By J Hutcherson (Aug 3, 2016) US Soccer Players - Shocked looks, but it's costing Premier League clubs more to buy players from foreign clubs. The Premier League and its clubs making money from broadcast deals didn't exist in a vacuum. Instead, everybody else noticed.
It's not even remotely a surprise that the English media responded with aghast. What, we pay more simply because we have the money? How is that... Empire... 1966... Brexit... and so on. Meanwhile, in the real world, of course they're paying more. How much more depends on which outraged source you're reading. Here's the thing. The Premier League clubs might be paying a surcharge, but they're not the only ones spending ridiculous amounts.
A transfer happened earlier this week that few outside of the clubs involved would care about. Arek Milik left Ajax for Napoli. It's the cost that's worth our attention. Whatever the actual figure, nobody seems to be disagreeing that it was over $35m dollars. Milik is now Ajax's record transfer, leading a list that includes a lot of players you would recognize. What did Napoli get? Coverage after selling Gonzalo Higuain to Juventus for $100m dollars.
"What the market will bear" is almost a cliche at this point. While Juventus continues to attempt to offload star player Paul Pogba for more than $100m dollars, they're spending to destabilize in Serie A. Napoli finished second. Their star now plays for Juventus. Roma finished 3rd. Juventus bought their midfielder Miralem Pjanic for over $35m. Right now, it looks like another easy run through Serie A for Juventus, though the Champions League is a different matter.
This isn't exactly new. Poaching players through economic might is the modern story of European soccer. After the Bosman ruling, freeing up player movement had to lead to increased costs. It's how the costs are increasing right now that has to be the concern.
Juventus isn't fooling anybody. They're about to offload one of the best midfielders in the world when Pogba finally signs with Manchester United. The players they're bringing in won't necessarily make them better than they were with Pogba last season. The players they're bringing in will make their nearest rivals worst. Faced with that scenario, Napoli spending for Milik and whoever else they can get is a desperate move. Fitting, since there's no question the rest of Serie A now faces desperate times. That's of course if they want to keep up with Juventus.
Crystal Palace became the punchline for a few jokes when they started floating large fees for potential transfers. The wonders of life in south London playing in one of the Premier League's smaller stadiums meant landing those players wasn't going to be easy. Still, there was Palace ready to pay what was necessary. They set a new incoming transfer record for PSG midfielder Yohan Cabaye last summer. This summer, they've spent more for Andros Townsend from Newcastle. $17m might not seem like much, but this isn't a Premier League giant. It's not even a London giant.
That new normal in the Premier League is spreading. The Bundesliga can look at how much money it's made recently shifting its players to England, but their normal is about to change as well. They're the latest to benefit from the massive broadcasting deals now on offer. Their normal is about to change. Short of the rights bubble bursting, so will the rest of the big leagues in Europe.
Where this takes the sport is an open question. If it's not really a rights bubble, we're just subbing in new numbers for old. If it is a bubble, we're watching a high stakes game of musical chairs. Eventually, some league will be caught out. They'll be the ones with a deal up and not a lot of interest. The market will dictate, and they'll be the losers. The rest will adjust accordingly.
That's the soft landing. The harder one is clubs doing what they do best. Spending beyond their means is a hallmark of European club soccer. t's certainly worth considering that there's no such thing as too much money in this sport.
J Hutcherson started covering soccer in 1999 and has worked as the general manager of the US National Soccer Team Players Association since 2002. Contact him email@example.com.
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