It is safe to say that the introduction of UEFA’s Final Fair Play rules has not curbed the spending of Europe’s top clubs. By the time the 2013 summer transfer window closes, at 23:00 BST on Monday September 2, it is almost certain that several records will be shattered.
While English Premier League clubs are set to smash the previous high of £500M spent in the 2008 window, Spanish giants Real Madrid are hellbent on splashing a world record amount to capture Tottenham’s wonder kid Gareth Bale.
We can argue all day about whether or not one player can ever be worth £100M, but two facts are emerging that make this a golden deal for both Spurs and Madrid.
Madrid believe their mammoth spending will be self-financed by shirts sales and other commercial considerations, in much the same way they have brokered many previous eye-watering deals including the signings of David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, currently the world’s most expensive player at £80M.
Tottenham, meanwhile, under the stewardship of British football’s most astute chairman Daniel Levy have turned the negative of inevitably losing their best player into a bold and ambitious masterplan to challenge the elite.
While neighbours Arsenal have failed to make any impact in the market, Levy has been busy showing everyone how to close a deal with a string of ambitious buys that will make Spurs stronger in the upcoming race for the Premier League title, with or without Bale.
Spurs – already boosted by a cash windfall from the sales of Scott Parker, Tom Huddlestone, Steven Caulker and Clint Dempsey for a combined £23M – have spent well. The North Londoners have upgraded by adding four new signings totalling almost £60M to the squad available to Andre Villas-Boas, including Valencia striker Roberto Soldado (signed for a club-record £26M), midfielder Paulinho (£17M), winger Nacer Chadli (£7M) and defensive midfielder Etienne Capoue (£9M).
Chelsea’s hijacking of their £30M bid to sign Anzhi Makachkala’s Brazilian midfielder Willian was a setback for North London’s bid spenders and that only suggests more activity at White Hart Lane before the deadline.
All that makes Arsenal’s feeble transfer activity look embarrassing. Arsène Wenger has long made his distaste for spiralling wages and transfer fees plain and he may argue that it is “a joke” that Madrid – estimated to be 590M Euros in debt – are able to spend so much in the same season FFP is introduced. But the Gunners boss is starting to sound like a broken record. And it is time to face reality. Real are backed by a Spanish TV deal that bankrolls them and rivals Barcelona at the expense of the rest of La Ligua. Spurs do not have that luxury, yet they have still managed to do some outstanding business.
Levy and his technical director Franco Baldini have worked the market stealthily, in the knowledge that Madrid will pay whatever it takes to land the signature of Bale. So effectively, in fact, that even if the Spaniards back out of the deal Spurs have not spent beyond their means. But that is not going to happen because Bale has set his heart on a switch to the Bernabeu where his No.11 shirt has already been reserved.
What will be fascinating will be to see how the transfer merry-go-round speeds up in the final days before the window shuts when Bale does complete the move that will almost certainly be concluded in the coming days. The only doubt appears to be over the size of the fee which Levy will do his absolute best to force over the £100M mark.