Has The Game Reached The Point Of No Return?
With the world transfer fee well and truly smashed, it was only fitting to sculpture a TEB article about modern football and what is happening to our beloved game.
As all football fans know, the money in the game has grown and grown over the years which begs the question, is it damaging the sport that a very large percentage of us still cherish?
It was all very different back in the day with player transfers staying well under the £1million mark. The most iconic move that may well have triggered the domino effect was the transfer of Argentine Bernabe Ferreyra to River Plate in 1932 for a record fee at the time of £23,000, more than double the amount of the previous record set four years earlier when David Jack moved from Bolton Wanderers to Arsenal. Since that time, football clubs have been competing to spend the most money on an individual, something that many of us have grown up with since first taking an interest in the game.
Trevor Francis graced pitches up and down the country in the early seventies, and he became the first ever player to be sold for a seven figure sum in English football when he joined reigning First Division champions and League Cup holders Nottingham Forest in 1979. However, that was a few years after Guiseppe Salvoldi became the first £1million player when he moved from Bologna to Napoli in 1975.
With the emergence of extremely talented teenagers in the current day such as Kylian Mbappé, Dele Alli and Ousmane Dembélé, the world record transfer fee will no doubt continue to be broken many times in the future unless a solution is found to the ever increasing, ludicrous spending.
Ironically enough, the very first million pound teenager in English football was Bruce Dyer who Palace signed from Watford in 1994. That’s right, Palace signed the very first million pound teenager who went on to score thirty-seven goals in over a hundred appearances during his spell in South London. The popular striker left for Barnsley in 1998 and never really lived up to the price tag but it was Palace that broke the record transfer fee paid for a young player that set a president for other clubs looking to recruit the next big thing.
Other players had transferred from their respective clubs for fees that were much much higher than Dyer’s though, such as Jean-Pierre Papin’s move for £10million from Marseille to AC Milan in the summer of 1992 while the Brazilian Ronaldo’s £13.5million move from Dutch side PSV to the Catalan giants, Barcelona took place not long after.
In July 1996, Alan Shearer became the first Premier League player to break the world record transfer fee after joining Newcastle United from Blackburn Rovers for a fee of £15million, having won the Premier League title as well as contributing to England reaching the semi-finals at Euro’96.
Midfield maestro Zinedine Zidane moved from Juventus to Real Madrid in 2001 for £47million came as a surprise but not as big a shock at the £37million amount that came before it that took Luis Figo to Spanish rivals Real Madrid from Barcelona just a year before. This figure was only set to rise again with Kaka’s move to the Bernadeau from the San Siro in 2009 for almost £56million.
As crazy as it is, £56million sounds cheap in the football world and that is down to the three record fees that lead the way before the Neymar deal was finalised. Cristiano Ronaldo made his £80million switch from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2009 followed by Gareth Bale three years later who joined Los Blancos from Tottenham Hotspur. Last summer, both records were thrown into unchartered territory when Paul Pogba ironically moved back to the club that let him go on a free as a teenager for £89million.
Record Transfer Fees
2016 Paul Pogba £89.3million (Juventus to Manchester United)
2013 Gareth Bale £85.3million (Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid)
2009 Cristiano Ronaldo £80million (Manchester United to Real Madrid)
2009 Kaka £56million (Milan to Real Madrid)
2001 Zinedine Zidane £46.6million (Juventus to Real Madrid)
2000 Luis Figo £37million (Barcelona to Real Madrid)
2000 Hernan Crespo £35million (Parma to Lazio)
1999 Christian Vieiri £32.1million (Lazio to Inter)
1998 Denilson £21.5million (Sao Paulo to Real Betis)
1997 Ronaldo £19.5million (Barcelona to Inter)
1996 Alan Shearer £15million (Blackburn Rovers to Newcastle United)
1996 Ronaldo £13.2million (PSV Eindhoven to Barcelona)
1992 Gianluigi Lentini £13million (Torino to Milan)
1992 Gianluca Vialli £12million (Sampdoria to Juventus)
1992 Jean-Pierre Papin £10million (Marseille to Milan)
1990 Roberto Baggio £8million (Fiorentina to Juventus)
1987 Ruud Gullit £6million (PSV Eindhoven to Milan)
1984 Diego Maradona £5million (Barcelona to Napoli)
1982 Diego Maradona £3million (Boca Juniors to Barcelona)
1976 Paulo Rossi £1.75million (Juventus to Vicenza)
1975 Guiseppe Salvoldi £1.2million (Bologna to Napoli)
1973 Johan Cruyff £922,000 (Ajax to Barcelona)
This brings me onto the reason for this very article. The now confirmed world record transfer that has sky-rocketed football into a whole new world of crazy.
The £198million fee that has been paid to Barcelona by Paris Saint Germain to secure the services of the enigmatic Brazilian, Neymar.
Just let that sink in for a minute.
One hundred and ninety eight million pounds. For one individual. To kick a football around a field. Forty-two years after £1million barrier was broken. Thirty-three years after the £5million barrier was broken. Twenty-five years after the £10million barrier was broken. Football now appears to be very broken.
Granted, Neymar is a very talented player but is he really worth that much money? If he is worth that amount, like José Mourinho and other iconic names in world football have said, how much is Lionel Messi worth?
My issue with this figure, and I am sure I am not alone, is not only the fact that it is inhumane and that amount could be better spent in this world, but it is that half of the fee will not stay within the game.
Approximately £40million to £50million will appear in the bank accounts of agents that were involved in the deal. That to me is a problem. An agent getting that much cut of a deal is absurd. Surely some of that money could and should be put back into football at a lower level in an effort to secure the future of the game.
Grass roots is a channel that provides for local communities through togetherness and youth as well as tourism but, they do not get the financial advantages the top teams do. This is understandable from the perspective of the level of the game they are playing at but with these large transfer fees, there should be a percentage that has to be re-invested into grass roots. This is the foundation of football. Where it all began and where all football clubs were at one point. How can lower league clubs strive to compete when top teams can spend so much on one individual? It’s a level of the game that they will always aspire to but rarely achieve.
My question is to the powers that be. Why can’t something be done to stop such alien like transfer fees? Money that you cannot physically handle being talked about in a sport that so many people watch and enjoy. Football is the most influential sport across the world and before youngsters start supporting individuals rather than teams due to their transfer fees, a solution needs to be found.
Ideas such as capping transfer fees and keeping them under the £100million mark would be understandable as this would keep some sense of reality in the game. What we have to remember is that these are just people. They put on their trousers one leg at a time, just like you and I do but these record transfer fees set them apart and make them untouchable.
Another way around this issue that has been mentioned in the media is the introduction of a Super League consisting of Europe’s top football clubs. This would take the best and richest clubs from each league and place them in a brand new one where they would only play each other apart from in cup and European competition.
Teams like Chelsea, Manchester City, Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Paris St Germain would be plucked from their respective leagues. These types of clubs would still spend the money they do now so this is when the transfer cap comes into play. This idea, as illogical as it may sound, would make domestic football around the world a whole lot more interesting as a free-for-all would be on the cards and any club would have a chance to make Europe without the top five or six in the way stunting progress.
I am sure you will agree, money in the modern game is a huge problem, especially Neymar’s now world record transfer fee which has thrown football into a whole new dimension and move it further and further away from real life. The majority of players will never understand how privileged they truly are.
Before agents, cheque books and billionaire club owners damage our game beyond repair, something needs to be put in place and quickly to safeguard what future there is.