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Manchester United didn’t become one of the definitive corporate behemoths of modern sport by accident. It happened as a result of concerted efforts to monetise every aspect of their existence as a football club. Until recently, the result of this policy had seen them ranked as the world’s most valuable sports team by Forbes (something to do with money, I’m guessing). However, in the latest results, United have slipped to second behind Real Madrid. Disaster! But, bear in mind we’re talking about an assessment of their global worth compared to all other professional sports teams – not just football, and United are still ranked second overall. This means they’re considered more valuable than all other football clubs (excluding Real), as well as highly recognised American teams like the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys. That’s kind of a big deal, I guess.
So, league champs and rolling in dough – life under the Glazers ain’t so bad, right? Wrong. The Glazers did not turn United into the money printing machine they are today. They have contributed nothing other than the burden of debt which must be paid out of United’s profits, whilst signing some more sponsorship deals, hawking off every last inch of the club to the highest bidder.
The reason United are so highly valued is because of their ridiculous global popularity. Popularity built on sustained and relentless success. Pretty much every United fan contributes to their club’s wealth in some way. They might not attend any matches at Old Trafford, or buy any merchandise, but just by watching them on TV they’re contributing to huge viewing figures, which mean United can negotiate bigger and bigger sponsorship deals. And there are plenty of those to be had. By the time you read this, United will have signed a contract with their new official drain cleaning partner.
Last week’s post lamented the dwindling power of Serie A and the sickening trend of Italian clubs being outgunned in the transfer market by their French rivals (‘filled to the brim with bitterness’ as one happy reader described it). This led to some further eulogising on Twitter about the competitiveness of Serie A in its heyday between the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Looking back at results and standings during this period, I was struck by the top scorers in the 1991/92 season, and the hilarious quality of the names featured in it:
25 goals: Marco van Basten (Milan)
18 goals: Roberto Baggio (Juventus)
16 goals Francesco Baiano (Foggia)
15 goals Careca (Napoli)
Gabriel Batistuta (Fiorentina)
Karl-Heinz Riedle (Lazio)
Rubén Sosa (Lazio)
12 goals: Gianfranco Zola (Napoli)
David Platt England (Bari)
Giuseppe Signori (Foggia)
Tomáš Skuhravý (Genoa)
Gianluca Vialli (Sampdoria)
This was a time when getting into double figures was an achievement, which makes van Basten’s haul all the more insane. But, what really caught my attention was the presence of two Foggia players featured on the list, Francesco Baiano and Guiseppe Signori. Continue reading
I have no idea when the rivalry between France and Italy started. I was oblivious to it growing up despite my father’s Italian heritage. He didn’t seem bothered by the French, in fact he seemed to quite like the place – we went on holiday there several times (in hindsight I’m pretty sure this must have got the relatives talking in hushed tones).
It wasn’t until I was older and noticed the frequently derisory remarks aimed at all things French by my Italian friends that I realised such a rivalry existed. Culture, food, wine – Italian was always better. When I was planning to visit Florence a few years ago, one friend felt the need to suggest the model who posed for Michelangelo’s David was French, on account of his small penis, obviously. Knob gags aside, there’s one area that Italians have never felt remotely threatened by the French – football. Sure, the French have had some good players, but there’s only national team in blue with legendary status in the game, and they don’t have a cockerel on their badge. Italy are 4-1 up in World Cups, and to further emphasise their dominance in the sport, Italian clubs are 12-1 up in European Cups. Suck it up, France.
It’s debatable whether Coventry City are the most depressing club in England, but they’ve got to be up there at the moment. Yes, they won the Cup in ’87, but Coventry fans under 30 won’t remember much about that, and since then the Sky Blues have been painting a horrifically bleak landscape. Think ‘The Road‘ but bleaker. This is a Club that has been dying for over a decade.
For a while it was happening so slowly it was easy to ignore and pretend that everything was ok. But, everything is not ok. The Football League has just given consent for Coventry to play their home fixtures at Northampton Town, about 35 miles away. Coventry have been forced to explore such options because they’ve been booted out of their previous home, the Ricoh Arena, due to unpaid rent.
The Ricoh – Coventry’s home since 2005 – started out as Coventry’s brave new world. The logic was that you need a new stadium to make more money, and the bigger the better – former Chairman Bryan Richardson’s initial plan was for a 45,000 seat monster with a sliding roof. But, Richardson’s insane superdome vision was never realised. Coventry were relegated from the top flight in 2001 and without Premier League revenues the plans had to be scaled down. Who’d have thought a team that had been flirting with relegation since the dawn of man would actually get relegated one day.
Jose Mourinho wins things everywhere he goes, so why isn’t he universally hailed as a master? The answer, apparently, is legacy, or Mourinho’s lack of it. His critics allege he is a short-term manager, brought in to achieve instant success but with no thought for tomorrow. He is not a Ferguson or Guardiola, planning for a future several seasons from now. He is destructive, and when he leaves clubs his teams rapidly disintegrate, and so on – you’ve probably heard or seen this argument elsewhere. And, Mourinho himself felt the need to talk about leaving a legacy at Chelsea in his ‘welcome home’ press conference. Why should one of the most successful managers of the past decade feel the need to talk in this way?
Mourinho’s record is ridiculous – a quick reminder of what he has won (deep breath): two Champions Leagues; a UEFA Cup; two Premier League titles; two Serie A titles; two Portuguese Primeira Liga titles; one La Liga title; AND he’s won the main domestic cup competition in each of the four countries he’s worked in, along with a handful of lesser cups. Ok?
But, the beef with Mourinho is that all that silver treasure comes at a cost. I’m not convinced.