Football is fast losing its soul

When in 2000, Hernan Crespo completed a deal from Parma to Lazio for a record €36M becoming the first 30M plus signing, the BBC reeled out a headline asking, “Has the world gone mad”? 17 years later and they will finally be getting an answer if the purported deal of Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid in excess of €161M pulls through.

The social media-sphere was yesterday agog with the news that Monaco youngster Kylian Mbappe might just be the latest name to don the white colors of Spanish side and Europe’s most successful club Real Madrid, the deal is rumored to be in the range of €161M with add-ons totaling €180M, this will emerge as a world record transfer fee surpassing the £89M that Manchester United paid in capturing midfielder Paul Pogba from Juventus.

Real Madrid became the first team to win back to back Champions League trophies in the modern era following their 3-1 victory over Juventus in June and have been building their squad with young players in the current window acquiring talents like Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos in addition to the likes of Lucas Vasquez and Marco Asensio who emerged last season. But aside signing these talents, Madrid has always been known for signing big name players usually tagged ‘Galaticos’, at-times these signings have been necessary to improve the squad, at-times they were required by the club President to make a statement in the run-up to an election whilst on some other occasions, it is just to deny a rival team from securing the talent in the future.

Kylian Mbappe is the latest of the promising young talents on the European scene. He emerged majorly in the second half of last season to lead his side Monaco to their first Ligue 1 crown in 17 years and a semi-final defeat to Juventus in the Champions league after an inspiring run. The French side were widely celebrated not just for their enterprising attacking style but more for winning the league in a glorious style with a pool of young talents and prudent signings despite having a billionaire owner as against buying their way to the title. Mbappe was key to this and he ended the season with 26 goals, scoring in every knock-out stage of the Champions league. The 18 year old is explosive, skillful, pacy with a strong eye for goals and you get the feeling that the only way to go for the youngster is up, but when a player who has only gotten 4 caps with his senior national team, and outside one good season is still an unproven rookie is being quoted at a figure in the excess of €161M in a 6 year deal where he will earn around 200,000 euros per week after tax, then we know that football has lost its sanity.

Former England forward and TV pundit, Gary Lineker had took to his twitter page when Kyle Walker completed his £53M move from Tottenham Hotspurs to Manchester City, describing it in one word, ‘Mental’, he also shared his thoughts on the rumored pursuit by Chelsea for Juventus and Argentine forward Gonzalo Higuain saying, “If anyone pays anywhere near that then the game has gone completely mental” and I stand with Lineker on this.

The current transfer window which opened officially on July 1st has already seen Premier League clubs hit the fourth most extravagant transfer window in English football history with completed deals worth over £800M already with more to come before the end of the window.

It is common knowledge that TV Broadcasting deals in the Premier league hit the 5 billion mark with the last deal, the influx of rich owners and investors into clubs, branding and merchandising has enhanced club revenues and pre-season tours have become much more than just warm-up games as the International Club competitions held in different parts of the world now makes it a lucrative fanfare. With all these indices, clubs have bottomless pockets and may definitely be able to afford the huge sums they are presently paying for players, capitalizing on loop-holes in the Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules, hence the proverbial bubble may not burst anytime soon but for how long will this theatre of insanity continue.

Someone mentioned that Mbappe was worth the quoted figure as he is a once in a generation talent, just 18, nowhere near his prime and could give Madrid 10 years of success, facts remain that he is unproven, has one good season under his belt with barely enough games at the biggest of stages, no one pays a figure like that for potential, it makes no sense. When Newcastle United broke the English transfer fee in 1996 in a £15M deal for Alan Shearer from Blackburn Rovers, which many believe led to the spike in modern day record breaking transfers, Alan Shearer had not only won the league with his side but had attained 100 club goals, a full English International and was on his way to being named the third best player in the world, Madrid broke the transfer record in the past for the likes of Zidane in 2001, a player who had attained success not just with Juventus but off the back of winning the World Cup with France in 1998 and the Euros in 2000 and being crowned the World player of the year twice, when Madrid also signed Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka in 2009, both were already proven names having won several individual and club honors and had already featured at the biggest stage with their National teams, and even though Gareth Bale signed for £86M having won little at Tottenham, he was a 24 year old hitting his peak, proven at major stages and had won the PFA Player of the year, Young Player of the year and Football Writers Player of the year awards in one season, making him the second player to ever achieve this feat behind Cristiano Ronaldo.

Deals like that of Mendy, Walker, Lukaku, Jordan Pickford, Vinicus Junior, Ederson, Morata have already been completed at absurd numbers this window with teams not afraid to keep splashing immediately they flop. The game now breeds a bunch of half-baked talents burdened with the pressure of a huge transfer fee and responsibility to deliver immediately, young footballers distracted by branding and sponsorship deals instead of developing their games, where social media postings is now first place ahead of actual football and winning trophies, where we now tag men like Mino Raiola and Jorge Mendes as ‘Super Agents’ and make them more popular than the actual actors of the game and where fans now take to social media to beg their clubs to sign players in an embarrassing manner as the excitement of winning the transfer window is the ultimate.

This tide may not stop as the Financial Fair Play rule has proven to be a farce and with all the money floating around, numbers like this are expected but beneath this influx of cash is the mediocrity and doltish path the game has taken, where a Diego Costa despite being contracted to another team can pose mockingly with the jersey of another, the standards have fallen, the game is going to the dogs, football may still be that beautiful game but at club level, it is fast losing its soul.

Ehis Ohunyon
Ehis Combs Ohunyon lives in Lagos but breathes Manchester. Realtor. Music and Football Writer, also on Radio at times.

3 thoughts on “Football is fast losing its soul

  1. No thoughts on grassroot development. Richard Scudamore defended the spending though. When Real Madrid paid £46 for Zidane in 2001, it was equivalent of 20% of EPL revenue, so in today’s we are not at that level yet. The worst is yet to come with the Neymar rumours gathering pace.

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