FBL-ITA-SERIEA-NAPOLI-BENITEZ

If only all club presidents were as candid (and, in truth, interesting) as Napoli’s Aurelio de Laurentiis. He gave his full and honest assessment of the circumstances behind the sale of Edinson Cavani today, including his release clause:

“If it wasn’t for that clause, I wouldn’t have sold him, not even for €70 million,” he said. “It’s a question of principle. You can’t just go around buying everything – it’s ethically wrong. The problem is these clubs are sponsored by companies who flaunt absurd sums of money.

“As for Cavani, we’ve had to raise his salary each year, reaching a level higher than that which Bayern Munich’s top players earn.

“Then he starts saying he wants to leave, and I told him to insert a release clause, which happened last July. I’m sure Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea would never have spent €63 million.”

Note de Laurentiis didn’t say “backed by owners who flaunt absurd sums of money.” The Napoli president’s remarks signal the first major battleground in Financial Fair Play, the one thing that could very well render it useless: UEFA’s failure to critically assess whether club sponsorship deals, like PSG’s three figure deal with Emirates airlines re-upped this past May, were negotiated in good faith at market value.

However de Laurentiis is likely barking up the wrong tree with PSG, as this Reuters report from last May indicates:

According to media reports, the agreement was worth around 25 million euros a year, still significantly below the more lucrative shirt sponsorship deals in the English Premier League.

In other words, it’s not that big a deal as far as payola contracts are concerned. Nor is there anything preventing Napoli from aggressively seeking a more lucrative sponsorship partner than Lete and MSC, a bottled water company and cruise line respectively. Surely some middling popularity amid a few Champions League seasons might be enough to up the ante.

At some point aggrieved clubs have to cast off their “David” image and realize the game’s done changed.