Des Kelly: Why did we flop in Europe? Look who spent the money...

11 April 2010 05:25
The only club that can be genuinely pleased with their European campaign is Fulham.

That is not a sentence I had anticipated writing at the start of the season. For the rest, this recession has now manifested itself in a Champions League semi-final line-up that does not include a single English club for the first time in seven years.

There are occasions when you hope your predictions retain their usual status as ready-made fish-and-chips wrapping, but I did fear the worst when the draw was made, saying: 'It's almost unthinkable, but this could be the first time since 2003 that a Premier League clubs fails to reach the last four of the Champions League.

Costly: Arsenal duo Almunia and Clichy (left) are paying the price for failure

'Barcelona set the benchmark in world football. The Germans are the dark horses with searing pace. This might be the year when Europe strikes back.'

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But the theory doing the rounds right now is that Premier League clubs have underperformed spectacularly in Europe in comparison to their rivals. In fact, the depressing reality is they appear to have achieved precisely what they should have expected.

According to the latest figures by, net Premier League transfer spending is at its lowest ebb for a decade. Spain's La Liga splashed out a staggering two-and-a-half times more in fees than the English clubs, while Germany also spent 14 per cent more than the Premier League average.

That's a huge power shift and the first time the game in this country has been knocked off its perch since the year 2000. While the figures for Spain are skewed by the manic summer spree at Real Madrid, that is countered somewhat by Manchester City's loadsamoney antics here.

But look at the top five clubs in Europe by net transfer expenditure this season and they are:

1. Real Madrid - £226million. 2. Manchester City - £128.4million. 3. Barcelona - £98.45million. 4. Inter Milan - £83.24million. 5. Lyon - £70.17million.

Avert your gaze from Madrid's European catastrophe and City's immense gamble to force their way into the Champions League elite, and you are left with three of the four European semi-finalists. Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona, Inter and, most notably, Lyon appear to have pretty much got what they paid for. Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool did too. They crashed out.

'TYPICAL GERMANS'. Typical Germans, said Sir Alex Ferguson in his post-match grumble. Quite right, what with Bayern Munich boasting a Belgian, a Frenchman, an Argentine, a couple of Dutchmen, two Croats, plus a Ukrainian, Turk and naturalised Pole on the bench, all under the control of another Dutchman.

It's a typical Teutonic plot. Bloody master race.

So when Bayern president Uli Hoeness claims English clubs are merely reaping the effects of years of free spending and short-term thinking, he's talking out of his bratwurst. Germany, Spain, Italy and France are all benefiting from a change in the market conditions, just as English clubs have done for the past decade.

David Pleat touched on this yesterday in one line at the end of a more general post mortem into the game.

He said: 'With changes in the tax law it may not be so easy to attract Cantona, Bergkamp and Zola any more.'

Correct. Many of the top calibre players now head to Spain, Italy and even Germany because of a hike in Government tax rates here and the fact that the pound has collapsed.

This makes the Euro-zone a decidedly more attractive place to live and work. Roughly 25 per cent more attractive, in fact, as you will find when you head to the bureau de change before your suddenly less lavish holiday.

The impact of this economic crisis explains why Roman Abramovich is scaling back his spending at Chelsea and trying to curb wages. It's why Manchester United are nursing their debt and buying injury crocks on a free like Michael Owen, or relatively unknown Mexican prospects such as Chicharito, despite having a £66m profit stashed somewhere from the Cristiano Ronaldo deal.

Success story: Fulham are the real blip this season

It is why Arsenal sold £31m of players to Manchester City, why Liverpool's only big deals were for full-back Glen Johnson and the physio's friend Alberto Aquilani. In total, last season's top four banked £73m from transfer trading. That's not because they want to. It's because they have to.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo, Kak?Xabi Alonso and Karim Benzema all moved to Real , Zlatan Ibrahimovic went to Barcelona, Wesley Sneijder and Lucio joined Inter Milan and Arjen Robben headed to Bayern.

Disheartening as it may be for fans to hear it, when the likes of Rafa Benitez at Liverpool and Martin O'Neill at Aston Villa complain they have brought their clubs as far as they can without new and significant investment, that pessimism is probably justified.

Of course, a naive Rafael still contrived to get himself sent off at Old Trafford and, without that, we might still be picking over tactics instead of exchange rates.

But it's hard to ignore the fact that to attain success time and time again, money talks loud and clear.

While some argue this Champions League failure may be just a blip, if economic conditions remain as they are, European success has suddenly become vastly more challenging for the Premier League's top three or four.

