Butler: European soccer hits the scales on Canada Day

Noel Butler,
6/28/2013 4:58:49 PM
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As communities and towns right across Canada gear up to celebrate our nation's birthday on Monday, European football's wheelers and dealers --check book and the de rigueur brown paper bag stuffed with cash at the ready -- are salivating at the thought the summer transfer window officially opening for business the very same day.

In the run up to Monday clubs have been permitted to consummate deals with the proviso the buying and selling club hail from the same domestic league.

Typically Real Madrid has been at the forefront of getting their bids in early.

The wannabe 10-time Euro champs displayed their intentions and used their first-mover advantage to maximum effect earlier in the week with news the Madristocrats had locked up one of Spain's prime young assets: former Malaga midfielder Francisco Alarcón Suárez.

Better known under his one-name moniker, “Isco” gave the perfect account of himself when he was voted the tournament's Golden Boy as Spain retained the UEFA Under-21 Championships in Israel earlier this month.

A lifetime Barcelona supporter, Isco is sure to go down well with the locals when he takes his dog for a stroll round the Madrid streets.

The ex-Malaga man's dog is called Messi. Not too sure it will be wise to throw him a ball though.

Next up in the Los Blancos' sightlines are none other than Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez and this summer's most in-demand glamour boy, “My Left Foot” himself: Gareth Bale.

If Perez is successful the total transfer outlay on these three musketeers - when combined with the 35m euro [$45m CAD] Real reportedly paid Malaga - would most certainly exceed a quarter of a billion dollars.

Factor in the existing salaries of this mega Grade-A talent and Madrid's total capital investment could exceed the half billion mark.

Evidently, Florentino Perez hasn't read any of Michel Platini's memos on UEFA's Financial Fair Play model that comes into full effect this upcoming season.

FFP is that utopian one-size-fits-all financial model which restricts and requires clubs across European football to spend what they earn that sounds great in theory.

However, in practice FFP will allow the clubs who sign the blockbuster sponsorship deals and receive the greater proportion of broadcast revenues - domestically, continentally and globally - to pull further away from clubs towards the middle and bottom end of the European football food chain.

Then factor in, say, the Emirates box office on match day compared to Anfield's. The comparison is $5 million vs. $1.5 million and we haven't even discussed the icing on the FFP cake; club merchandise.

The abundance of Ronaldo, Messi and Rooney [who himself could be on the move this summer] shirts walking round Canadian and U.S. streets alone likely outnumbers the gross domestic merchandise product for the French Ligue 1 and Dutch Eredivisie combined.

The rich will indeed get richer and continue to win most if not all the silverware. Just like in the real world itself, over the long run the wealth gap between the ‘haves' and the ‘have-nots' will widen.

It could get to the point when – by time Europe next gets to host a World Cup Finals in 2018 - even Nik Wallenda himself would turn down opportunity to tightrope across such an exhaustible and unbridgeable gap.

Just ask yourself why Manchester United CEO David Gill and Roman Abramovich have cuddled up to Platini. Something about protecting future earnings, anyone?

Jurgen Klopp, who knows a thing or two (and certainly a lot more than any UEFA FFP Panel) used the platform of the UEFA Champions League Final to full effect when on the eve of the final, Klopp voiced very legitimate fears that he saw a day the Bundesliga would mimic the Scottish Premier League.

With Bayern playing the role of Celtic, UEFA Financial Fair Play must be the reason why the monopoly board was invented in the first place.

Bayern, so optimistically influencing, spent their additional (very lucrative) Champions League broadcast revenue even before they earned it when in late April they captured the $45 million signature of Klopp prodigy Mario Götze.

The threat of barring clubs from elite competitions will in time result in such demand for top notch club accountants and lawyers they themselves will likely have to hire player agents as they hold out for 150,000 euros-plus per week in tax free salaries like the players themselves.

Surely this was the summer UEFA would have forecasted we would witness a dramatic downturn in spiraling transfer fees.

When in reality we may well soon see Torres: Version 2.0.

Take it back to late January 2011 and the cart-before-the-horse scenario where Liverpool, to save face pushed back Abramovich's opening salvo for their prime Spanish ace. Anfield requested Torres put in a transfer request as the storied English club demanded 50 million pieces of William and Kate silvers to cut ties with El Nino.

Roman duly obliged back then.

Now we have reports Liverpool will demand Suarez place a transfer request ahead of any such 50m pound move to Bernabeu.

The transfer request is an important factor because placing one denies the player any percentage of his fee garnered at market.

These percentages which - in this era of football doping, as Wenger describes it - tend to be negotiated with the player and his management team on an individual basis and can be as lofty as 15 per cent.

Not a bad day's work for a signature.

And we thought there was a growing market for signed baseball cards.

Frighteningly, just as the final whistle sounds in Sunday evening's mouth-watering Confederations Cup Final at the mythical Maracana it will also signal a mad dash to the airport as players the world over begin making their way back to their European football outposts.

Yes, folks, in the coming two weeks right across the UEFA continent players who have not participated in any spring international tournaments begin reporting to training camp.

Fitness levels will be checked as financial wherewithal reaches a new dimension.

By the end of August when the window closes let's see how vast the EU aggregate spend is.

With the prospect upon us that Bale, Cavani, Suarez, Lewandowski and Rooney could be joining the likes of Tevez, Isco, Fernandinho and Götze before them and running out next season in a different jersey than the one they threw into the crowd at the end of last season puts a whole new dimension on European club football finances.

Now add in just for fun comments earlier this week from the Legendinho himself: Johan Cruyff.

The Dutch Master suggested in a MARCA interview that with the $70m-plus Neymar now installed at the Camp Nou, the club Cruyff took to its very first European Cup in 1992, should take advantage of the rising market prices and sell the current face of the franchise: Lionel Messi.

As he holidays in Milan, what price would the Argentine maverick command? The just-turned 26-year-old who we are yet to see the very best of?

Told you it was fun.

So many euros will be required by Sheik Mansour it will likely lead to a rise in the value of Europe's beleaguered currency unit. Not sure this was in any UEFA FFP forecasts.

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:


Noel Butler

Noel Butler

Noel Butler is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on You can follow him on Twitter at and listen to his radio program oranges@halftime on TSN Radio 690 Montreal.


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