When thinking of the best footballers of my generation, I naturally tend to look back at my younger years to pinpoint those who were highly influential for the time they played and the years to come.
As many may know, Real Madrid was the club that had the tendency to put up the necessary amounts of money towards these investments that would put together the most well known names in the sport. In the early 2000s, summer transfers were stacked with names whose destination was Madrid. At one point, there was a lineup that came to be known as the Galácticos, due to their hyperbolized talent. That roster is instilled in the minds of football fans when they think of a team that exhausts the dreams of putting the greatest talent together.
To make this happen, the president of the club naturally put up astronomical offers that were converted into record-breaking contracts. Those hearing about it understood. The moves were justified as those great talents deserved to be valued with those price tags. Zidane, Ronaldo, Figo, Beckham, Raul, Carlos, Guti, Casillas compiled a sum worth of hundreds of millions of euros without taking into account the rest of the team. Real Madrid was the team to watch as every goal and every pass had something priceless to offer to the football world during their 90-minute performances.
Moving on to the late 2000s, Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Real Madrid topped the list of most expensive transfers in history with a €94-million contract, surpassing that of his future coach Zinedine Zidane (€77.5-million). Continuing along the lines of matching talent with transfer fees, Cristiano started to be truly considered worthy of matching Lionel Messi as the greatest in the world. Don’t get me wrong, his talent undoubtedly spoke more than the price that was slapped on his card, but the amount of money put up for the Portuguese star definitely cemented his importance in the game.
The 2010s are what changed the landscape of the business aspect of football. Investments that were fueled by what came to be known as ‘oil money’, were considered to be over the top and weak emulations of Real Madrid’s moves. Hundreds of millions of euros have been put up since the beginning of the decade for the acquisition of great footballers. Among them, that of Neymar in 2017 is what, in my opinion, foreshadows a weakening of the transfer market.
For a €222-million fee, Neymar was transferred in 2017 to Paris Saint-Germain to top the list of most expensive contracts in history. Accounting for financial inflation, yes, the price may be justified partially. However, the majority of it comes due to the keen obsession that the Arab owners of PSG have continuously shown. Financial fair-play, whatever that means nowadays, has been surpassed to a point that players are being valued much more than their true worth. Neymar’s skills leave no room for discussion about his prowess on the pitch, but the damaging effect this has on the before-mentioned ‘price tag-talent’ concept undergoes great dissonance.
In the Champions League, PSG’s run for the title has been closer to fruition when Neymar wasn’t even a player of the team. Last time the tournament unfolded, PSG dove out in the Round of 16, failing once again to prove the team’s worth. To make matters worse, he has even expressed desire to leave the team. In Brazil’s World Cup campaign, he lacked character to lead a team whose better players came out to be Coutinho and Douglas Costa.
Obviously, a €222-million fee was the wrong number. What does this mean for the quality of the sport now?
Personally, over the top spending doesn’t impress anymore, as astronomical numbers do not reflect what the player can put out on the pitch. At this rate, (if not already) media buzz might surpass the standard of judging a player by exceptional talent. If in the past you’d need to play a major role in winning a major title for your team in order for you to even be considered for a price in a competitive price range, you’ll soon just need a single great game to attract attention. To a certain point, I believe this will weaken desire to develop in the sport, and work relatively harder on building a name for oneself instead one’s game. Oscar and Hulk’s outrageous moves to China can account for this. Of course, the players who are truly worthy of being called great will throw a signature on contracts that will truly be reflective of their talent, but in general, desire for competition will deplete.
On the teams’ perspective, this phenomenon will intimidate offers put up by smaller teams that aim developments that take them out of financial and competitive ruts. Attention will be concentrated on the richest clubs rather than the most well constructed ones. After all, the spending of Manchester City and PSG have lacked insightful collections of necessary elements for a successful team, while having an abundance of celebrities rather than exceptional sportsmen.
As the transfer window is approaching a closing point for this summer, there are more moves to be completed. More hundreds of millions are expected to splash on contracts, hopefully rightful ones.
Cover photo: manchestereveningnews.co.uk
Real Madrid photo: madridgalacticos.com
Neymar photo: mirror.co.uk
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