paradox of plenty

Year after year, fans of the beautiful game are subjected to — or rather, subject themselves to — the debate over which league is the best in the world.

Bony, Soldado and Negredo

with so many top class strikers in the premier league, it HAS to be the best league in the world… right?

In general, it’s a pretty fruitless argument. There are like a billion ways to define “best”: most number of top teams, the league with the most parity, the league with most top players, the richest league, the most financially sound league, the most entertaining league, the most successful league, the most popular league, and the list goes on and on. And even if you were to average up all of those different factors, half of those are still clearly based on opinion.

So why even bother? Well, because we’re pretty self-centered species that’s naturally driven to prove to the rest of our peers that our opinions are the right ones so we can feel smug about ourselves. Therefore, the debate will rage on until there’s only a single league to watch. Which will be never.

Regardless, the leagues that are mentioned in this discussion have remained fairly constant: England’s Britain’s Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga. Each has had its time in the sun as the consensus “world’s best league”: Serie A held the title for much of the 90’s and was supplanted in the early 00’s by the Premier League. And of late, La Liga and the Bundesliga have made headway in the court of public opinion.

For some reason, this flux in opinion grates the hell out of people. Fans of the Premier League in particular tend to lose their minds whenever it’s suggested that the Premiership has lost some of its luster. How dare you criticize “the Prem”? You are aware that Arsenal/Liverpool/Manchester United/Chelsea is the most popular team in the world, right?! That’s why everyone wants to play there, you know! And while it’s hard not to wring their necks even while that stream of BS pours from their mouths/keyboards, you can understand their frustration.

How is it that a league that is the most watched in the world, generally pays the best wages and has the richest TV deal in sports relinquish a title that was almost indisputably their’s?

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for greed, all nature is too little

Alright. Enough is enough. This whole thing is really starting to spiral out of control. It’s not like this is a revelation or anything. Everyone knows finances in European football have completely gotten out of hand.

Supporters Protest Against Raised Ticket Prices

greed has become so prevalent in european football that fans are starting to feel its effects.

Football mirroring life once again, it’s impossible to miss just how easily the rich are get richer while the poor continue to get poorer. The system is set up to work that way, and no corner of the sport escapes the effects of the greed that runs rampant within it.

You’ve heard it all before, but I’ll tell it to you again. For the effect, that’s why.

First, think about how increasingly rare it is to find an elite player outside of one of the super-rich, “mega-clubs” like Chelsea, Bayern, PSG, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Barcelona and Juventus. They’re the only ones who can afford to buy the best players, they then win things with them, which ultimately provides them with even more prize/sponsorship money to go out and hijack another small club’s best player. That’s why we see more and more young stars like Mario Götze leaving a potentially dynastic Dortmund side for Bayern, and why we’ll continue to see various behemoths attempt to pry guys like Gareth Bale away from an on-the-cusp sidesl like Tottenham. It’s a ridiculously vicious cycle, particularly if you’re a fan of a club classified with the have-nots rather than the haves.

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ten words or less #67

Monday in the middle of February. Everybody’s favorite day of the week in everybody’s favorite month. And though we’ve had some unseasonably warm temperatures here in the Midwest, the depression caused by lack of exposure to sunlight during the winter has seemed more palpable this year compared to last.

Real Madrid vs Manchester United Champions League

ronaldo and rooney are just two of the high-profile names squaring off this week. if you can’t get excited about that, go see a doctor. (Image courtesy of the BBC).

But fear not, football fans: there’s cause for your spirits to perk up this week. Champions League resumes, with a zesty marquee match up between Real Madrid and Manchester United to cure your wintertime blues. Europa League also picks back up, and though I’m understandably looking forward to Spurs’ tie with Lyon, several other intriguing matches are also on tap. And with the Premier League and others reaching the final third of the season, a full slate of pivotal matches to the relegation races and European places are also in the cards.

Though if you’re still suffering from a case of the Mundays even with such great soccer around the corner, below are some excellent links from the last week to help brighten your mood.

Spectacular custom subbuteo art: Hazard’s Ball Boy Incident. –

Gazza continues his slide down his sad slippery slope. –

Not always the norm, but a worrying prospect for players. –

Nike’s marketing department strikes gold once again. –

Oh look, he’s not dead. –

I’m fast becoming a fan of Dortmund’s İlkay Gündoğan. –

Wait… is it really that easy to get press credentials? –

Murdered out. –

It seems like Sergio Ramos is finally growing up. –

Guess which club’s manager is against financial constraints. –

where are you putting your money?

The money in professional football these days is just silly. Though never as pure or untainted as some might lead you to believe, the meteoric increase in investment in the game has seen the bank accounts of many a player, club and owner swell tremendously.

Manchester United Opening Bell at the NYSE

manchester united had the red carpet rolled out for them on the day their shares started trading on the NYSE.

But comprehending just how much money is flowing through the veins and arteries of professional football these days is sometimes a difficult task. So why don’t we put some of these numbers in terms that might make them slightly more relatable for the average reader.

Take for instance the average weekly salary at big spending Manchester City, a sizable $138,117… or more than twice what your average two person household earns in the UK in a year. At oligarch-funded Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala, 31-year-old striker Samuel Eto’o will be earning nearly $29 million this season — or the equivalent of 16,201,117 Doritos Locos tacos. And just this last summer, Premier League sides spent a combined $784 million on player transfers — or roughly 1,571,142 iPads. Okay, so maybe those weren’t figures that are easier to understand, but you have to admit the money is pretty staggering.

