| 9.2°C Dublin

cash counts Old elite face new reality as the global pandemic could finally reset the football landscape

Only the uber-rich to thrive as pandemic transforms football forever

Close

The Dortmund and Norway wonderkid Haaland has a price tag of £120million and his team-mate Jadon Sancho could also be on the move

The Dortmund and Norway wonderkid Haaland has a price tag of £120million and his team-mate Jadon Sancho could also be on the move

The Dortmund and Norway wonderkid Haaland has a price tag of £120million and his team-mate Jadon Sancho could also be on the move

Europe's elite clubs have navigated their way through the global pandemic over the last year, yet the aftermath of the crisis could now be about to change the game for good.

While most of the world has been in lockdown, the lavish TV contracts propping up football's top leagues have helped to ensure the show continued.

Yet the kickback is on the way. While the headlines might suggest big-money transfers for Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Harry Kane could be on the agenda this summer, reality may get in the way of fantasy football.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have been among those sounding the alarm bells in recent days, with both suggesting big-money signings are unlikely for the rest of 2021 due to their club's strained finances.

So while Klopp may dream about bringing France superstar Mbappe to Anfield and Solskjaer has admitted he would like to revive his interest in Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland, such lavish deals may not be realistic for clubs operating with sustainable revenue streams.

"The pandemic is definitely affecting everyone in football. Of course the lack of income, the finances has affected everyone," confirms Solskjaer.

"Where can we spend the money? And how much is there? It's just the real world now. It has changed.

"There are going to be less and less transfers happening with all these changes.

Close

Cristiano Ronaldo (L) of Juventus FC is challenged by Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona. (Photo by Nicol� Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Cristiano Ronaldo (L) of Juventus FC is challenged by Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona. (Photo by Nicol� Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Cristiano Ronaldo (L) of Juventus FC is challenged by Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona. (Photo by Nicol� Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

"We have to be realistic and responsible in the way we do business, on and off the pitch."

The same message is emerging from Tottenham, who are paying back huge loan repayments on their new stadium and a £125million Covid-relief loan from the UK government. And with the enduring superpowers of European football also creaking under the financial strain, the fallout from the last 12 months may inspire a reworking of the game's long-established order.

Unique

Filling the void they leave behind will be the clubs able to find alternative revenue sources to replace lost season-ticket sales income.

For Manchester City, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain, the coming months offer a unique opportunity to rewrite the football landscape, with the credibility of UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules severely damaged by City's success in evading a ban after they were found guilty of rule breaches.

That decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport emboldened the clubs funded by "outside" sources to expand their transfer spending, with the oil-rich state-owned clubs such as Man City and PSG and Roman Abramovich's Chelsea liable to emerge as the new power players in the European game.

So while Haaland gave a broad hint earlier this week that he was not interested in a move to Chelsea and would only leave Dortmund for one of Europe's genuine giants, the option for a player of his magnitude to sign for one of those clubs may not be on the table for the foreseeable future.

"You can see the money is not there at a lot of clubs and I don't see that changing, so it opens up a massive opportunity for a handful of rich owners," Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher told the Sunday World exclusively at a Sky Sports event.

"We saw the situation at Liverpool in January, when Jurgen Klopp clearly wanted to buy a central defender at the start of the transfer window and he was told by the owners he couldn't.

Strong

"I said at the time that Liverpool couldn't challenge for the Premier League title unless they signed defenders in January, given what has happened to them this season with injuries, and I take no pleasure in being proved right on that.

Close

Mbappe may be beyond Liverpool.

Mbappe may be beyond Liverpool.

Mbappe may be beyond Liverpool.

"What happens going forward will be interesting because I look at Manchester City, I look at Chelsea and I look at PSG and they could be in a very strong position this summer.

"If it comes down to wages and agents fees, which it often does with a big-money transfer, those three clubs will probably be able to offer more than Liverpool or United.

"What we saw last summer with Timo Werner (right) was that when the final decision was made and the final figures were added up, Chelsea offered him more than Liverpool and he went there.

"It's a scenario we might see more and more in the coming months as I don't see clubs that don't have wealthy owners being able to spend big this summer."

With Liverpool's American owners currently in the process of trying to find fresh investment in their Fenway Sports Group and Spurs hoping a stadium naming-rights deal will bail them out of a financial hole, football may be about to receive a vaccine that might then change its DNA.

Theory

There was a suspicion that the game could be taken away from Europe's long-established elite clubs when Russian oligarch Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003, with City's investors from Abu Dhabi adding to that theory when they arrived on the scene five years later.

Yet the global pandemic and the financially draining consequences emerging from it may be the catalyst for change in a sport where cash off the pitch will always be pivotal to hopes of success on it.

PLAYERS WHO COULD BE UP FOR GRABS THIS SUMMER

KYLIAN MBAPPE

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar has yet to sign a new contract with the French club and if they are looking to bring in Lionel Messi this summer, they would need to free up space on their wage bill to comply with Financial Fair Play rules.

HARRY KANE

Kane will turn 28 this summer and the moment has come for him to leave Spurs, as he looks to add trophies to a career that has already delivered so much. Very few clubs could afford to sign one of the world's elite strikers.

ERLING HAALAND

This Norwegian wonderkid is clearly angling at a move away from Borussia Dortmund, with his €120million price tag a major sticking point when agent Mino Raiola's hefty cut is also included.

LIONEL MESSI

The Barcelona legend looks set to leave the club this summer on a free transfer, with Paris Saint-Germain and Man City the only two clubs believed to be vying for his services.

GINI WIJNALDUM

The Liverpool midfielder is out of contract this summer, but his hopes of a move to Barcelona may be dashed by the Catalan club's financial woes.

PAUL POGBA

While his agent Mino Raiola has let it be known that he wants to leave Manchester United this summer, hopes of a move to Real Madrid could be scuppered by financial issues with the Spanish giants.

JADON SANCHO

Manchester United refused to pay Dortmund's €120million asking price for Sancho last summer, but have hinted that they will sell the England attacking star for a reduced fee this year. It remains to be seen if any club can afford him in the current climate.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

Sunday World


Top Videos





Privacy