I posted some thoughts a while ago on the rumour that Cristiano Ronaldo would be on his way to Real Madrid come the end of the season. Well, now he really is on his way, and the numbers are suitably eye-watering: the fee, reported by the BBC, is a cool eighty million quid. We’ve come a long way since Trevor Francis became the first player to cost an English club a whole million.
So, what does eighty million look like? You’d be hard pressed to find a suitcase big enough to take the paper money equivalent, whether in Sterling or converted into Euros (the latter currency might be an easier fit, as there is a 500 Euro note). And what has it bought? There lies the reason for the move: as I considered earlier, Ronaldo has recently developed an ego of the size that does not keep well with a manager like Alex Ferguson. How the management at Real Madrid will deal with that is their problem now.
Who will replace Ronaldo? I doubt that Ferguson and his staff are in a rush to splash their cash. They have profited over time to the tune of over 65 million on the player – not a bad return on their initial investment – and there is no need to have a replacement in place for a couple of months yet. But the fact that they will make a move in the transfer market impacts across the Premiership.
Outside the “big four” teams, the kind of fees routinely paid out for top players are the stuff of fantasy. Over at Goodison Park, David Moyes would think himself more than lucky if he had a tenth of Ronaldo’s fee to bring in new players, especially if he didn’t have to sell first. Yet Everton, and other similarly placed teams like Aston Villa, are expected to compete with Manchester United, and The Chelski, on equal terms. Thus there is developing a league within a league.
Even within the “top four” there are arguably two tiers: at the top are Man U and The Chelski, who for different reasons are very rich. They are followed by Liverpool and Arsenal, who are merely moderately rich. Some of the rest may become rich, and the remainder, like Everton, do their best, which can be very good indeed, considering the limited funds available to them.
Will it ever change? Not right now, but as in any sport, nothing is forever.