The enormous void between the English promoted clubs level of spending and their continental counterparts was revealed earlier this week.
The nine promoted clubs in Italy, Spain and Germany have spent just over €42,000,000 between them going into the final days and weeks of their transfer windows.
This huge splurge by the trio of English promoted sides is yet another example of the expanding wealth of clubs in the Premier League. There is though an increasing encroachment being made by English top flight sides on the traditional patches held by some of their European counterparts.
Bigger clubs on the continent have found themselves outmuscled by traditionally mid-table or even lower league clubs in England. Last summer, five-time European Cup winners Ajax lost out on the services of Richarlison to Watford. This summer Diego Rico opted for Bournemouth over German giants Borussia Dortmund.
This would never have occurred, it simply wouldn’t have been possible in previous eras. Even as recently as ten years ago it would have been viewed as reckless by going toe to toe with the big boys if your revenue wasn’t there. The Spectre of Leeds and Portsmouth kept many in check.
However, the increase in TV revenue has transformed not only the confidence of Premier League sides but also the landscape of Europe. Power has shifted away from the big boys with many simply unable to compete financially.
Richarlison’ s decision
Always a production line for some of the world’s best talent, Brazil is saturated with European club scouts eager to move first on the next wonder kid. Sometimes they can’t prize the top talent away, but a scout may at least be able to identify a player on whom his club can spin a tidy profit.
Watford’s hierarchy must have had been mindful of this when they swooped to outbid Ajax for Fluminese forward Richarlison. Not much has been made of the fact that a small club from just north of London could gazump a major European institution like Ajax. The fact that they could and did is a real sign of a shift in power and appeal towards the English domestic sides.
Richarlison’s decision was ultimately bad news for clubs without the financial firepower to outbid and outspend their English rivals. Even the last carrot they could offer appears to have diminished under the force of Premier League gold.
For Ajax to have reached the final of The Europa League in 2017, was a remarkable feat. However, the ease in which they were dispatched by Manchester United in that match is a sign of just how far behind they have fallen. Their young stars were once considered a real threat, but in that 2017 final they seemed overawed and second rate.
Ajax will always be a massive name with true gravitas. Their status as five-time champions of Europe puts them in a very elite bracket of clubs. More than just trophies though, they are the club in Europe with the highest reputation for coaching and nurturing top young talent, it has contributed massively to their fame.
The list of names to have been developed by the Amsterdam club is staggering. You only need look at their 1995 Champions League winning side to start salivating at the quality which oozed from that team.
Their status as a selling club though has been used by some as a dismissive criticism. However, it’s a business model which has worked very well for them.
The proposition is simple, if you are a highly talented young player, be that from Belo Horizonte or Bali, then you can find a home in the Dutch capital. They will improve your game and give you an all-important platform for other clubs in Europe to come and scout you.
It’s enticing and effective. The club has recouped nearly €180 million in player sales over the past three seasons. This recent set back with Richarlison then must have caught them somewhat off guard.
Ajax’s lack of preparation and surprise at being outgunned by The Hornets is somewhat understandable. It may be arrogant, but they must have thought; what would be the appeal in going to a relegation-threatened club with no history? Well as it transpired, quite a lot actually.
Academy for a year
The Premier League TV money has changed things beyond all recognition. The fact you can finish bottom and still pocket more money than most other clubs in Europe has meant clubs like Watford and Fulham can afford to take the handbrake off somewhat. Yesterday’s revelation that ten of the twenty clubs in the top flight could have played in front of empty stadia and still turned a profit further demonstrates the financial swell in the sea of top-flight football in England. All you need is one or two seasons of exposure to that kind of revenue stream and a club is emboldened to launch ambitious bids for better players.
More than just wages and agent’s fees, clubs can also offer players like Richarlison, a significant foothold in the top flight of Europe’s most desirable league.
The allure of playing in the Premier League for most youngsters around the world is built on the foundation of two and a half decades of glitzy, 24-hour coverage. It’s a league that makes superstars out of even modestly gifted players. The coaching may not quite be at the standard of Ajax or Dortmund, but a year in the Premier League could prove a lot more valuable than two or three spent in The Netherlands. The landscape is no doubt shifting toward the North Atlantic.
Watford, Bournemouth, Fulham et al can all offer players first team football in a league where 30-40 decent games can transform your prospects. Richarlison is now fresh off the back of his circa £50 million move to Everton and is already showing glimpses of the top player he can be when exposed to a higher standard of football. One or two more seasons will be all he needs before the really big fish start to circle around him and Everton. That year at Watford suddenly looks very a shrewd step indeed.