Should Clubs Sell Players to Rivals?

We’ve seen it before, a club being forced into a sale by a player and that player being sold to a direct rival of said club. Arsenal sold Robin van Persie to Manchester United. Obviously, this is only one example of this happening but I chose him because  van Persie played direct roles in Manchester United winning the Premier League. I’m sure a quick search could yield more results of players going from one side of a heated rivalry to the other.

After this season, Mario Götze will join the list of players who moved between rival clubs and it begs the question of should clubs sell their players to clubs who are rivals, either historically or in the grand scheme of winning a championship in their league.

Carlos Tevez went from Manchester United to Manchester City, but is it right to sell to rivals?

Carlos Tevez went from Manchester United to Manchester City after a loan deal, but is it right to sell to rivals?

Hypothetically, we would like to say that clubs shouldn’t do this and I tend to agree. Nothing would anger me more than United somehow prying Vincent Kompany away from the Etihad, but not because United had gotten better but because City sold him to the other side of the city.

Transfers are meant to strengthen clubs and we know that sometimes, clubs’ hands are forced when it comes to want-away players. Would Arsenal have benefited more from sending van Persie to Italy, Spain or Germany? I’ve seen a modified table taking out every club’s top scorer and United would have theoretically still won the Prem, but that’s only when using the season’s actual stats.

Tottenham is doing it the right way. Any time Gareth Bale is linked with a Premier League team, he is also linked with an astronomical transfer fee. They would rather send him to Spain and never play against him than send him to United, City, Arsenal or Chelsea and have to face him multiple times a season.

I also think the big two in Spain are good about not doing this. How many times have you seen a player leave Real Madrid for Barcelona or vice versa. There aren’t many stars who have made that particular move in either direction, I can assure you.

At the end of the day, money is the name of the game. No club is going to turn down a big paycheck, no matter where its coming from. City’s money is good at Old Trafford, Arsenal’s money is good at White Hart Lane and Everton’s money is good at Anfield.

But at some point, on some purely competition level, some executive has to step up and say “No, our clubs are rivals and I refuse to sell him to you regardless of how much money you are willing to pay.”

Edit: It seems in my haste and fog of early morning, I accidentally said Tevez was sold to Manchester City. I apologize for the mistake.

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The Fight for Credibility

Since the English Premier League was created in 1992, Manchester United has won the league in 12 of the 20 seasons and they are well on their way to win their 13th in the Premier League era (20th overall). It’s safe to say that Fergie’s boys — as much as this pains me to say — are “the” team in Premier League history. However, when is it time to give an upstart the respect they deserve?

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Sir Alex is one of the best, but at some point it is okay to say that other managers are good enough to shine his shoes.

We all know about England’s “Big Four” and their dominance through the years. Outside of Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City only three clubs have won the Premier League; United, Chelsea and Arsenal. Meanwhile, Liverpool gets included for their exploits in Europe.

Blackburn was a flash in the pan. They went as fast as they came and they are now in the Championship, having never come close to winning the league since and will probably have a tough time repeating 1994-95. Blackburn’s meteoric rise and plunging fall is the reason that football purists don’t give credibility to teams like Chelsea and Manchester City.

“They bought the league” is something you hear when asked about Chelsea’s back-to-back under Jose Mourinho and City’s thrilling last day title clincher last season. United, Arsenal, Liverpool, those teams would never do that. They would never spend millions to position themselves to bring home the title.

It’s true, Arsenal hasn’t spent much under Arsene Wenger. His financial policy is well known and the fact that the Gunners have been paying off the Emirates is also well know. I’d like to point out that since the Invincibles season and the one following, Arsenal hasn’t finished higher than 3rd in the league. They now sit in 5th place by Spurs and Chelsea.

Liverpool… hasn’t won the league in the Premier League era.

So that leaves us with Manchester United. As far as transfers this season, only one club spent more on players than Fergie — and no, it’s not their crosstown rivals. It’d be difficult to say that Robin van Persie hasn’t been the difference in United’s 15-point lead. How many winners has the Dutchman scored this season? Basically, it can be argued that United bought the league by buying van Persie from Arsenal.

But that will not be the case because United has “credibility.”

Whether just or not, teams do not get respect for winning the league in England because United has won it so many times. Teams do not get respect for finishing high because that’s something that Arsenal does on a meager transfer budget.

It took Chelsea winning the Champions League to earn some form of credibility with the purists and they are still defined by their owner’s purse strings.

I’m one to believe that constantly finishing near the top of the league should earn a team the respect they deserve as one of the more dominant teams in English football. Manchester City has finished 5th, 3rd, and 1st in the last three seasons and they will likely finish 2nd this season. They will have won a trophy in 3 of those 4 seasons should they get past Chelsea and Millwall/Wigan.

If that isn’t deserving of credibility then the league’s name needs to be changed to the “Manchester United will win” Premier League.

The Beauty of the Away Goal Rule

In the past few days there has been a lot of talk about whether or not the away goal rule should be done away with, but I have to say that I couldn’t disagree more. It’s easy to say you want it gone when it works against your club, but it wouldn’t be so easy to say that if your club benefits from it.

This week, we saw two big games decided by the away goal rule. Arsenal fell to Bayern Munich in the Champions League after beating the Bavarians 2-0 in the Allianz thanks to Bayern’s 3-1 win at the Emirates. Tottenham defeated Inter 4-4 in extra time when Emmanuel Adebayor scored the only away goal of the tie to move on to the quarterfinals of the Europa League.

