Why there is no new surprising Champions League Winner?
Why do we have the same Champions League winners in the past few years? Why do we see the same teams in UEFA Champions League Quarter Finals or Semi Finals each year? Why we no longer see surprises like Steaua Bucharest, or Red Star Belgrad or even Ajax Amsterdam?
The answer to the aforementioned questions is very simple: there are a few teams that manage their financial accounts wisely and the crisis did not affect them. Even though it’s too much to say that they manage “wisely” their financials (Real Madrid’s debt is over € 600 million), those clubs became international brands and their reputation is beyond European borders. As a result, being internationally renowned brands they are able to attract funds easily because of the exposure they provide for the sponsors. The sponsors are looking for the best billboard in the world, with a global reach. And where can you find this billboard? On a reputed football team shirt:). Football clubs provide an enourmous brand awareness for sponsors. For instance, Manchester United receives € 180 million yearly only from kit sponsorship (€ 100 million from Adidas and € 80 million from Chevrolet), while Real Madrid and Barcelona receive € 88 million each from kit sponsorship only. There is actually a fierce fight between the major kit suppliers – Adidas and Nike – to sign big names, so that the fame of the football team to be associated also with the kit provider. At a first glance Nike seems to be winning the battle with Adidas, the American giant supplying 26 teams from the Europe’s top five leagues, while Adidas supplies to only 18 clubs. However, Adidas supplies teams with better reputation than Nike, managing to sign two of Nike’s biggest clients: Manchester United and Juventus.
So, in other words, football became a business and the clubs that have an established reputation can attract funds easier than the rest. As a result, big money are available in the best five western leagues: England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France. Moreover, Champions League is a success recipe. Let’s take for example the last Champions League winner, Real Madrid, that received € 57.4 million only for winning UCL trophy (excluding the television rights).
When is the last time when a team outside of this league won UCL? The last Champions League winner outside of Europe’s best five leagues was FC Porto, in 2003/2004 season. In the last ten years, we had Champions League winners and finalists from only 4 countries: England, Spain, Italy and Germany. In the last 10 years we saw the same teams in the final (Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United with 3 finals each, while Chelsea reached into UEFA Champions League twice).
But why such a competition became dominated by clubs with budgets of hundreds of euro? Where are the nice surprises of the small teams like Steaua Bucharest, Red Star Belgrade, Ajax or Porto that showed that small teams that formed a talented group can beat the giants? Why we do not longer see a Champions League winner or at least a finalist outside of those five leagues?
The answer is simple: those clubs have enough money to purchase any talented player and thus destroy the competition. Name one top player who is not playing for the England’s Big Four teams, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus or PSG. Let’s look on the Ballon D’or nominees that play for other teams than the ones mentioned above (James Rodriguez was transferred by Real Madrid immediately after World Cup; Ibrahimovic is playing for the oil-reach PSG, while Yaya Toure is playing for another very rich club – Manchester City). So, money buys talent and performance (best example PSG – since Qatar Investment became the main shareholder in 2012 the French team dominated Ligue 1 and managed to sign important names like Ibrahimovic, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Cavani or Lavezzi). The example that the cash on hand dents the competition is given by Bayern Munich, which signed Dortmund’s best players – Mario Goetze and Robert Lewandovski. As a result, Dortmund’s performance was highly affected and Klopp’s team is now struggling to avoid relegation.
Teams that create surprise both in UCL and championship are immediately dismantled by the giants. Dortmund was one example, but the same thing happened to Atletico Madrid which had to sold Diego Costa and Felipe Luis to Chelsea. Those two players were attracted by the former Champions League winner highly improved salaries, that were outside of Atletico’s possibilities. Moreover, Chelsea decided not to loan any longer Thibaut Courtois. There is past time when clubs managed to keep their best players, there will no longer be cases like Francesco Totti. Smaller clubs will always lose their best players (we have the examples of Tottenham who could not keep Gareth Bale or Luca Modric; or Liverpool’s Golden Boot – Luis Suarez).
It would be no surprise on who is going to be this season’s Champions League winner! The conclusion is simple, the rich clubs from England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France are dominated UCL because of their funds availability, which gives them the opportunity to purchase the best talents of the world.