The Europa League might be the best prospect of trophy glory that English clubs have for some time. Magnificent Fulham should treasure their run, because unless Roy Hodgson receives the huge financial windfall he will need to build on this adventure, they are near the limit of what they can hope to achieve right now.

That's the brutal truth. Fulham are the real blip.

 Yes, PM, the economy is like Rooney. it's lame!I'd only just recovered from laughing at Gordon Brown's pathetic electioneering pledge to hand over a quarter of every Premier League football club to supporters' groups when he decided to compare the economy to Wayne Rooney's ankle injury.

Only a few weeks ago, the desperate Prime Minister was comparing himself to Fabio Capello. Who's writing these idiotic speeches? A seven-year-old reader of Match! magazine?

Let's start with the club giveaway. Have you ever heard such pitiable claptrap? Next, he'll be changing Labour's colours to green and gold.

Leaving aside the laughable idea that Brown's mob could ever lecture sport about financial probity, bearing in mind their own appalling fiscal incompetence, the notion that he would be able to deliver on such a promise is an insult to everyone's intelligence.

His pledges are worth as much as Patsy Kensit's wedding vows and anybody taken in by this wretched bout of headline-grabbing populism should be given an IQ test before they are allowed to vote.

Lame: PM Gordon Brown (L) compared the economy to Rooney's injury setback

Then came the Rooney comparison.

'I know everyone will be hoping Rooney is fit for the World Cup, but after an injury you need support to recover (pause as Brown's jaw drops open), support to get back to match fitness, support to get back your full strength and then go on to lift the World Cup. So it is with the economy. We're not back to full fitness, we need to maintain support.' (Pause as everyone else's jaw drops open).

GRAND NATIONAL TIP. MY tip for The Grand National isCreosote at 20-1.

I hear it's very good over fences.

Yes, the stricken UK economy, with its £170 billion deficit, is exactly like Rooney's injured ankle. IF YOU ARE AT PRIMARY SCHOOL.

But, as it turned out, Brown might have unwittingly been on to something.

For starters, Rooney's injury turned out to be much worse than the Scottish bloke in charge had thought, just like the economy.

He took a risk when everyone else could see the gamble might backfire spectacularly. And bumbled when immediate action was required. In the end, England were left trailing miserably behind Germany, Italy, France and Spain in the European pecking order, falling from a position of seemingly unassailable strength.

So, yes, the UK economy is just like Rooney. Lame.

  TIGER BITES: Some snippets from Augusta sponsored by Double Entendre (I'll give you one)Early play from Stalag Augusta was available on the BBC via the interactive feature, despite the organising committee's archaic broadcasting restrictions. So we were able to press the red button and watch Tiger Woods' first tee shot live. Hazel Irvine announced this was a 'momentous event in sport'. And it was. For a start, Woods avoided the bush on either side of him, which made for a pleasant change.BBC Commentator Ken Brown choked back the emotion, asking a suitably 'momentous' rhetorical question. He said: 'In 2008 Tiger Woods won the US Open with a broken leg - can he win the Masters with a broken heart?' Mysteriously, there was no on-screen instruction to 'press the green button now to vomit'. On the prowl: Tiger Woods cuts a cool figure collecting his club during the second round at Augusta

The CNN viewers' poll on Thursday dealt with the big talkingpoint, asking: 'Will Tiger win the US Masters?' An underwhelmed 63 percent answered: 'I don't care'.One writer who 'followed Woods for an entire year through the2008 season' and produced a book on his observations was asked toprovide insight. Here is an extract from his interview.Q. Were you as gobsmacked as everyone else at the extent of Tiger's extra-marital affairs?

A. Yes.

Sounds like one hell of a wasted year to me.

But unanswered questions still remain. The supposedly reformed'sex addict' Woods says he has forsaken illicit liaisons with lapdancers and porn stars, so does this mean that he will be playing withblue balls? Will Woods be banned if he finishes with a 69? Am I sackedyet? We need answers.Should you think any of this might be in questionable tasteremember Woods has just produced a commercial featuring his deceasedfather Earl - and nothing can ever be in poorer taste than cashing inon your dead Dad.This column is now taking a two-week break to 'play golf'. That seems to euphemistically cover most things these days  Fergie RAW: Here's how the United boss' latest rant unfolded!Ferguson on defensive as he insists medics were happy for Rooney to playMartin Samuel: Tiger laps up Augusta love - Woods back in the groove


Source: Daily_Mail