The Lead

Groundhog Day was six days ago, and yet here we are again:

André Villas-Boas has admitted that Tottenham Hotspur must qualify for the Champions League in order to keep Gareth Bale from the clutches of predatory clubs, with Real Madrid preparing an offer for the player in the summer. The Tottenham manager also hopes that a massive price tag could serve as a deterrent for interested parties.

Bale is one of the hottest properties in European football and Real are monitoring his – and Tottenham’s – situation closely. The Wales winger, who has scored 13 goals for Tottenham this season, plus four more for his country, is on record as stating his admiration for the Spanish champions.

Yes, it’s a slow news day. But Villas-Boas emulated his colleague Michael Laudrup at Swansea in his reasoning over the current transfer market conditions when he added, “It’s also difficult for other teams, with the economic situation as it is, to buy a player of this dimension.

For ages, it’s always been assumed that even the best players will be bought by any old club, because at some point money is no object. Yet apparently it is, and few in football except those actually authorizing the player purchases seem to know it.

Yesterday for example, there was some brief excitement on the Twitter when it was revealed that Messi refused to increase his 250 million Euro buyout clause in his new Barcelona contract.

There was an almost blase assumption from some very silly people that City or PSG will just magically fork it over because they have lots of bags of oil cash or something. Except City has already made some overtures over halting continued transfer market spending, and is now further hampered by the Premier League’s new 105 million pound max loss policy over three seasons. Buying Messi would almost certainly increase club revenues, but not by that much, certainly not enough to offset losses in excess of 105 million over three seasons. Ditto for PSG, who clearly want to be a Champions League contender, and would therefore need to square up with Financial Fair Play.

The notion that Messi may just be insuring against the future—any future transfer would also include a significant wage increase—seems to have been ignored.

What does that mean for Bale’s supposed transfer to Real Madrid? Not much, except a failure to qualify for next year’s Champions League would make it slightly harder for Spurs to keep the player (incidentally, the team’s fundamentals are very strong).

Other than that, however, it seems few will be able to match Spurs’ asking price. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is financial fair play at work. Marty Samuel can take his 400,000 pounds a year at the Daily Mail to hem and haw against the dirty socialist policies of UEFA, but both FFP and Europe’s inability to deal with a triple dip recession are already reigning in the stupid money transfers that generally made most of us nauseous.

England

AVB reveals Bale’s future with Spurs depends on team’s Champions League qualification.

Uefa lowers ticket prices for this year’s CL final at Wembley.

West Ham manager Allardyce says he was ‘fined for speaking the truth’ over FA Cup penalty.

Ferguson doubts new financial controls will be a success.

Italy

Vucinic’s agent says United eyeing the Juve player.

Cagliari forced to play home game elsewhere due to security concerns.

La Liga

Preview to all the weekend games.

Spending down in Spanish league by more than half.

Germany

Heynckes doesn’t fear rotating his lineups, even if it’ll upset players.

Schalke’s struggles continue.

Bit and Bobs

Messi hints he may finish his career in Argentina.

Arson attack on Beitar Jerusalem offices.

Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links.