by Jide Taiwo
For the purpose of full disclosure, I am an Arsenal fan. But that has not hindered me from seeing other clubs’ successes and the shortcomings of mine. My love for the game transcends club affiliations.
The last time Arsenal won a trophy was 2005. Football has since changed since. And as each year passes by, Arsenal looks more unlikely to win a major trophy. The reason is not farfetched: they simply do not have the required manpower. Prior to the arrival of a certain Russian oil magnate at Chelsea, the clubs had a process of churning out youngsters from their various academies to take over for the older players. Mr. Abrahamovic had no such patience. He looked at the best players in the world and ordered for them. That has seen Chelsea go from a mid-table club to a bonafide English giant, winning everything available in British football, and crowning it with the European Champions League this year. The reason is that, they can offer their players the best wages. A similar thing is happening at a similar mediocre club, Manchester City. The owners, the Mansour family of Abu Dhabi has spent over £600m on players alone. While many of us might make a show of repulsion, we wouldn’t mind having that kind of financial muscle at our own club too. What’s more, it seems to be working. Man City has undoubtedly the strongest 23 man team in the world- at a price.
Where does this leave a traditional, puritan club like Arsenal? I’ll tell you: fighting for third or fourth place every year. It hurts me to say thus, but it is the truth. Increasingly every year, richer clubs look at Arsenal and poach their best players. It is a steady cycle because Arsenal cannot pay the sums being paid to footballers these days. It simply does not have the money. In all honesty, how many of us fans will reject an offer of double what we presently earn for some dreamy romantic idea of remaining there out of love for the organisation? We might call the players greedy and disloyal, but we all work to make money. I cannot blame a footballer that wants more money. I want more money at my job too… Whatever Robin van Persie says his reasons are for wanting to leave the club, we know it is primarily about the money. I cannot blame him for wanting more money and less work. How many games did Samir Nasri play for Manchester City before winning the league title in his first year?
I do blame the administrators of football however. I blame a man like Michel Platini who would fine Nicklas Bendtner more for advertisement that Porto for racism. The problem with football is, it is refusing to evolve with the times. No other sport leaves entirely to human officiating as Mr. Platini wants us to do. He says those occasional errors which cost some clubs points and titles are part of the game. He is opposed to anything thing or idea that seems modern.
In the National Basketball Association, there is this thing called ‘a salary cap’. As the name implies, it is the maximum amount a team can spend on salaries per year. This is to enable smaller teams to attract top talent and compete with the big boys on a certain level. That is why a small team like the Oklahoma Thunder can get to the finals to slug it out with the gods of basketball, the Miami Heat. Why can we not have a similar rule in football? Across the leagues, it is getting boring because one can tell for certain what clubs would finish in the top four- with occasional variations. No footballer alive can say no to a £13m per year deal. It is insane amounts of money that float around these days. Unfortunately, not for everybody. Blackburn Rovers was purchased by the Venkys for £ 70m, £10m less than what Real Madrid paid for C. Ronaldo. Blackburn Rovers got relegated to a lower league at the end of the season
If there were a salary cap, the wealth of talent would be more evenly distributed. A team like Wigan or Anderlecht would be able to compete in elite competitions.
With the way football is set now, the highest bidder gets the best players- as we have seen and continue to see. Good for the rich clubs and shareholders and tax man, but bad for the game.