Transfers Shake Up Balance of Power in World Football
It was not so long ago that a small number of wealthy, connected clubs competed in the pursuit of the world's best footballers.
It was more or less a given that two or three teams each from Spain, Italy, and England would divide up the wealth and talent.
Occasionally, a player would slip by them and into the hands of a lesser team such as Spurs, but it wouldn't be too long before the rumours of big-club interest made a move inevitable.
Then Chelsea came along and stretched the numbers a bit. Valencia tried and burnt out. Italian Serie A fell so far behind in terms of revenue that even billionaires such as Silvio Berlusconi are doubting themselves.
Things still seemed pretty cozy for the English Premier League and La Liga, though, as the players are always looking to the "big clubs" for Champions League appearances and pay days.
But now there are serious fractures in the foundations of the status quo, and Manchester City is not the only cause.
Yes, the massive buying power of City has put a well-groomed cat among the startled pigeons, but it is the problems facing other clubs that have created the opportunity for a real power shift.
Valencia, always a bit player in real terms, are the start of something bigger. Their debts are likely to introduce players to the market at the very time that many clubs cannot find the funds to take advantage.
Liverpool are seemingly holed below the waterline, Manchester United are unlikely to do much in the summer, Arsenal are famously tight-wadded, and unless the Italian clubs sell it is unlikely they can buy.
Therein lies the problem for the big clubs: Many of them HAVE to sell in order to buy, so for Milan to bring in, say, Franck Ribery, they would have to unload Kaka.
Kaka only wants to go to Madrid, but they are also looking for Ribery and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo is expensive, and so even Madrid will think twice.
Manchester United are looking to chash in on Ronaldo in order to get their hands on Karim Benzema, as there may not be enough cash in reserve to do so. Of course they can't afford to keep Carlos Tevez.
Liverpool can't buy ANYONE, so long-term target Gareth Barry is missed. Like Valencia, they are also likely to have to sell just to remain viable as a club.
And whilst all of this goes on, the business models of all of the top clubs rely on Champions League football for both finance AND the prestige to draw in the players.
Manchester City will show that a three- or five-year contact with a rising, financially secure club is far more appealing than a similar contract with a club whose future is shaky like Arsenal or Liverpool.
This summer will show that players are not just interested in money and Champions League qualification. They know that the future is ALWAYS going to be where the money is, and not where the debt is piled high.
As a Man City fan, I look forward to the building of a great squad both at the expense of and because of the weakness of other clubs' business models. After all, we've been in the cheap seats for a long time. Suddenly, the new padding and extra leg room are making for a more comfortable ride.
If I had to predict, I would say that City will get Samuel Eto'o, David Villa or David Silva, Tevez, Xabi Alonso, Joleon Lescott and at least three other top-draw players.
I would also expect Ribery and Kaka to be playing for Madrid next year.
All of the other clubs mentioned will fight over bits and pieces in an expensive game of musical chairs.
And yes, I am gloating.
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