Money for Nothing

State ownership is often bemoaned by many in football. Oli Coates takes a look at the reasons why.

Football has always been a money game. The haves and the have-nots. But never has competition in European football been so intrinsically linked to a club’s bank balance. The dawn of the Champions League and Premier League era has been heralded for the perceived improvement of the game as a whole, but it’s been to the huge detriment of countless clubs and leagues across the continent too.

The money has poured in, with state ownership causing huge damage to European football and putting even greater distance between the haves and have-nots. For many, the two main culprits are Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

The reason for this is that these two clubs have inflated football’s financial market beyond most people’s wildest imaginations. The Abu Dhabi United Group’s takeover of City in 2008 was a watershed moment for European football, instantly catapulting the Premier League also-rans into a different stratosphere in terms of spending potential.

Three years later, Qatar followed Abu Dhabi into European football, as Qatar Sports Investments purchased Ligue 1 outfit PSG. The ensuing years have been scarcely believable in terms of numbers.

Neymar’s move from Barcelona to Paris in 2017 cost PSG an eye-popping sum just short of £200m, while Kylian Mbappe also came to the Parc des Princes in the same summer, initially on loan but subsequently for a fee almost as vast.

The ripples of distortion caused by those transfers in particular, as well as City’s lavish spending on talents both great and not very good, are still being felt. It cost City £100m to prise Jack Grealish from Aston Villa last summer. The likes of Philippe Coutinho, Joao Felix, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele have all moved for north of £100m too.
Everywhere you look, huge sums are being spent on players. Many clubs have gone bust or are reeling from over-expenditure, including Barcelona who had to let Lionel Messi leave for free last year.

Love or hate them, financial fair play measures are surely the only way to protect football as a whole. Forget that City and PSG are still yet to win the Champions League. Indeed, forget the elite clubs at the top of the game altogether. There’s much more at stake than that.

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