Is Big Money Killing Football? Not At All

George SmithContributor IJune 23, 2009

For the last week, the sports world has been abuzz over the record-smashing fees that Real Madrid has paid for the 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year, Brazilian midfielder Kaka, and 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year, Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Many, such as AC Milan President Silvio Berlusconi and Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton, have blasted Real Madrid for spending such extravagant amounts of money in hopes of restoring the glory to what many believe is the most famous club in the world. 

The fees paid for both players have each broken the previous transfer fee records, also held by Madrid, in such a troubling global economic climate. 

Manchester United and AC Milan fans may be outraged over the fact that their teams were more or less coerced into selling each team’s best player for a large sum.  However, many fans look at the fact that their teams now have those huge fees in their banks to go out and buy two or three great players instead of just having one superstar.  

Manchester United fans, as proud and adamant as they typically are, argue that their club will be stronger next season without Ronaldo because now they have 80 million pounds to bring in new talent. They argue that they have lost such superstars before, and have come back even stronger. 

If this is the case, then why the outrage over the outrageous transfer fee? 

If Madrid and Manchester both value Cristiano Ronaldo at a certain price, why would that price be deemed excessive? If Manchester United and Real Madrid both believe they will improve their respective clubs, how is big money killing football? 

I believe that the answer to these questions is simple: Big money is helping football more than it is hurting football. 


Let us first examine the main reasons why people argue that big money is ruining football. 

The first reason is that you are stealing star players away from their clubs because the other teams have no choice but to accept such an offer. This is not a value reason, because in the case of Manchester United selling Cristiano Ronaldo, there is no way that United were forced by Madrid's large offer. 

Manchester United is the second-richest club in the world, and if they wished to hold onto Ronaldo, then not even Real Madrid would be able to do anything about it.

The Ronaldo transfer is an enormous risk by both teams, but it must be noted that both teams are willing participants. 

Manchester United surely understand the risks that come along when you sell the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year. He was the best player on Manchester and the key part of their championship teams, and now they have the daunting task of spending the 80 million pounds wisely to replace him. 

Real Madrid surely understands the risks that come along with investing so much money in one player. 

No matter which side you look at it from, both of these teams agreed to a fair deal and that is perfectly acceptable. 

The main issue that comes along with these fees will be how Manchester United spends that 80 million pounds. Many tip United to swoop in for promising young talent such as Gremio starlet Douglas Costa and 17-year-old Brazilian defender Dodo. 

This may be the only aspect where people can have a legitimate complaint. Manchester United will surely be flashing around large sums of money at young Brazilian teenagers and financially struggling Brazilian clubs.  Many such as Brazilian legend Carlos Alberto, argue that Manchester United are "raping Brazilian football" by poaching it's best players before they fully mature. 

Clearly, it would be far-fetched to blame Real Madrid for the poaching that occurs not just by Manchester United, but by many clubs in Europe. While the Manchester United is not forcing teams like Gremio to sell their stars, it is hard to image Gremio turning down the 20 million pounds that they are asking for Costa. 

That is a lot of money that could go a long way to helping rebuild clubs in Brazil if the money is invested properly. Even though Gremio would be losing its brightest young talent since Robinho, it would be difficult to say they are being taken advantage of when they are putting a price tag on Costa. 

As for what happens with the player, that varies from person to person. The case that I think is the most interesting is the case of Manchester United star Anderson. He was one of the most highly-touted Brazilian youths in the country, and many were comparing him to Ronaldinho because they were both from Gremio. 

However, Anderson only played 19 games at Gremio before being sold to FC Porto.  Then he only played 18 games for Porto before being acquired by Manchester United.  Even though he is only 21 years old, it is a shame that someone who grew up with so much potential has not amounted to regular start at Manchester United. 

While not every youngster that goes overseas after spending little time developing fails to live up to his expectations, some do go on to fill that potential. The player has to determine for himself whether he is ready to begin playing in a different system, and take on the pressure and the risks that go along with moving to a big-name club where he possibly will not receive the same amount of playing time. 

I digress back to my original argument about big money affecting the transfer of players by saying that while big money certainly does coerce players to leave for bigger clubs, the decision is theirs alone. 

The second issue is that people are worried about players caring too much about the money. 

In order to build a successful club, that club needs to have chemistry among its players. Clubs needs to be careful if they are bringing in players that are only there for the money. 

Surely Kaka and Ronaldo will be getting paid well to wear the white of Madrid, but I'm sure that Madridenvision them playing well together. Also, it is clear that neither Kaka or Ronaldo sought out a move to the Spanish capital because of the financial aspect.  Ronaldo has always sought a move to his favorite childhood club, and Kaka was sold because he wanted to help AC Milan. 

A third issue is that in such a difficult economic climate, it is wrong for clubs to be spending such large amounts of money on players. 

Because football is a business, just like everything else, this is an issue that goes into the economics side of football. 

In order to avoid a long economic discussion, I will do my best to sum up the main positions held in this debate. 

First, from Real Madrid's point of view, they are taking the $220 million they invested in Kaka and Ronaldo doing exactly that, they are making an investment. Even though they are the richest team in the world, Real Madrid is a business like every other club, and it has to make sure that their business does not fail. 

Club President Florentino Perez has said that they are justified in spending the large sums of money for Ronaldo and Kaka because they are going to bring back that money through their success as well as through merchandise. 

Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka are two of the most popular players in world football, and Madrid is banking on its marketing to promote the players and increase revenue. Ticket sales for Madrid's preseason tour in the United Stateshave have already increased dramatically, and you can expect that Ronaldo and Kaka shirt sales will be very high. 

From the other perspective, many economists have pointed to the fact that Real's investments are very risky in such tough economic climates.  They have pointed to the fact that it is becoming harder to generate revenue with less people spending money in the recession.

Economists are arguing that Madrid are being tempted to spend such amounts of money because of their hunger to return to the summit of world football. 

Some argue that the likes of Ronaldo and Kaka will not generate the same amount of revenue that Perez predicts. But at the end of the day, these are business decisions made by Real Madrid and it must bear the consequences, good or bad. 

Just because the spending made by Real Madrid in such a bad economic climate may not look good, that in no way means that it is a bad investment for the team. 

A fourth perspective will be some who say that Madrid are trying to buy a championship. 

This is not something I can argue with. Madrid is trying to buy a championship along the same lines that everyone else is trying to buy a championship. 

Manchester United will try to buy the missing parts of their team with that 80 million pounds, Barcelona did not acquire their European Championship team without spending money, Chelsearose to prominence after Roman Abramovich took over, and now Manchester City look to buy the players it takes to win a championship. 

While there is certainly a strong disparity between the wages in football compared to the wages among non-athletes, it is not something that we are able to control. 

While it was reported in a Spanish newspaper that the amount paid for Cristiano Ronaldo is 57 times the value of his weight in gold, the player cannot be blamed for such a fee, and neither can Real Madrid. 

It comes down to the fact that Madrid wanted Ronaldo on its team, and Manchester United wanted Ronaldo on its team. Madrid eventually came up with a figure that it could afford and that Manchester United were comfortable selling the face of their team for. 

Real Madrid are making business investments and growing its "business."  When it grows its business, they are spreading their money around through buying other players. 

Now, Manchester United has 80 million pounds and AC Milan have 65 million pounds.  Both transfer fees will go a long way toward replacing the stars at both teams, as well as improving both of the clubs overall. 

With the 80 million pounds and 65 million pounds, both of those teams will spend their money and spread it around the footballing world. This is an opportunity to let the game grow. Manchester United will surely be making investments in players the same way in which they paid 12 million pounds for Cristiano Ronaldo, and sold him six years later for around 7 times that.

Clubs fall into trouble for the most part when they use their money poorly. If a club is going to make a large investment in a player who they think will be a success and generate more revenue and more trophies for them, then it should be a worthwhile investment. 

But when clubs invest and purchase players that are not going to perform, similar to what Madrid have done in recent years, then they are not going to see the same return on their product. 

When it comes down to it, football is a business and the transfer market is a free market. 

The teams set the values for the players, and that is something that the rest of the clubs must deal with. If there was too much intervention from FIFA or UEFA, then the game would suffer because there would be less room for progress. 

When there are too many restrictions in the economy, then a country cannot grow to its highest value. This same concept can be applied to football. If there are too many restrictions, then a club cannot grow to its highest value. 

This spending is not bad for the football at the top level because the transfer of money and players is expanding the game of football. 

Santiago Segurola, who is the head of Spain's sports columnists, has asked "what is more obscene, buying the two greatest players in the world who's presence is going to bring the team a lot of money in return, or spending a similar amount on mediocre players who add nothing, which is what Real Madrid have done over the past few years?" 

Some such as Barcelona defender Gerard Pique believe that Real Madrid's spending is good for La Liga.  Their spending has brought 2 of the biggest stars in football to La Liga, and has arguably made La Liga better than the Premier League. 

Even though Madrid has bought two superstars, he does not seem to be worried about them overtaking Barcelona's position at the summit of the Europe. 

Spanish national team coach Vincente Del Bosque has criticized Real Madrid for its spending by saying that "great clubs aren't made by big signings."  While these words may be true, Madrid is banking on the fact that they are not always true.  This is just the opinion of one man. 

Florentino Perez is convinced that a team with stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Iker Casillas, Pepe, Guti, and others will succeed. This is the decision of Real Madrid and other clubs which choose to spend money like this. They believe that they can improve the quality of their team by spending and that is their decision. 

After all, who is going to bet against a Madrid side with two of the three best players in the world on it and possibly more stars to come? Certainly not me.

The fact is that Real Madrid is trying its own unique style of football in order to produce results.  Most of their players come from other clubs as opposed to arch-rival Barcelona who have seven of their starting 11 come up through their youth system. 

However, it must be noted that Barcelona's team budget is second only to Madrid in Spain. Every team has its own style, and the most important thing is that because Madridis buying Kaka and Ronaldo, that does not guarantee success. 

As we go into the future of football, each team will have to determine on their own whether they want to approach football in the same big money style that the Florentino Perez Madrid team do or the way other teams do. 

Teams with money such as Chelsea, Manchester City, and Madrid will look to continue spending, while others such as Barcelona will look to develop their own players through their youth system. 

However, Real Madrid should not be under as much fire as they are under currently. 

These are internal business decisions that need to be respected, because if these business decisions fail and Real Madrid goes bankrupt, it will not be getting any government bailouts in the same way AIG did. 


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