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euro changes How a trio of Champions League giants have been relegated onto the list of no-hopers

PSG at forefront of new ‘Big Four’ as unlimited finances relegate former superpowers to the role of paupers

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Lionel Messi, right, poses with his jersey with PSG president Nasser Al-Al-Khelaifi during a press conference today at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris.

Lionel Messi, right, poses with his jersey with PSG president Nasser Al-Al-Khelaifi during a press conference today at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris.

Lionel Messi, right, poses with his jersey with PSG president Nasser Al-Al-Khelaifi during a press conference today at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris.

As the final bell sounded on the most remarkable transfer window in football history, the chime ringing out also signalled the end of football as we have known it for decades.

Make no mistake, the events of the last few weeks have changed the face of the European club game for years to come.

While the old empire may try to strike back next year, the rebels may just have dome enough to claim complete victory.

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus emerged as the decapitated giants cast into the football wilderness.

Their star names lost amid financial meltdowns for each from which they may not recover for years.

Meanwhile, four clubs emerged as the new superpowers of the sport, with only one of them on that revised list remaining from the old elite that have dominated the European game for half a century and more.

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Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku.

Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku.

Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku.

That club is Manchester United, as their signings of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and their remarkable late swoop for Cristiano Ronaldo confirmed.

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Cristiano Ronaldo made an instant impact on his return to Manchester United colours with a brace of goals. Photo by: Reuters

Cristiano Ronaldo made an instant impact on his return to Manchester United colours with a brace of goals. Photo by: Reuters

Cristiano Ronaldo made an instant impact on his return to Manchester United colours with a brace of goals. Photo by: Reuters

There’s no doubt about it, the Old Trafford club still have the financial power to compete for the top names in the game.

New

Next on the new A-list, we have Chelsea, who lured Romelu Lukaku (below) and Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez into their squad to cement the status of the defending European champions as a force in the modern game.

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Lukaku celebrates scoring for Chelsea (Adam Davy/PA)

Lukaku celebrates scoring for Chelsea (Adam Davy/PA)

Lukaku celebrates scoring for Chelsea (Adam Davy/PA)

The third name is Manchester City. While they had their image as an outsider, big names were reluctant to sign for the club.

But be sure of one thing, by failing to land Harry Kane (inset) and then losing out to United in the race to sign Ronaldo, their Abu Dhabi backers will be more determined than ever to come back for some serious star signings next summer. Think Kane again, or Dortmund’s Erling Haaland.

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Jadon Sancho.

Jadon Sancho.

Jadon Sancho.

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Then we come to the final player in this rebranded game of Moneyball and, undoubtedly, they now hold the keys of power in a redesigned European football landscape – the Qatari-backed Paris Saint-Germain.

As if signing Lionel Messi, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos and Gini Wijnaldum this summer was not enough, PSG owner Nasser Al-Khelaifi then had the audacity to reject Real Madrid’s world record €220million bid for Kylian Mbappe on transfer deadline day.

Al-Khelaifi took that decision in the knowledge that Mbappe could now sign a pre-contract agreement in January to join Real Madrid on a free transfer when his contract expires next summer.

That decision confirmed that this club are not being run as a business - but more as an indulgence for owners with unlimited finances.

The Mbappe decision also confirmed PSG are now operating to very different rules compared to every other club in the game, including United, City and Chelsea.

Hard

It may be that PSG decided this was the summer to use their Qatari investment to go for gold, with UEFA relaxing their FFP rules to help clubs deal with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet it is hard to see how they can sustain this level of investment in the long term.

PSG are not benefiting from the staggeringly lucrative £5.1billion domestic broadcast deal that funds the Premier League in England, and they don’t get the same level of cash from the Champions League TV deal in France compared to their top-flight English rivals.

The commercial reach of the Premier League also allows its clubs to strike sponsorship partnerships around the world.

But PSG can’t attract that level of interest either, when they are operating in a league that lacks the gravitas and pull of the English top flight.

Instead, they rely on their oil-rich owners to fund Mauricio Pochettino’s lavishly expensive squad that has an estimated annual salary bill in excess of £300m.

When you consider City and Chelsea’s first-team wage bill is estimated to be around half of that amount, it puts into perspective the game-changing cash being injected to sustain the fantasy football game being played in Paris by the club’s owners.

United’s annual salary total is expected to move beyond the £200m mark this season after adding Sancho, Varane and Ronaldo to a squad that already included big earners in David De Gea, Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani.

Remarkably, the estimated £60m United will pay their new boys Sancho, Varane and Ronaldo this season will add up to what more than 13 Premier League clubs will pay their entire first-team squads over the course of the campaign.

Yet, while United have a £750m kit sponsorship deal with Adidas, and a host of lucrative sponsorship deals that help to fund their extravagance, the spotlight is now falling brightly on how PSG are threatening to change the face of football forever.

Dominating

With PSG chairman Al-Khelaifi also a prominent leader of UEFA’s executive committee, his connections at the highest levels of the European game have helped to allow his club to navigate the FFP rules.

They do it by paying massive saliries, not transfer fees. Tjhis summer, they extracted Ramos out of Real Madrid, snared Messi and also blocked Barcelona’s efforts to sign Wijnaldum by paying the former Liverpool man a crazy salary.

Similar tactics were used to get the brilliant Italian ‘keeper Donnarumma – PSG knew this was their moment to strike.

When they then refused to sell Mbappe, Barcelona and Real Madrid were left to pick up the pieces of disastrous transfer windows that leave them deeply wounded

Barcelona also lost Antoine Griezmann on deadline day as they sold another of their star names to cut costs, while Italy’s Serie A has also been decimated by the exit of its two biggest stars – Ronaldo and Lukaku – to the Premier League.

The sight of 13-time European kings Real Madrid listed as 12/1 seventh favourites, and Barcelona and Juventus behind them in the betting, confirms the sea change has come to pass.

This explains why Real Madrid, Barca and Juve’s owners are still insisting they will back a breakaway European Super League if the plan hatched earlier this year can be revived.

Yet, after what we have just witnessed this summer, there is no reason for PSG, City, Chelsea or United to consider giving their old rivals a route back to the table of power by breaking a system they now monopolise.

Football has changed – and changed utterly – amid the game’s redesigned landscape.

SUMMER TRANSFER WINDOW FACTS

  • Liverpool were around £8million in profit from player trading in a window that saw them make just one big signing in defender Ibrahima Konate.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo is believed to have become the highest-paid player in the Premier League when he agreed a deal that could be worth up to £2m-a-month if his bonuses are activated.
  • In total, Premier League clubs spent £1.1billion on transfers during the window. That outlay was 11 per cent lower than the previous summer’s total of £1.3bn, which, itself, was a 9pc fall from 2019.
  • According to financial services firm Deloitte, this is the lowest collective gross spend by Premier League clubs since 2015.
  • Premier League clubs signed 148 players, compared with 132 in summer 2020 and 128 in the summer of 2019.
  • Germany’s Bundesliga was the only European ‘big five’ league to increase its gross spending this year.
  • Chelsea finished in profit to the tune of around £41m after recouping almost £143m on player sales and signing Romelu Lukaku for £97.5m.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ODDS (Paddy Power)

PSG - 7/2

Man City - 7/2

Bayern Munich - 7/1

Chelsea - 15/2

Liverpool - 9/1

Man United - 12/1

Real Madrid 14/1

Barcelona 22/1

Juventus 25/1

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