Money can't buy EPL love

Money can't buy EPL love
PHOTO: Reuters

Once again, the transfer window closed down any naive opinions that the English Premier League remains the best in the world.

Yesterday's farces, failures, missed deadlines and endless countdowns were the latest reminders that cash isn't a guarantee of quality.

In the end, pedigree cannot be bought. If it could, then Kim Kardashian would have as many Oscars as Meryl Streep and English clubs would have as many Champions League trophies as the Spaniards.

But they don't. Instead, they continue to confuse shopping sprees with substance.

Prepare for the vulgar displays of wealth in today's reports, as the hundreds of millions lavished by myopic English clubs in the transfer window will be tastelessly celebrated like the Kardashians jiggling their booty.

But do not follow the money.

Follow the talent.

Kevin de Bruyne is being hailed as the transfer window's biggest signing, with Manchester City shelling out a colossal £58 million ($125m) for the wolf from Wolfsburg.

But the Belgian didn't join to savour a year-round rainy season. Nor did he sign in deference to City's storied history, because they haven't got one.

He joined for no other reason than the club coughed up £200,000 a week, a ridiculous figure that left even the suits in the Bayern Munich boardroom chuckling in disbelief.

It wasn't the amount. It was the distribution. Bayern paid Juventus only €37m ($59m) for Arturo Vidal; the complete midfield package and an obvious upgrade on Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Manchester United beat their chests when they unveiled the Teutonic titan, but he was considered a fading force in Munich. Schweinsteiger left only because Bayern allowed him to.

Like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and Paris St-Germain, Bayern are too proud to beg and too dignified to overspend on cubic zirconia when they can poach real diamonds.

The David de Gea debacle also highlighted Europe's balance of power. Whatever the reasons for the administrative cock-up, Real's breathtaking arrogance really was something to behold.

They left the bid to the last minute because they knew they could. Whether it's enticing Gareth Bale or brushing away United's Sergio Ramos overtures, they get their own way.

Premier League clubs, desperate to join the Champions League top table, are not in a position to pick off the world's best and haven't been for years, so they throw cash around with all the discretion of a Singapore Sweep winner, desperately hoping to join the nouveau riche.

So de Bruyne ends up costing City far too much, just as Son Heung Min joined Tottenham Hotspur from Bayer Leverkusen for £22m, Roberto Firmino went to Liverpool for a laughable £29m from Hoffenheim and Schweinsteiger picked up a pension at Old Trafford after United handed over £14m.

With those four signings alone, Bundesliga clubs pocketed €170m from their cashed-up English counterpoints, underlining the widening gap between Germany's rich and poor.

Inferiority Complex

What the silly sums also reveal is the EPL's increasing inferiority complex. It's all dressed up on prom night and still got to pay over the odds for a blind date.

De Gea will join Real eventually. The world's best goalkeeper cannot wait to leave English football.

A fellow member of the World's Best 11, Vidal, went to Bayern. The rest of that coveted line-up already play in Spain, Italy and Germany.

Sergio Aguero, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Diego Costa and Raheem Sterling are the biggest signings in recent Premier League history, but could they displace their counterparts at Barcelona, Real and Bayern in a World's Best 11?

The answer is obvious so the English transfer window was reduced to wallowing in its self-imposed importance.

A French teenager from Monaco, yet to make an impact for his own country is already being trumpeted as the next Ronaldo, for no other reason than United made him the most expensive teenager in history at £36m.

Anthony Martial, still only 19, could be the next Ronaldo. Or he could just be the latest confused signing from an increasingly deluded manager who's happy to follow the EPL policy of opening the bank vaults and inviting in talented prospects and celebrity pensioners to help themselves.

Much of the transfer deadline day was spent predicting the destination of Emmanuel Adebayor, the mobile moneybag formerly known as a footballer.

Only the EPL could discuss the options of such a greedy caricature with a straight face, wondering who might be the latest sucker to hand the occasional striker £100,000 a week to not play.

It's always about the price tag because there's nothing much else to say.

The EPL is richer than ever before, but its product is poorer. The last six years have produced only three Champions League semi-finalists from the EPL and there has not been an A-list star to rival Ronaldo since he left England.

No superstars, no Champions League silverware and no substance beyond the domestic game, just endless pots of gold for European rivals to plunder.

That distinct sound as the transfer window slams shut is the real elite of football laughing.

They're probably on their way to the bank.


This article was first published on September 2, 2015.
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