This week, the football world took another step into an extremely uncomfortable area, through the transfer of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to PSG. It doesn’t matter that Paris is not one of the leading football cities in France. It also doesn’t matter that Ibrahimovic is only a couple of years removed from stating that Manchester City needed to develop a little further before he’d consider them.
At this stage, aren’t PSG further back than the Premier League champions? This is a club who spent heavily last year, yet couldn’t overcome the charge of Montpellier—a club whose total annual spend is less than the fee paid for Javier Pastore. Should we also excuse the fact that Milan are one of the superpowers of European football, and PSG only came into being within the last fifty years.
It’s estimated that PSG’s total expenditure on Ibrahimovic’s contract over the course of the three years will reach the 70 million euro mark. Where’s the sense in that? This isn’t a young player who’s going to be around for the next 10 years. It’s also not in keeping with the fact that Ligue 1 is not the Premier League, or even La Liga. Instead, with the strength of a seemingly unlimited cash reserve, PSG slammed the door shut on any attempts on the French league title that wasn’t their own.
Financial Fair Play is a song we can keep playing until it eventually kicks in, and we’ll remember it quite fondly when it disappears after a few years of ineffective use. The promise is that clubs will be forced to spend within their means, yet the premise is still too vague. Without a salary cap in place, football will forever be able to accelerate past the boundaries of any financial restrictions put in place.
It was quite worrying to hear the owners of PSG declare their intent and ability to spend 100 million euros every transfer window until the club become a dominant force in world football. With that statement, Uefa, and Michel Platini in particular, have been made a mockery of. The ambition of clubs like PSG outweigh the sanctions put in place by football’s governing bodies and continue to create a greater disparity between those at the top and those at the bottom.
Uefa are quite clear about their intention to create a fair and even playing field in European football. Clubs like PSG and Manchester City are making it hard not to doubt them.
But rather than telling clubs that they need to watch what they spend and keep in line with what they’re earning, really hammer in a road block that can’t be navigated around. With a salary cap in place for clubs across Europe, it then becomes their own choice how to use it, rather than stock piling the best talent and handing out astronomical sums of money.
If a club like PSG want to go ahead with their purchase of Zlatan, then they need the available cap space within their club. And the cap runs straight through the club from the first-team all the way down to the youth teams. If there is no cap room that year, then Uefa can pull the plug on the transfer. In a salary cap ruled environment, the only way to get that transfer deal completed is by selling on another asset—creating cap space and raising enough income to help fund the new signing.
But it’s not enough. Why should footballers be earning in excess of £100,000 every week? Indeed, football players aren’t the highest paid athletes in the world—Payton Manning will make $18 million in his next season with the Denver Broncos. Eighteen million dollars for a 36-year-old quarterback who was injured for the entire 2011/12 season. A quarterback who has a number of question marks going into the next season. And yet $18 million was rounded out to be a fair price for one of the NFL’s greatest players. (According to Sports Illustrated, Manning will receive a total of $31 million next season, with the final $13 million added on via sponsors).
Now, Lionel Messi may be the best player in the world, but why should football clubs have to break the bank 10 times over for him. Some will say he deserves it, but where’s the need to help enforce Uefa’s FFP? Alongside the club salary cap, clubs should also be restricted in how much they can give a player per season. There’s little sense in slapping on a general salary cap when clubs can pay Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo in excess of £400,000.
FFP is going to be heavily relied upon by the smaller teams, as well as those with enough sense not to hand out the kind of money that is currently changing the game. But at the moment, FFP’s ruling is too thin. There’s very little helping it to become effective and there are too many avenues around it. With a salary cap introduced into football, clubs will find it harder to drive down a road that is becoming increasingly dangerous to the game.