that he is superhuman who cannot err) although I disagree with your thinking that he can’t be stubborn at times. And I think not signing a replacement for Almunia/Fabianski was a big mistake.L

    However, I still acknowledge that he is still the best manager for Arsenal.

    Lastly, apologies are due to Walter, because I noticed that he wrote the article but many comments (including mine) were addressed to Tony. Keep up the good work Walter (even though I may not agree with you at times).

  29. Real Madrids profligacy is also about asserting machismo-its about a huge Government backed club making a statement-we are the biggest club in the world and there is no player out there we could not have if we wanted. Its not primarily about achieving results.
    Is RMs admittedly irrational spending on players they dont need or use an argument in favour of spending next to nothing and as a result not getting the players with the experience at the top level you need to address the weaknesses you yourself (AW) have identified? I think not-they are both failed strategies.
    Ah but this is all short-termism-in the near future all major clubs will collapse financially after over-spending on transfers until they too will only be able to afford to play a keeper as good as Almunia-where spending millions on a new stadium to increase revenue and peanuts on improving your team is considered the only effective strategy to achieve sustainability.

  30. @goonergerry

    You just totally contradicted yourself; if Arsenal’s tactics are ‘short-term’ and as much a failure as RM’s spend to offend is.

    Then why end the comment by stating that basically all clubs are going to be doing what we are doing in the near future.

    So are you with it or against it?

  31. RM are in an interesting period of transition.

    As noted, all the Dutch players have been shipped out, as have Raúl and Guti, end of an era and all that.

    Right now, several RM players are injured, including Kaká, CRon, and some of the defence. Sergio Ramos has been pulled inside again to play centerback, and in my view, the team will struggle mightily (0-0 draw away at San Moix, anyone?) without his creative input on the right.

    The side has some fledglings, like Canales, and newcomers such as Khedira and Ozil (who Maureen apparently didn’t even want!), and few current players have had more than a couple of seasons together.

    I fear what Maureen will with them, since he lacks all imagination. They will likely become a very dull team under his tutelage, god knows how the more creative players like CRon and Ramos will react. I would run a mile.

  32. Great Article. But there is a question that I have on the way football clubs are run in Spain. How does the election and new president on boarding work, i mean financially? Where do the new presidents bring in the money from? Multiple times Arsene Wenger mentioned that during election time in the the candidates promise that they will bring in better players and also name them. How long is their term and how does their accountability work?

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