The Champions League has been full of surprises so far this season. Celtic’s performances against Barcelona were the epitome of this dynamic while the performances of Malaga and Shakhtar have also been a real eye-opener.
Manchester City’s demise in the competition has again been a major talking point. Despite spending more money on strengthening an already star-studded squad assembled with the riches of Sheikh Al-Mansour they again look into the precipice of first round elimination after failing to beat Ajax at home. It means City have not won a single game in the competition and leaves two from Ajax, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid with almost a certain place in the next round.
So it beggars the question? Can you buy the Champions League?
It is not a simple yes or no answer of course. Each nation has its own definition of what this would potentially mean. While in relation to City the riches at Ajax are miniscule in Holland teams such as NEC Nijmegen had no chance financially when they came calling for Lasse Schone, one of the star players featuring against City. Then there is prestige. The fact remains players are likely to sign for teams such as Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid and not necessarily for the money but simply to play for teams of such extensive European heritage.
Chelsea FC are a prime example as last year the squad was considered the weakest so far in the reign of mega-rich Roman Abramovich and yet they went on to win the competition. The teams of Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho and Avram Grant had come close and failed but the unfancied Roberto Di Matteo side won the competition with little panache compared to his predecessors. Of course the squad they assembled would not have been possible without the Russian’s riches so you could say they ‘bought’ it although that would be harsh in consideration.
This year Zenit Saint Petersburg look likely to tumble out at the first stage despite being Europe’s third highest spenders this summer. Hulk and Axel Witsel have not helped them against Malaga, a side whose riches have now escaped them, AC Milan and Anderlecht.
Then there is Dynamo Kiev. Their transfer activity slipped many by this summer but they spent £30 million on new talent in order to fight Shakhtar for Ukrainian dominance and progress in the Champions League. The results have been mixed at best. Also in that group are Paris Saint-Germain, Europe’s biggest spenders this summer who have finally started to gel their squad together into a coherent outfit under Carlo Ancelotti. Still they have been outshone in the Group by FC Porto who have already secured qualification for the next stage. The interesting fact here is that sitting adjacent to PSG, the biggest spenders on the continent, are Porto. The Portuguese club were the biggest ‘sellers’ this summer as they generated £71 million on player departures.
The future success of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain may finally give us the answer to this question but one thing for sure is that spending large quantities of money on ready-made talent is far from what is necessary to create a Champions League winning side. Much more is needed as was proved by Chelsea last season.
What do you think? Can you ‘buy’ the Champions League?
image: © Jan S0L0