Big Money = Big Trouble

They were offering how much?! Oh no...

"They were offering how much?! Oh no..."

So Kaka is not going to play for Man City, he won’t be the world’s most expensive player and nor will he earn £26m a year. It is so refreshing to finally someone involved in football who hasn’t just snatched the money being offered without even thinking it through, and Kaka has made the decision that makes sense – because really, Man City are fighting relegation and AC Milan are one of the best teams in the world. Who would you rather play for (especially considering he has a more than healthy salary already)?

However, although we have finally found someone with the moral fibre to make an admirable decision in the face of incredible wealth, the whole episode does go a long way to illuminate just how much of a disruption money can be to football. I cannot, and would not even want to, deny the positive impact that money has had on the game since the inception of the Premier League and Sky TV’s enormous contribution, but more and more these days we are witnessing moments of excess that threaten to ruin football for the punters, the men (and women) on the street.

The incident with Kaka really gave us two sides of the coin. On one hand we have Kaka, who turned down an incredible amount of money for the good of his career and indeed his happiness. On the other, you have Robinho, whose decision to join City in the Summer now looks entirely unfavourable given Kaka’s rejection of the club. It seems clear now that Robinho went there just for the money and on the promise that more would be spent to ensure that he wouldn’t be the only superstar for long. Indeed, it is this promise that has really shown us just how much disharmony can be created by over-zealous investors, as Robinho seems to have gone AWOL upon hearing he wouldn’t be having Kaka as a fellow Citizen.

Though the little Brazilian claims to have ‘stormed out’ of City’s training camp in Tenerife for ‘family reasons’, I think the reaction of the City executive Garry Cook was more revealing as to the truth of the situation as he admitted he did not know why Robinho was absent but confirmed that he had indeed disappeared. If, as the player claims, he left for family reasons, he would surely have enlightened someone as to his reasons for departing, however quickly he wanted to return home. Instead it seems to me that what actually happened, namely his leaving unannounced with no explanation, is far more indicative of a player unhappy with the unfulfillment of promises made and beginning to regret committing himself to the club.

All in all then, the whole Kaka ‘situation’, which could now more accurately be described as a ‘fiasco’, simply adds another layer of misery to a season that had promised so much but so far has been rather spectacular only in it’s underwhelming disappointment. The club was filled with a surge of optimism upon learning that they were now the richest club in the world, but since that announcement, things have gone rapidly downhill, and I must say, I believe that is no coincidence.

For a start, the mere arrival of Robinho in such a gala of publicity and showbiz can only have had a negative effect on the rest of City’s squad, a fact that hindsight seems only to resoundingly confirm. While the players all came out in support of the move in public, one cannot help but wonder what must have been going through their heads. The new owners had been in place only hours when the capture of a superstar for £32m was announced, and the existing players, hardworking lads like Stephen Ireland, Richard Dunne and Michael Johnson, must have wondered what they would be able to achieve in a month come the January transfer window.

It is therefore little surprise that City have had such an inconsistent season. At times they have produced some great results and some good performances, but at others they have simply failed to turn up, and thus find themselves at quite the wrong end of the table. This sort of inconsistency, given the proven quality of the players at Hughes’ disposal, can only suggest that mentally, the players are not in the right frame of mind, and this surely comes down to a fear of what may lie in store in the future, what their long term prospects at the club are, be it on a subconscious level or otherwise, it must surely be on their minds.

It can be reasonably concluded then, that the arrival on the scene of the Abu Dhabi group at Manchester City has overall, had a negative effect on the club. After all, last season they had quite a successful season, and at one point looked like providing a challenge to the top four. Their season dropped off towards the end, but with some consolidation and some strength in depth they could surely have been looking forward to a realistic challenge this time. Instead they find themselves almost universally disliked and humiliated as the richest club in the world that has just bungled the most high profile transfer-that-wasn’t in recent memory and near the foot of the Premier League table.

One has to feel sorry then, for the fans. As usual, they are the only real losers in all of this. After all, the owners are still insanely wealthy, the players are still earning a good salary and the clubs executives have other transfers to busy themselves with. But what really matters to the fans, which is the clubs performances and thus league position, is what has taken a severe blow. They could have been reasonably looking forward to a successful year (relatively speaking), but now find themselves swamped in the all too familiar mire of a relegation battle.

