Lure of the £££’s


It has been a common theme for some time in football – money talks and there is a perception that it therefore buys success.

This seed was sown long ago in the English Premier League, when Jack Walker pumped in excess of £40 million to his hometown club Blackburn Rovers in order to ensure they competed and challenged with the ‘elite’. They far exceeded expectations and went on to win the Premiership title in 1995 after creating the famous ‘SAS’ frontline of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton – breaking the British transfer record in the process for each of them at the time.

With the influx of foreign ownership of clubs by Russian and Arabian oligarchs amongst others, there are plenty more teams who have now followed the same approach as Blackburn did – buy the elite, watch them gel and make sure the trophy cabinet has space for all the impending silverware. We all know it isn’t this easy so why is this mentality still adopted?

Instant success is a key factor. The new breed of investor who has millions, if not billions, of disposable funds would not be interested in investing in the clubs academy to produce a star of tomorrow and route to the first team. The first thing that is required after taking the hot seat is a ‘marquee’ signing or manager – someone who will steer the team to glory.

This is fantasy football on a larger scale; you only need to take a look at Eastland’s where Roberto Mancini is assembling a squad of household names who are already making a serious challenge to the title this season. Make sure you’re sitting down when you take in this next fact – Manchester City have spent £128 million on 6 players in the last 2 seasons.

man city

The phenomenon of splashing out on high fees for the cream of the crop is not exclusive to England by any means. In Spain there was Zidane, Beckham, Ronaldo and Figo leading Real Madrid’s ‘Galácticos’ back in 2003 and they have continued the trend by securing the services of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo in recent years. Just a train ride away, Paris St-Germain has recently had Qatari investment so it will only be a matter of time before the spending spree begins in France.

All the aforementioned clubs are situated in Western Europe whereas the investors are from further afield. It raises the questions as to why they do not invest in football in their homeland? After all, if they are in it for the love of the game what could be better than raising the profile of your home country?

There is one man who seems to be bucking the trend – Suleyman Kerimov. With a reported net worth of $7.8 billion, he is the owner and investor of FC Anzhi Makhachkala in the Russian Premier League.

Anzhi are located in the Republic of Dagestan on the Caspian Sea, an area that has been troubled in recent years by terrorists and insurgents. In fact in the area is so unstable the players actually live on the outskirts of Moscow and fly 1250 miles just for a home game.

Despite the obvious risks to personal safety the lure of an astronomical wage packet has already attracted the former African Footballer of the Year Samuel Eto’o to ply his trade there. A reported £8.7m is being paid per year for his services, not bad work if you can get it…

Eto’o followed Brazilian full back Roberto Carlos to Russia and many more household names have been linked in the past few months to Anzhi – Chelsea’s Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba amongst others. Although they have not signed for the club, Kerimov is proving the point that money does talk as 3-4 years ago no one outside of Russia had heard of the team he now owns.

The same thing is happening further afield in the Far East. Whilst Air Asia’s CEO Tony Fernandes has opted to invest his money in Queens Park Rangers, fellow Asian businessman Zhu Jun has ploughed his finances into Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua. With his investment he has already secured the services of French striker Nicolas Anelka who at the moment is the only non-Chinese player in the squad. It’s inevitable that there will be further foreign players joining ‘Le Sulk’ in the Far East especially as former French international Jean Tigana is in the hot seat as Manager.


Kerimov & Jun are both raising the profile of their national leagues by investing in them. They are now getting the exposure on a global scale and are positioning themselves as a desirable ‘move’ for established footballers. The players they are attracting are not in the twilight of their career and looking for a final payday – Samuel Eto’o was 30 years old when he signed so still has a good few years left at the top level yet. He reportedly turned down moves to Tottenham & Manchester City before signing for Anzhi.

In 10 years time Spain, Italy, England & Germany may have players moving from their premier leagues to China, Russia, USA & Australia in the prime of their careers without anyone batting an eyelid. This will only happen if these countries have investment otherwise the same old story will occur – the rich get richer (and better) and the poor get poorer – literally.



Article by Chris Stygal

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