Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, PSG, AC Milan and the carousel

Life is cyclical. Well, at least until it isn't.

However, in football, this is more strangely true than in many other realms.

Take for example Joe Kinnear, who reared his head at Newcastle United in 2008 after nearly a decade submerged by heart trouble, poor results and relegation. The man who signed his pay cheques? Mike Ashley, who was known as a shrewd businessman when he arrived Tyneside; the same man who lost millions – and, for about two years, his mind – before rebuilding the Magpies into a wonderful, cost-effective side.

His reputation may not be restored, but it is certainly rehabilitated.

The carousel nature of football finance has been fixed for years. Some clubs emerge to challenge the established plutocracy, often as those old money sorts trend towards a kind of faux-austerity. However, often the nouveau riche accomplish only a mild sensation before owners who arrive in Ferraris depart the scene in Greyhound buses. Nothing's easier than losing money in sports ownership.

If development isn't sustainable, even the most generous benefactor has a limited capacity for giving away their money. Eventually, if baseplates and failsafes aren't created, the carousel quickly rights itself and all returns to normal: old money persists and questions pursue those who got rich quick.

This week's transaction between AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain is of this nature. It was a handshake made of Rossoneri fiscal expediency and of PSG's owners, Qatar Investment Authority, buying that ugatti Veyron they always wanted. By shoving what amounts to fob change at both Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in that most notorious “double swoop”, QIA have rounded off their transfer expenditure at a satisfyingly even 200 million.

As Champions League winners Chelsea and EPL Champions Manchester City have succeeded, so too will PSG. At some stage, however, they will fall – Blackburn Rovers couldn't maintain their mid-nineties success while the most high-profile team of them all, the Galacticos, were only a moderate success. If expectations aren't met, impatient men blow up their creations and begin the cycle again.

Clubs like Liverpool, AC Milan, Barcelona and Manchester United have built up so much equity over decades that their ascent again has become a foregone conclusion. For entities such as PSG, who were created in 1970, that's not necessarily the case; a cycle isn't a short one but could mean years in the wilderness.

A ready example of how to spend their money already exists. Sheikh Mansour has achieved short-term results without sacrificing altogether future, a sign that he hopes to accumulate that same equity. Whether that has been the aim at Chelsea, QPR or PSG is still very much in question.

The old money temporarily cycles down as the new money rises. As always.

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