London – With a new £5.5billion TV deal in the Barclays Premier League, the summer of 2013 will be remembered as the year when power shifted away from the mega-rich players and back towards the clubs.
The top teams have taken a stand against the superstars. They have stood up to rampant player power. Nowhere has this development been more dramatically illustrated than in Manchester United blocking Wayne Rooney’s path to Chelsea and Liverpool resoluely ignoring Luis Suarez’s shameless attempts to move to Arsenal. The cash swirling around the Premier League has given clubs more financial muscle, giving them the luxury to be able to reject big-money bids and to play hard ball with their star players. Even those as highly paid and as valuable as Rooney and Suarez.
In the past, there has been an unpleasant familiarity to the outcome of any transfer dispute between player and club. Players have been able to force through transfers, with antics ranging from disrespectful to downright insulting. When Pierre van Hooijdonk went on strike at Nottingham Forest in 1998, his manager Dave Bassett threatened to “stick an olive branch up his a***” if he returned to the City Ground. When Dwight Yorke forced through a move to Manchester United from title rivals Aston Villa the same year, his manager John Gregory said: “If I had a gun I would have shot him.” But on both occasions the player got his way.
More recently Robin van Persie “listened to the little boy inside my head” when he pressured Arsenal to let him move to Old Trafford last summer. But there has been a noticeable change this summer, with clubs determined to hang on to their biggest assets regardless of the strops and blow-outs. Manchester United chief executive Ed Woodward has made it clear Rooney will not be sold to Chelsea, despite the striker’s determination to leave. The England international has two years left on his contract at Old Trafford which, historically, would be the tipping point when a club would choose to sell for fear of losing the player on a free. But United have refused to buckle.
Over at Anfield, an equally unfamiliar drama has been played out. John W Henry has been every bit as bullish in his role as Liverpool’s principal owner. The American mocked Arsenal’s clumsy bid of £40,000,001 with his infamous tweet – “what are they smoking at the Emirates” – and followed it with an unequivocal message that Suarez will not be sold. Key to both clubs’ stance is the fact that their budgets were drawn up at the end of last season, incorporating Rooney’s £240,000-a-week salary and Suarez’s £120,000-a-week wages regardless of whether they play.
United are the third biggest club in European football, generating £320m a season and they simply don’t need to sell – especially to a club competing for the same titles (and global revenue) as them. Liverpool are ninth in the money league, proudly clinging to their history of five European Cups and boasting an income of £188.7m even before the new TV deal kicks in. In London, Gareth Bale has been made to wait, suffering in silence in the treatment room until Daniel Levy is ready to sell him to Real Madrid. Levy, a shrewd negotiator, is shaping a deal on Tottenham’s terms.
The clubs are biting back, turning the tables on the top earners and regaining control of their assets. Christian Benteke handed in a transfer request in the summer after just one season at Aston Villa. Despite the financial tightening at Villa in recent years under Randy Lerner, Benteke was told he would not be allowed to leave and within a week he had signed a new contract, despite intense interest from Tottenham.
At West Bromwich Albion Peter Odemwingie has been training on his own since he parked outside Loftus Road on transfer deadline day in January and tried to gain entry into Harry Redknapp’s office. He’s earning £40,000 a week but owner Jeremy Peace has made it clear he will determine the forward’s future.
This week Newcastle owner Mike Ashley responded to Arsenal’s derisory bid of £12m for midfielder Yohan Cabaye by telling their transfer supremo Dick Law: “Which part of him do you want for that?” The game has moved on. Clubs are awash with cash again after an enormous uplift in free broadcasting cash following the deals with Sky, BT and the overseas market. Suddenly it feels like they are again holding all the cards. – Daily Mail