It wasn’t long ago that Chelsea were the financial juggernauts of world football, able to blow any other club out of the water in the transfer market. As the game continues to grow into a billionaire’s playground, competition is coming from across the channel as a new breed of super rich club emerges in Ligue 1.
In the past, transfer windows often exploded into life after the Premier League giants had finished their business. With the knowledge that Chelsea could usurp any potential deal, teams were cautious to wait until the big transfers had been made. From there everyone else could pick from what was left over, or even take on many of the stars that Chelsea saw as surplus to requirements. Described by many as a transfer merry-go-round or domino, Abramovich era Chelsea was often the tipping point in any such affair. As investors turn their attention to France, will Chelsea finally get a taste of their own medicine as they are forced to deal with leftovers?
Paris has endured its fair share of revolution down the years, but in 2011 Qatari investment sparked another of a footballing nature. The excitement felt by Parisiens was not unfounded with new president Nasser al-Khelaifi fast to embark on a transfer spree. Javier Pastore was initially brought in as a marquee £36m signing and was soon followed by a quartet that included Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ezequiel Lavezzi the following summer. With a deal for Wayne Rooney already mooted, where will this spending end? There are of course many wealthy clubs out there, but what makes PSG so frightening for its European counterparts is its willingness to continually part with its money. Khelaifi outlined the ambition of the club during an interview with the Guardian in 2012:
“It’s a simple message.”
“We are building a team to be one of the best in Europe. To become big, you need to sign players now and that is what we are doing. Obviously, we believe in our targets and objectives, and we are really confident that the dreams are going to come true.”
Of more concern to the west Londoners is the fact that this muscle is being flexed from both ends of the country. Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev completed his takeover of Monaco in 2011 and next season will see their re-emergence back into the countries top flight. Seemingly unconcerned by attempts to bar them from entry to the league, the club have already embarked on a wave of spending. The trio of James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao and Joao Moutinho have already cost the club upwards of £100m, with spending unlikely to stop at that. Similarities can be drawn between the clubs on their ambitions. Sporting Director Vadim Vasilyev whilst speaking to Nice-matin outlined his hopes:
“We want to build a beautiful team who play beautiful football.”
Many may question how the emergence of French financial power will actually impinge upon Chelsea’s footballing outlook. Manchester City have for a while been competing with them economically, so does this change anything? The emergence of City as a power was of course to the detriment of England’s top clubs. With City able to attract world-class talent, Chelsea have had less to choose from and thus achieved less in terms of silverware. The emergence of the French will exacerbate this even further. Most worryingly of all, this pattern could go as far to affect the Premier League in general. The thought of a Premier League star quitting to ply his trade in France would have been greeted by shock a few years back. Now a move for Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney is not out of the realms of possibility.
Tottenham spent much of the year targeting a swoop for Joao Moutinho, only to be forced into retreat once Monaco showed an interest. A worrying pattern is starting to emerge, as the Premier League becomes unable to recruit the talent of previous years. When you consider Chelsea’s spending patterns of the past you would imagine French expenditure on this scale would be short lived. I would expect both sides to settle after a couple of sprees and maintain some semblance of a settled side. Chelsea took a number of seasons to build a title and European challenging side. However, even if they aren’t looking to spend upwards of £100m per window, they will still be competing for that big name signature. This can only be problematic for the standard of talent showcased on our shores
Chelsea met their financial match when Manchester City was taken over, and they had to compete or look elsewhere in the market. With the rise of French clubs to prominence, top teams in the Premier League will have a constant struggle to recruit the very top players.
Do you think the rise of super-rich French clubs will lead to a talent drain in the Premier League?