Unfortunately, most of this investment that’s been drawn into the game is increasingly concentrated in its upper echelons. While the titans of club football have used this increase in funding to evolve into multimillion dollar, international corporations, legions of smaller clubs are rife with financial problems as they try to compete with the increased wages and transfer sums being offered by their wealthier peers. Even those who have previously seen prosperity have been left behind or have mismanaged their fortunes, leaving them ruined: just ask fans of Rangers, Portsmouth and more or less every club in Spain. For every well-to-do club PSG, there are probably twenty clubs struggling to keep their heads above water. The rich have gotten richer, while the poor have gotten poorer… football imitating life once again.

Real Oviedo's Estadio Carlos Tartiere

one of the clubs struggling is spain’s segunda b side real oviedo. and without proper investment, their estadio carlos tartiere will be always looks this empty.

So when two clubs recently announced the ability for the public to buy shares and pump even more money into football, it definitely caught my eye.

The first offering came from around a month or so ago, when Manchester United’s American owner Malcom Glazer floated shares in the club on the New York Stock Exchange (symbol: MANU). After the news broke, I started furiously composing a post outlining the reasons why I thought investing stock in the Red Devils would be a really poor decision. Here was the wealthiest club in the world asking fans to purchase shares in United simply to service the debt saddled on the club by Glazer’s own takeover at Old Trafford in 2005. Not only that, but the shares themselves are nearly worthless B-class shares that feature zero voting rights and the same amount of dividends. Oh, and at the time of writing, they’re currently trading at $12.94 — down nearly 8% since their opening discounted price.

Contrast that with the current offering from Spanish third division side Real Oviedo. If you’re not familiar with the team, odds are you have probably heard of some of their academy graduates such as Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla. And though they were playing in the Primera as recently as the 2001, the Asturian side has plummeted through the Spanish footballing pyramid over the last decade thanks to numerous fiscal set backs. Oviedo’s financial situation became so dire this season that, if unable able to raise €2.5 million in back-owed taxes and player wages, the club would be forced into liquidation by the equally financially obtuse Spanish government. So much like United, the Carbayones decided to appeal to fans to buy stock to raise capital. The major difference being that they were doing so to stave off extinction, not just lower interest payments so the owners can turn a larger profit each year.

Now let’s be honest, buying either Manchester United or Real Oviedo stock is really less of an investment and much more of a donation. The likelihood of seeing a return on either is highly unlikely, meaning you’re pretty much kissing your money goodbye. And though the ability to trade and sell your Manchester United stock will likely be significantly easier, it’s unlikely to see massive gains anytime soon either.

Real Oviedo Stock Certificate

$14.63 landed you a single share in real oviedo stock.

So as a potential football investor — putting aside club allegiance — it really comes down to where you want to put your money. Do you want it put into corporate football or sustaining football?

Without the money raised by selling stock, Real Oviedo will cease to be. That means a community of 224,000 will be left without a local professional football club to support week in and week out, and an academy that’s produced dazzling players will close its doors. Meanwhile without the money raised by offering their shares, Manchester United will continue to challenge for trophies annually. And that means millions of fans around the world will continue to watch the Red Devils play week in and week out. They might not be breaking the bank to sign top-level players like their city neighbors without it, so they’ll have to still bargain buy a “decent” player like Robin van Persie from time to time.

It may not be the most financially sound decision, but I know where I’d put my money. And it’s certainly not in the pockets of the Glazers.

ten words or less #41

mourinho rides callejon

callejón is content to be josé mourinho's "human segway".

I literally had to flip a coin to decide which picture would end up as the headlining selection for this week’s post. It was a dead heat between the eventual winner entitled José Rides Forward and Beckham Budweiser Ballin’. Each is awesome in their own right for various reasons. But I’m glad Mourinho won out though: just look how intensely he’s riding José Callejón, like an overdressed Portuguese jockey in the Kentucky Derby. The ride also must have proven inspirational for Callejón, as he bagged a brace in the very next game out for the Spaniards.

Picture of the week honors? Fate chose wisely.

Are Spain slipping, or is del Bosque losing the plot? –

Dear family members: here’s what I want for Christmas. –

Marketing gone bad… so bad it could literally hurt. –

Which unnamed DP will be the recipient of this money? –

So what if it’s Nike’s old commercial in reverse. Brilliant. –
(…props to my boy Marc for digging this out)

Marouane Fellaini: The Human Chia Pet. –

Anybody else feel like booking a trip to Buenos Aires? –

The tactics behind this week’s super entertaining Barça-Milan match. –

ten words or less #34

sexy mike ashley

after seeing newcastle owner mike ashley's sexy body, i bet you're not mad at me anymore for not posting for a week. right?

I feel a bit like a bad boyfriend right now, one who’s been accused of ignoring my long-term girlfriend for a while, since I haven’t posted in a week. And even though it appears that I’ve not been working on it — ignoring the fact this TWOL post has been sitting around for at least a week itself — I promise that I’ve got some original content in the pipeline for you. Whether you’ll find that new content interesting, that’s another issue…

So, consider this quick posting a small bouquet of flowers to make up for my perceived lack of attentiveness.

“FIFA: For the Good of the Game a Select Few” –

Barcelona youth teams occasionally have to play on dirt pitches!?!? –

I would watch this. –

Spanish football is in some serious (financial) shit. –

Germany loves my favorite formation: the 4-2-3-1. –

If true, I’m just glad it’s not some Union-Jack monstrosity. –

More bad ass football art. –

A brilliantly written article on racism in football. –