The irony has not been lost on anyone who has listened to the news in the past fortnight, the headlines report job loses, falling prices and national banks which require even more assistance from a government already strapped for cash, while the sport news, which follows, informs us of a €94 million transfer fee for a football player. This only a few days after a €68 million fee was paid for another. These excessive prices provide evidence that the global recession is not nearly as global as we expect.
However, the problems which these fees create are many. Firstly there is the obvious problem, Real Madrid have paid €162 million on two people, not a whole team. There are no guarantees that the players, Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo, will automatically fit into the side and that they will be able to lead the team to success. This is probably not a huge concern for the team as both have signed six years contracts so there is plenty of time for them to find their feet. This is an aspect of the game which the players have some element of control over, unlike injuries which pose a much bigger problem.
Regardless of a player’s price, he is still as likely to get injured as before and this is one of the biggest gambles Real have taken. Just this year Kaka was out for a month with an ankle injury while in 2008 he was out with a more prolonged knee injury. Ronaldo has hobbled off the pitch on several occasions in the past season with everything from a groin injury to a sore hip. Just a few days before he signed his contract with Real Madrid he was shopping in Los Angeles rather than playing for the Portuguese national team due to a suspected hernia problem. Both players are likely to take knocks, as happens to every footballer, but perhaps this is a risk Real are happy to take?
The bigger risk is probably the money itself. The money used to pay for these players has been sourced from commercial earnings, match day takings and television rights. As we have just seen in the past week, Setanta Sports are in trouble and while BSkyB and other larger television groups are unlikely to collapse in the upcoming season, the lack of competition means that they will be unwilling to pay above the odds for television rights. Likewise, commercial earnings and match day revenue will undoubtedly fall as the ordinary supporter finds it harder to fund trips to football matches and buy replica kits. While the new Ronaldo jersey will undoubtedly be on the top of many summer wish lists, with recession comes less consumer spending so it is unlikely they will earn the €94 million predicted. All this does not take into account the huge debts which Real already currently hold.
However, the only thing which really should matter is whether or not these signings and any others which follow will help Real Madrid to win games and titles. Just a month ago, Ronaldo played against Real’s biggest rivals and despite their lack of a solid defence he failed to score a single goal. The biggest challenge Madrid now face is not money, or fitness but Barcelona.