Billionaire owners have become the must have accessory for Premier League teams in recent years, with a level of success that has seen the trend spread into the rest of Europe. However, is it really true that money can’t buy success?
I guess the most famous billionaire owner in recent times is Roman Abramovich, who swept into Stamford Bridge to buy Chelsea and proceeded to change the order of power in English football. At the nearest calculation, Abramovich has spent close to $3bn in transforming Chelsea’s fortunes on the pitch and they havent even started on a proposed new stadium/stadium move yet!!! His spending has propelled Chelsea to the top of the footballing ladder, winning 3 League titles, 3 FA Cups, 2 League Cups, 1 Europa League and 1 cherished Champions League. Some feat in the space of 10 years and that doesnt take into account a defeat in a Champions League Final to Manchester United and 4 Champions League semi final defeats. These stats arguably make Chelsea the most successful team on the planet over the last decade.
Yet despite this, during this era of success, Abramovich has overseen 10 different managers(Mourinho twice), perhaps illustrating how the thirst for success is all encompassing now for Chelsea. With increased success comes increased expectations, something no manager has been able to cope with for a reasonable period of time, yet.
Staying with the Premier League, Chelsea were followed in 2008 by Manchester City in being the beneficiaries of new billionaire owners, fronted by Sheikh Mansour of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi. Fans of City were delighted to find out their new owners were even richer than Abramovich and were soon dreaming of stepping out from the shadow of their illustrious neighbours Manchester United.
A spend of over £300m on players such as £38m Sergio Aguero and the reported £250k per week Yaya Toure has resulted in a league championship secured in the most dramatic circumstances and an FA Cup. Regular Champions League football has been secured, yet City have struggled to get out of the initial group stage, the consequence being the sacking of manager Roberto Mancini. Again, the expectations have grown to a level where City cannot afford to fail. Mauricio Pellegrini is the next man to try his hand and will no doubt be assisted by the big money acquisitions of Jesus Navas and Fernandinho.
Money fever has recently spread to France, the Qatar Investment Authority took control of Paris St Germain in May 2011 and have since bankrolled the blockbuster signatures of £18m Zlatan Ibrahimovic, £40m Thiago Silva, £28m Ezequiel Lavezzi and £35m Javier Pastore among many others. Yet again the results were almost immediate with a league championship secured in 2013 after finishing runner up the previous season. Again though, they face management issues with Carlo Ancelotti moving to a traditional ‘big club’ Real Madrid, perhaps indicating that the immense pressure at the Bernabeu is preferable to working under a new billionaire owner.
Likewise, Monaco are set to make waves in the game, their new owner Dmitry Rybolovlev is worth a cool £6bn. Upon buying the club in 2011, he immediately broke the Ligue 2 transfer record with the £6.3m purchase of Nabil Dirar. The next season it was broken again with the £10m purchase of Lucas Ocampos and Monaco were promptly promoted back to Ligue 1 where arguably, they are now making the most noise. The reported £50m purchase of Colombian superstar Falcao has shocked the game, beating the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid to his signing. It has perhaps deflected from the £60m double purchase of Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez, with more to follow I’m sure. Monaco’s buying power is despite an average attendance last season of 5,000, no doubt the mega bucks tax free wages and millionaire lifestyle are as much as a lure as their footballing ambition, this could prove to be their downfall.
Whilst the previous clubs have all tasted glory and at times disappointment, QPR are probably the biggest exception. yes they made it to the Premier League shortly after their acqipuistion by Tony Fernandes in 2011, but careless spending on giant wages for the likes of Chris Samba(£100kpw), Julio Cesar, Jose Bosingwa, Stephane Mbia and Ji Sung Park has proved devastating. QPR have since been relegated to the Championship, but will be keen to learn from their failure and I expect to see them return to the Premier League under Harry Redknapp.
You suspect that the UEFA Financial Fair Play rules will do little to stop the charge of these clubs and their almost overnight transformations. The question is, has it been for the good of the game?So does money buy success, the answer is simply yes, but there are obstacles to overcome along the way, the biggest one being the raised expectations of their fans……..and their billionaire owners!!!