Whenever a mid-table side in the Premier League sells a couple of players at over-inflated prices, they are brandished as a Selling Club, a club with little ambition because they are letting their best players go. I for one find this harsh, as the Financial Fair Play rules pretty much make this unavoidable for the likes of Porto, Valencia and Southampton, as well as many clubs around Europe.
The team this summer to come under pressure from the bigger clubs is Southampton, again. In the past few months they have changed manager, with Mauro Pochettino leaving for Tottenham. Ronald Koeman has come in, with him quoted as saying they did not need to sell any more players. That was before Luke Shaw left for £30m. Now, Callum Chambers and Dejan Lovren are both leaving, it seems, for a combined £36m – one to Arsenal and one to Liverpool.
So that makes it 5 who are leaving/have left in this window – Lambert, Lallana, Shaw, Chambers and Lovren, with the likelihood that one of Jay Rodriguez or Morgan Schneiderlin will also go for £20m each at least. That is potentially 7 sales and over £100m worth of money flowing in. Fair enough, but the problem is they only have Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle as replacements so far, for a combined £18.9m. They must have known long ago that all of these players wanted to go, and left it fairly late to bring in Koeman who typically raided his home country for two of the top performers. So, why not start to get things moving in the eventuality that these players did move on? An example from this summers’ market is Mathieu Debuchy – Newcastle knew he was going but would not let him complete his deal to Arsenal until Daryl Janmaat was signed up.
One reason – are they going to continue their tradition of promoting from within? Having spoken to a few fans of theirs the likes of Matt Targett, Sam McQueen and Harrison Reed could all step in, and James Ward-Prowse will take a more prominent role. Again the problem is, like the Dutch players, these are widely untested in Premier League waters, and if they take time to adapt, will the rest of the team manage without the 5-7 star players that have left?
Their conveyor belt of talent may be flourishing, but how deep does it go? If these three or four do well, as well as Tadic – will they leave next summer, and the club be left in the same position? Contracts seem to mean little these days, but the fact Lovren had 3 years of his 4 year deal left, and has still forced through a move to Liverpool shows how hapless teams are when a player wants to leave – they have all the power. Their owner has stayed in the shadows but they seem to be a soft touch – giving in to players demands.
Newcastle seem to have learned their lesson – most of their signings this summer have been given 6 year deals, meaning should they do well, the club are in a good bargaining position. Mike Ashley has proven to be a very tough man to deal with, should Southampton take note? Southampton now need to tread carefully. They need to analyse their incoming players, see what their motivation is, because if they are anything like Lovren they need to steer well clear. Koeman will want players who will have a desire to play for Southampton, not to impress onlooking big clubs, who they have not quite done enough to move to. Quite frankly, with player integration/gelling a lengthy process, Southampton could really struggle if the foreign lads don’t hit the ground running, and history tells you that more often than not they take between 6 months and a year, longer for South Americans – and as for managers, who knows. Relegation is a real threat this season for the Saints.
As mentioned earlier – FFP rules may have had some direct effect. Owners can no longer throw £100m at a club in one window to try and transform his or her team into a Champions League contender, as this is now punishable. In effect, UEFA have attempted to close the gap between the big and small teams, yet inadvertently made the casom bigger, and paralyzed owners around the globe from even attempting to try. Yes, it may stop the dopes like QPR from trying to do it again, but it has stopped clubs close to cracking it, and added a new hurdle – they have to make more money, and with the ‘big guns’ such as Man City, who were fined £50m for breaching these rules, still buying the likes of Mangala and Fernando for near £45m, there is no way to compete.
UEFA have erected a force-field around the elite clubs, protecting them from any unwanted pressure from smaller teams trying to break the monopoly they have created. Rather than selling all of their prized assets, Southampton’s owner could have kept them all and invested £30-50m on new players and wages, but instead the culture of selling before you buy is what has happened.
Any brilliant players below, or even in the Champions League will be snapped up if they begin to pull up tree’s. Just look at this list of players…Herrera, Shaw, Lallana, Lovren, Costa, Felipe Luis, Debuchy, Cabaye, Mangala, Fernando, Mathieu, Ter Stegen, James Rodriguez, Shaqiri, Van Ginkel…just off the top of my head in the past 12 months or so. Chelsea, amongst many, are just as bad with youth players. If a toddler nutmegged his dad whilst playing football in their garden, Chelsea would probably offer them a deal and send him on loan to Vitesse…
There seems to be a ‘Food Chain’ in football, which sort of measures like this:
Champions League – Europa League/Mid-sized European Teams – Smaller European Teams
When a player is pinched from a Mid-sized team by a big team, the smaller teams really suffer. Look at Feyenoord. Arsenal purchased Debuchy from Newcastle, they in turn got Janmaat. Liverpool purchased Lambert, Southampton took Pelle. Man City are set to sign Mangala, Porto have signed Martins Indi. Stefan De Vrij looks set to leave the Rotterdam club too. If Vilhena or Boetius leave, they will be distraught – they even lost their manager too!
PSG and Man City were both guilty of breaching the FFP rules, and have still signed multiple players for fee’s upwards of £30m, or £50m in the case of David Luiz to PSG. These fines are petty, meaningless cash – a mere slap on the wrists. To compare it to modern day crime, it would be like a drunk bloke spending the night in a cell, and being released in the morning with a policeman saying “Now, don’t do it again”. If they were kicked out for a season, the court cases would be endless. But UEFA wouldn’t dare do that, because they are afraid.
The problem is UEFA, they have created a system that gives all the power to the big teams. They make more money, therefore they can spend more money. The smaller teams are left with a pile of cash but replacing the likes of who Southampton and Feyenoord have lost is very hard even with millions in the bank. Just like back in the days of the Aristocrats, the Bourgeoisie, and the poor…a system is in place in the footballing world that keeps the rich wealthy and happy, and the poor picking up the scraps, making deal as best they can.
Anyone who thinks UEFA brought in the FFP rules to stop teams going bust, or spending beyond their means are wide of the mark, wider than the famous Steve Harmison ball in the Ashes. It’s there so teams like Southampton, who have an amazing youth setup, cannot possibly keep their players and compete, because the big boys will simply outspend them, or better still rob them of their best players. Ambitious players want to play in the Champions League, and baring a miracle nobody can stop the current crop. They are too scared to upset any of the massive teams!