Saturday, 29 January 2011

Ominous


Just when we thought maybe Chelsea were going to fuck off, or at least fade away, they seem to have unleashed the retarded-looking Russian's cheque book again.

No confirmed kills as yet, but a bid of £35m has gone in for Torres (and tonight they look increasingly likely to get him), they were going to sign Benfica's David Ruiz for £20m+ (although tonight they look increasingly unlikely to get him), and there's talk of another Brazilian, forget his name now, again for £20m+, in the summer. They're back. Carrie's hand has shot back out from the earth, and it's clutching a wad of £50 notes.

They rattle on about how they've reined in their spending and, true, in the last five years, their net outlay is actually less than £5m. I know, I was surprised too.

But if you measure the last eight years, it's over £300m (net), £180m more than us. Our record signing wouldn't be in their top 10 record signings. I don't think we pay anyone over £80K a week. And, okay, I don't know how many they pay over £100K a week. But at least half a dozen? Maybe more than 10?

Chelsea are still a long way from being a normal club. And a long way from being the Chelsea that anyone over the age of 10 remembers. The lovable old duffers.

It's funny the way they so desperately instigate or latch onto any criticism of Man City's spending. 'Can you believe it?' etc. Well yes, actually, thanks to your lot's precedent-setting, we can. If it had come out of the blue, it would have stunned and appalled us, but because it came after the Blues, it simply seemed an extension of established practice.

And here's what was really different about Chelsea. Here's why they can't say 'show me a team that hasn't bought the title', why they can't point to Blackburn, or Man Utd or just weasel away from the fact that they are, essentially, the schism between good and evil in the modern football world. Too much? Oh come on.

Okay, let's deal with Blackburn first. Jack Walker spent some serious money and, yes, bought the title for a small club. He did, there's no denying it. But he was a local businessman made good. He was part of quite a grand tradition: the benevolent mill owner investing in the local team to deliver a feel good factor (and increased productivity) to his town. His was a football story.

(Plus, they never paid more than £8m, and that was in 2001, for Andy Cole, nearly a decade after they'd won the title. Shearer cost £3.5m)

Man Utd? Well, yes, they've spent some money. But they're Man Utd, they've kind of, or, in fact, literally, earned it. They've spent 40 or 50 years becoming the biggest team in the world, at least partly through what they achieved on the pitch (there are factors like Munich to take into account, but even then, it was the resilliance showed and glory found on the pitch after the disaster than created the long term, global legacy. Like I say, they earned it). Again, it seems, to me at least, like a football story. Football will always have bigger clubs. It seems natural/right that Man Utd are one of them.

Chelsea had untold wealth poured into their nearly bankrupt business for unclear and certainly non-footballing reasons. They were a pin in a map. A random selection. A lottery winner.

They'd also been run into the ground and spent beyond their means in the previous seasons. They were fucked and had to sell. Their reward for this mis-management was being seen as a cheap and easy option by an oligarch looking to make his mark and sate his ego in the Premier League. Had they been profitable and well run, he may have looked elsewhere. (And yes, okay, he might have bought Spurs, and this entire rant is motivated purely by jealousy)

The other thing that marks them out as different is that when they talk about their 'net' spend (something that reduces the ridiculousness factor of their gross outlay), it's sort of bunkum. Because, when we sell Berbatov and Carrick to Man Utd, or even Keane to Liverpool, we kind of have to.

It's not just that we have some responsibility to balance the books, or at least to not trade insolvently year after year, it's also that we have wage structures, so we can't/won't be held to ransom, and, perhaps most crucially, we can't afford to let players run down their contracts and walk away for nothing. If we're offered £30m for a player with two-and-a-half years left on his contract, we have to weigh that amount against how much it will decrease, until eventually it becomes fuck all, during that two-and-a-half years.

We have to take a view.

Chelsea don't have a view. Wealth has blinded them. From their perch, the real world is a million miles and half a billion pounds away. When they sell it's because it suits them. They don't have to. They never actually have to.

Their trophies are the most worthless baubles anyone ever paid a fortune for.

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