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is probably ready to launch a campaign to get rid of the away goal rule after his side crashed out of the Champions League against Bayern Munich due to it.

Arsenal supporters hate the rule right now. Spurs supporters love it.

Regardless of which side of the fence you are on, you have to realize that the away goal rule is essentially necessary to two-legged knockout tournament ties. Without it, the away team would put their entire team within 25 yards of their goal and just play for a nil-nil draw in hopes of getting a goal in the return leg at their stadium.

It encourages the away team to be more aggressive and rewards them if they manage to score while on the road and punishes the home team if they concede.

Certainly, the away team is in the driving seat if they do happen to score and it puts the home team at a disadvantage but all they have to do is go and get a goal in the return fixture and the momentum is right back in their favor.

Naturally, we want to get rid of the rule because Arsenal and Inter (along with many other teams throughout the years) were adversely affected by it but that have no one to blame but themselves. If Arsenal didn’t allow 3 goals against Bayern, they wouldn’t have needed to play they way they did Wednesday. If Inter would have scored at White Hart Lane, they wouldn’t have needed to score 4 goals only to get the boot because they conceded in extra time at home.

Doing away with the away goal rule would just do away with entertaining two-legged ties in competitions.

Why is AVB Succeeding at Tottenham?

Andre Villas-Boas is one of the brightest young managers in the footballing world, that much is hard to be argued against. He is only 35 years old and has held jobs at some of the better clubs and done reasonably well wherever he has gone. However, following his stint at Chelsea, some were questioning his ability as a manager of a big name side.

There were plenty of reasons why Villas-Boas only lasted nine months at Stamford Bridge. He was too young to lead that club. He didn’t have the backing of the veteran players. His preferred style of player was entertaining but it allowed too many goals. And of course, Chelsea had a string of bad results prior to his sacking.

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Andre Villas-Boas has Tottenham believing they could do something great in the very near future.

All that being said, how is it possible that Villas-Boas has gone to another London club, Tottenham, and had much more success with arguably a less talented team and definitely a smaller transfer budget?

It’s a quite simple answer actually, he isn’t under ridiculous amounts of pressure.

I could just imagine how excited Roman Abramovich was to bring in a young manager who had working under Jose Mourinho, an 88% winning percentage at Porto and a Europa League victory on his CV. I could also imagine that he thought Villas-Boas was going to pull something along the lines of a quintuple.

Don’t get me wrong, Tottenham had Champions League aspirations when they began this season but I doubt Daniel Levy is as tough a boss as Abramovic is. Think about it. Harry Redknapp was given four years as Tottenham’s boss as their best finish was coming in 4th twice and they didn’t win any silverware. Levy probably also learned something from his quick fire decision to sack Martin Jol, but I digress.

Villas-Boas has Spurs playing some of, if not the, best football in the Premier League right now and at some point you have to look to the manager as part of the reason for it. His free-flowing tactics have allowed Gareth Bale to wreak havoc on defenses both domestically and in Europe, giving Tottenham a chance to win the Europa League if they continue this run of form.

Now that he has the supporters, the players and ownership behind him, I believe we will see AVB continue to flourish in his role as manager of Tottenham. They went from a club aiming to finish in a Champions League spot to a club that is a player or two from challenging for much more seemingly overnight with his hire.

A perfect end to this season would be if he could find someway to keep Bale in London for a few more years. Whether or not he does is another story altogether, just know that as of now there is nothing stopping AVB from achieving greatness at Tottenham.

Financial Fair Play Threatening to Destroy Premier League

Recently, the chairmen of the clubs of the English Premier League passed new measures in favor of financial restriction.

While on one side of the coin, it makes sense to do so as UEFA plans to institute their own set of financial controls in the coming years. However, I think that placing constraints on teams will not only hurt smaller clubs, it will also hurt the league as a whole.

Under the new rules, teams will not be allowed to record losses of over £105 million (~$163 million) in a three year period and will limit the amount of TV money allowed to be spent on wages, or the amount players’ make per week to £60 million (~$93 million).

As I’ve said, in a way this is good for certain clubs. Teams like Manchester United, Arsenal, or Liverpool will be able to subsidize their clubs in other ways. Meanwhile, clubs like Swansea City won’t have to break the bank to keep up with the Joneses.

Swansea City won’t be finishing in the top six anytime soon under these new guidelines, either.

The restrictions, which passed by a vote of 13-6 with one club abstaining, are a blatant attempt by the league’s blue blood elite at keeping any smaller, less prestigious clubs from challenging them for their spots in the table. Recently, Manchester City and Chelsea have risen to the top of the league due to wealthy owners and the last thing supporters of Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United want is to watch another petrol-billionaire snap up a team and turn them into a title contender.

Restraining how much can be spent on a club is restraining competition. Take a look at Major League Baseball if you need an example. The Yankees can sign any player they want while the Royals are trading away all their young prospects because they can’t pay them.

This is what will happen in the Premier League. Manchester United will be able to break the bank on players, as they already do, while Southampton will be forced into selling their top young players.

It’s a slippery slope that the English Premier League is heading towards and I, for one, am afraid of what’s at the bottom.

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