Friday, January 16, 2009
Kaka deal takes football further from reality
At a time when cost-cutting, debt repayment, and spending within means are the latterday idioms there can be few industries in which a record-breaking fee is ready to be paid for an asset. But then top-level football lost touch with the rest of human life some years ago.
Arsene Wenger, as ever, may have tinged his words with self interest when he said "Manchester City are in a different world" but it is hard to disagree with his opinion that "Man City buying Kaka for £100m is an exception to what is happening in our world."
Football's gravy train had shown signs of slowing down, wracked by the problems affecting the rest of the world. And that's a business world, because football stopped becoming a game for anything apart from those 90 minutes on the pitch some time ago. A bid that will more than double the previous transfer record of a previously unapproached £46m signalled City's bank-rolled new regime are prepared to operate completely beyond the parameters of what had long looked bloated and unsustainable.
Kaka">Kaka forms part two of Manchester City's grand plan to prove themselves to football's playing elite. Robinho, who may well be irked by his compatriot's superior salary and standing, was the first part. Will their signings signal a rush of suitors to get on the phone to their agents to request a move to Eastlands? Manchester could be manna for those agents who had begun to wonder where their next Ferrari was coming from.
The arrival on the scene of the shadowy Kia Joorabchian, the fixer for the chaotic Tevez and Mascherano deals of recent times, shows that those businessmen who choose to line their pockets on the back off football's mega-deals have recognised that there be gold in them there small hills of Beswick.
The ten percenters have been concerned of late that economic crisis may cut into their revenue. City's arrival on the scene with oil-soaked money to burn means the fixers and the third parties will soon have Mark Hughes and Garry Cook's number on speed-dial.
Football was thinking of having to cut its cloth accordingly and even Chelsea are cutting costs. There was hope that there might just be a more level playing field. Big clubs have always spent money and always will, some with mixed success. A lack of cashflow gave rise to hopes of young players and settled teams being given their head. City, as their own performances this season show, can unsettle all that.
The arrival of the Roman Abramovich in 2003 was the beginning of football's billionaire era, he made Chelsea into a contender on the European stage. Yet his reign, newly prudent after the bingeing that hits its peak with the £31m paid for Shevchenko, has proved positive that money can never quite guarantee success. Roman's roubles could not stop a slippery sod of grass denying him on that May night in Moscow.
Like Chelsea fans did, City fans have the right to dream about what money can buy them. Hughes, a decent man caught between his instinct of building a team in a gradual fashion and spending petro-dollars like a spoiled Eastern prince, may not end up being the man to lead them to the initial promised land of the Champions League.
As Claudio Ranieri found, money does not buy time. City cannot reach the Champions League next season and it would rely on the collapse of one of the big four for them to be able to reach it for 2010-11. A team of expensive emigres with egos to match can struggle, whatever, the price-tags. Real Madrid's potless galacticos are testament to that.
In a time of deflation, the arrival of Abu Dhabu looks set to inflate prices into a stratosphere in which few other clubs can breathe. The deal for Kaka supposedly includes a hand-written cheque from Sheikh Al Mansour while up the road, Manchester United, saddled with the burden of being bought during the era of the discredited "debt model", are paying for players like Anderson and Hargreaves in installments. Nor can they afford to pay for Carlos Tevez.
Joorabchian's charge had looked hugely over-priced at £32m. The Kaka cash of £107m has given the Iranian extra bargaining chips in his quest to get the best deal for the Argentine. Meanwhile, "super-agent" Pini Zahavi is said to have trousered £900,000 from Wayne Bridge's transfer, further proof that football's vultures soon circle when they smell money.
Reported figures place £27m in the hands of Kaka's hanger-ons should the deal go through; money that is unlikely to be fed back in for the good of the game.
Long an admired cult concern, City may soon find the success they have lacked for two generations no longer evades them. Yet they will lose many of those admirers for their owners' willingness to flaunt their money in such vulgar fashion in such a time of economic malaise.