The Lead

A lot of football fans talk about Financial Fair Play–the rules that require clubs to break-even before they can enter European club competitions*–as if it’s coming down the pipe five or ten years from now, and isn’t already in effect.

It also seems that some of those who are aware that FFP is “live” don’t seem to want to make the connection between the current summer transfer market and the break-even requirement. It’s a small sample, not all clubs share the same needs in reinforcing their squads, what matters is what happens over the next few seasons.

It’s cyclical, yes, but that shouldn’t prevent us from looking at certain patterns that aren’t likely to change over the next few years. Like the latest failed joint bid by Manchester United for Everton’s Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini £38 million, slapped down by Roberto Martinez with the backing up the chairman Bill Kenwright.

Many critics of FFP believed that under the new rules, those clubs that enjoyed enormous revenues like United would simply hoard talent from smaller clubs like Everton, thereby consolidating their lock on the top spots in the league. And yet here is Everton refusing the play ball with a very generous valuation.

Why would that be? Here’s a hypothesis, at least. Everton are a club with a reasonable chance of making the Europa League this season. They don’t have the benefit of wealthy benefactor or lucrative commercial sponsorship, and so are run as a financially tight ship. So far this window they’ve spent £9,680,000 total for Arouna Kone (Wigan) and Joel Robles (Atleti).

Consider that in a post-FFP world, clubs are no longer able to write off losses either by going into debt or receiving equity payments from wealthy owners. This means they are entirely dependent on club revenue. In the Premier League, revenues are in part attached to merit payments based on final table position, the number of times Everton games are broadcast on television, European competition, and of course gate sales and commercial revenue. So it doesn’t make sense for Everton to take a pile of cash for two of their best players in return for risking their Premier League chances and subsequent earnings.

Sure, you might say, that’s right now. But in future when good players are available, the clubs with the biggest revenues (United, Arsenal, Chelsea) are going to hoover them all up. In some cases, yes. But Everton first bought Baines back in 2007-08 for £6,600,000, and he developed there into one of the best full-backs in England. In Fellaini’s case, he was picked up for £19,145,280 from Standard Liege in 2008-09. If that sounds like a lot, consider that the club spent £14m on Yakubu the year before.

The transfer market, in other words, is inherently risky. Everton could use the £38 million from the joint bid to go on a two day spending spree, but there is always the risk of picking up a few overpriced duds and thereby condemning the team to a poor season. The only reason a club would panic sell their best players would be to cover debts accrued from overspending. And that is no longer allowed. Welcome to the post-FFP universe.


Quote of the Day: “…possibly he will be.” -Real Madrid vice president Fernando Fernandez Tapias on whether Bale is still going to Real Madrid.

Things I didn’t see coming:

Michael Cox has a nifty tactical breakdown of all the Champions League groups based on yesterday’s draw. I thought he might be a little more hyperbolic on Group F with Arsenal, Dortmund, Marseille and Napoli (the group of fun!), but this seems reasonable: “Arsenal brushed aside Ligue 1 runners-up Marseille last season with few problems, but Dortmund were the toughest of the Pot 3 sides and Napoli the most dangerous from Pot 4. Arsenal performed well against Jürgen Klopp’s side two years ago but Dortmund have improved considerably given greater European experience. Rafael Benítez has managed Napoli against Arsenal this season – a 2-2 Emirates Cup draw. He has revamped the side in his usual 4-2-3-1 formation, spearheaded by the former Arsenal target Gonzalo Higuaín.” [the Guardian].

Iain Macintosh lays down some sweet justice on Gareth Bale, following what has to be considered some fairly reprehensible behaviour in helping to force through a deal with Real Madrid: “Bale has turned over his club for his own gain, throwing his toys out of the pram until he got his own way. That doesn’t make him any different from the majority of modern footballers, but it does mean that he relinquishes the right to leave the room smelling of roses.” [ESPNFC]

Crossbar and in the net from Lewis Holtby as Spurs down Tblisi 3-0, 8-0 on agg [101ggs]:

And a sneaky analytics link: James Grayson and the correlation between Total Shots Ratio and points for over a decade of Premier League seasons [James Grayson's blog].