It also seems particularly harsh that the fans that should suffer this humiliation are Man City’s. In their recent history they have been some of the most long suffering in the Football League, and yet even when they sunk to their lowest point (a season in the old Division Two, now known as League One) they were still drawing crowds of an admirable size – indeed crowds that were bigger than some crowds that certain Premier League clubs can attract even today. Such loyalty should not be rewarded with such poor and fickle running of the club. These fans deserve to have something to shout about, they’ve surely earned it.

Indeed, they probably thought that they had found something to shout about too, which makes it all the more cruel. After all, when Chelsea inherited some mega-bucks, they garnered almost instant reward for it, and City’s fans may have expected a similar pay-off. However, Claudio Ranieri didn’t go out and instantly pay silly money for superstar names, he built a really good, solid, balanced side, and ultimately paid the price. He took too long to gain major silverware and so was replaced, but it was is work that laid the foundation for Mourinho’s success. The trouble is, everyone expects Money to produce instantaneous success now, because they forget what Ranieri did for Chelsea.

Hopefully though, City’s stuttering season along with the fresh debacle over Kaka’s transfer and now Robinho’s apparent hissy fit will finally hammer home the message that money isn’t the be all and end all. It was said when City were first bought out that it would be a gradual climb towards the top, but few really listened, least of all the owners. In splashing such money on Robinho they attempted to run before they could work and have rightly found themselves crashed to the ground and covered with bruises.

Let this be a lesson then, to all those clubs who are desperately hoping for a foreign investor of their own. Man City’s wealth has brought them the opposite of success, a point reinforced by Kaka’s unwillingness to play for them, despite the ludicrous riches dangled under his nose. This is, if anything, the surest sign that a club needs more than money. They need stability first of all, because only with stability and balance can there be success. Even a relative amount of success, or even just progress. But the club must be going in the right direction before such audacious signings can be made.

Of course there are exceptions. Robinho was an audacious signing, but I think he has shown himself to be quite a greedy person in signing for City in the first place. I’m sure he was promised success, but he should have understood that it couldn’t happen overnight, and in the end the telling factor had to have been the money. I doubt that he will stick around much longer either, but for City’s fans, that is surely good news. Such loyal and passionate fans, that followed their club to Division Two and back again, surely do not, in their heart of hearts, want someone like Robinho playing for them.

Players of his quality yes, but not of his mentality. He does not want to play for the club. He plays for the money. He does not have the clubs best interests at heart and when the going gets tough that will become blindingly apparent, as indeed it has over the last few days. This whole episode has shown the fickleness of money within the game. It promises so much that it cannot deliver single-handedly, and it brings players to the club under false pretences, giving the fans hope before dashing it spectacularly.

Football fans are not fickle people, at least proper fans aren’t anyway. I expect City have gained some fickle ones since they inherited their wealth but they will soon sneak away and dig out their Chelsea shirts again if City keep going as they are. But on the whole, you will be hard pressed to find people more committed to a cause that doesn’t directly benefit them in any way. We fans pour unreasonable amount of money and of our selves into our clubs expecting little in return. What we don’t expect though, and what we don’t deserve, is to be treated as mere disposable income by our clubs.

Our clubs should appreciate the sheer amount that we give to them, but in today’s financially obsessed climate, our financial input is dwarfed and our devoted contribution of support and love is simply ignored and misguidedly dismissed as important. City must realise the value of their fans, and realise that for the club to succeed they must make them happy. That is something money alone can’t do, they have to provide the fans with a club that they can be proud of, players that they can relate to, and a reasonable amount of progress on the pitch.

I hope then, that the Kaka incident will make an impact on the world of football. If only that it means that we admire Kaka greatly for his commitment to Milan’s cause and his self control in turning his back on the sort of money that would make me faint. Hopefully though it will do more than that. Hopefully Kaka’s realisation that there is more to football than money will rub off on clubs, players and fans around the world. Kaka should be admired, and Robinho should be mistrusted, as should the owners who waltz into clubs with their massive chequebooks and upset the balance of everything that the fans adore.

In the end, football will eventually learn that money, like many things, is relative to trouble. Big money means big trouble, and I just hope that more clubs don’t have to learn the hard way, if only for the sake of their fans.

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