Biggest Spenders, Biggest Losers, Bad Investment?

The 2013/2104 football season has begun in Europe could be termed as the year of uncertainties and indefiniteness caused by the radical and widespread managerial changes that ravaged some top clubs in the top UEFA leagues. I don’t think any football season as ever witnessed such number of new faces in the dugouts. As commonplace now, the financial fair play is being thrown in the back burner as clubs are spending big to realize their objectives, but I will, in this article, x-ray these changes and what they portend for the huge investment being dished out by clubs.
We will start our sojourn in the English Premier League which is inarguably the most prominent with however gradually declining standards. The top three teams with automatic Champions League tickets all have new managers. The 2012/2013 EPL winners, Manchester United were forced to get a new helmsman when the legendary, as-old-as-the-club-itself, Sir Alex Ferguson decided to call it quits with coaching paving way for the hitherto unknown, “silverwareless”, David Moyes. Their rival, Manchester City FC yielded the big stick against the previous season title-winning coach, Roberto Mancini, because he couldn’t deliver more than a group stage Champions League exit for the second consecutive season, he surrendered the EPL title to the red half of Manchester without as much as the fight that Manchester United gave them in their title run in the previous season and to add salt to injury, Mancini and his gang lost the FA cup final to Wigan Athletic FC who were eventually relegated to the championship. It was all too much for the Abu Dhabi-based owners to swallow. Manuel Pelegrini was snapped up from Malaga. The third club in the EPL standing were not left out in the managerial reshuffle as Jose Mourinho, the self-anointed “Happy One” found happiness in the bosom of the London club and their Billionaire owner. Rafa Benitez was the unfortunate (or unhappy?) casualty despite guiding the club to a well-fought third place finish, and a Europa League title. Presently, Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger is the only Champions League destined club who was coach last season and will be there this season.
The question is which of these managers will these turn of events benefit to take the EPL title? My take Jose Mourinho. With 6 wins out of 7 in their pre-season tour, a previous winning knowledge of the EPL, immense winning mentality and credentials, a group of young, talented, and stable squad to select from, with momentum gathered from last year; this could be his chance to prove that he is the Special, Only and Happy One all rolled into one. Manchester United may have to settle for second position, not just because of David Moyes’ naivety in winning things and in playing mind games but more because of a porous and uncreative midfield and a yet-to-blend backline. And this is if Robin Van Persie keeps up his scoring penchant. The only people that can make a difference will be if the number 7 shirt which is still vacant is handed over to either Cristiano Ronaldo or to the Welsh wizard, Gareth Bale. Manuel Pelegrini and Manchester City FC are projected to come third taking into account the unsettledness of the club’s strikers, the ruggedness of the EPL which the coach may take some time to adapt to and a certain lack of squad depth that presently only Chelsea FC has in abundance. Arsenal doesn’t feature in the top three because although they have a first eleven that are, well just ok, (definitely not considering their need for a top-class finisher) an injury or two can as well see the club miss out on the coveted top four finish. The proposed acquisition of Luis Suarez or Wayne Rooney may only guarantee, at best, a third place at the expense of Manchester City but for the EPL title Arsenal and Manchester City will have to do more than they are currently proposing to do.
By a twist of circumstances Spanish football was also not left out of the managerial onslaught. The ailment of Barcelona’s Tito Vilanova necessitated a mutual agreement between the club and him for him to step down while the little known Gerardo Martino, who has never coached in Europe before, stepped in. Barcelona have teething problems, especially at European level, that have been glaringly exposed by Chelsea and Bayern Munich. Gerardo Martino may straighten these issues but not in one year considering that he is Europe’s new boy. If Neymar and Messi blends on the go it could help ease the problems a bit but if not, it could seriously compound it. The hefty sum paid out for Neymar does not assure a resolution to Barca’s eroding tiki-taka style nor mend their defensive loopholes. The above prompts my handing over the La Liga title to another new man on the dugout, Carlo Ancelotti. Taking over a team that was “abused” by Jose Mourinho, Ancelotti has the capacity, as he has clearly shown in their pre-season friendlies, to “heal” the wounds. Although during the press briefing that unraveled him as Real Madrid’s coach, he declined being the magician that will come in and heal past hurts. But with the coach’s antecedents, with Ronaldo in top form and with the club trying to snap Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspur in a record transfer (that is if they don’t lose either to Manchester United), I see the Los Blancos piping the Catalans to the title. The other Spanish clubs have not shown any clear statement of intent to steal the show in the 2013/2014 season.
The German Bundesliga, which is, going by last year’s Champions League, the European powerhouse, has its own fair share of managerial turbulence. Pep Guardiola, 6 months into his self-imposed sabbatical, put pen to paper as the next coach of Bayern Munich; an agreement that was heavily publicized much to the chagrin of Bayern Munich’s head coach Jupp Heynckes. How else can a man get his pound of flesh? Heynckes went on to claim a historical and unprecendented treble in the German league, leaving shoes that may be too big for Pep Guardiola to easily fill and a squad that may be heady (drunk from their victories) and so not easily malleable. The next in line, Borussia Dortmund, didn’t change coach but they saw a star player in Mario Gotze leave them to join their arch rival by activating a clause in his contract. Not only that, they had to put their foot down to prevent Robert Lewandowski, another key player in the Champions League finals run in, from joining the same Bayern Munich; a move that costs them millions of euro as his contract is set to expire next June, when he will be free to walk into Bayern Munich’s dressing room unhindered.
Nevertheless, the Bundesliga title is Bayern Munich’s for the asking, although, I don’t see them closing it up in record time like they did last season. They have a good (very good in short) coach, an excellent squad whose second team can make first team anywhere in the world, the gel of having played in top gear for sometime and finally that can-do spirit that winning a treble can instill into a sportsman.
In France, Paris Saint Germain were forced to follow the current trend when their coach, who guided them to the title, resigned to join Real Madrid. The strict Laurent Blanc was chosen to lead the Parisian club. Good summer acquisitions which includes Edinson Cavani and the retention of last season’s lique 1 top scorer, Zlatan Ibrahimovich could prove decisive for them to retain their title although new boys in AS Monaco with their heavy financial input in Radamel Falcao, James Rodriquez and Hulk could see AS Monaco put up a good fight.
The plum position in European football with the attendant rich financial reward I have to hand over to Spain’s Real Madrid. This could be the opportunity the capital club have been waiting for for a 10th European title. They will have to capitalize on the upheaval in their major opponents’ camp to grab the coveted Champions League trophy and get a rebate on the record fee that they are anticipated to fork out for Gareth Bale. Of all the big spenders this close season, AS Monaco and Manchester City could turn out the biggest losers even as they are the biggest spenders, at least for the 2013/2014 football season because their investment will not yield a commensurate financial output. They may be one of the biggest spenders and unfortunately biggest losers this forthcoming season but the investment may not be bad for the seasons ahead.


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