Real Madrid, Gareth Bale and why it’s not just about the football

At the Santiago Bernabeu, the stage is literally set for what could be the unveiling of the world’s most-expensive footballer. Gareth Bale’s proposed move from Tottenham to Real Madrid has understandably monopolised recent back pages as fans await the conclusion of a transfer saga that has left many questioning the financial implications of the reported £85 million deal.

Aside from the moral qualms many have about such an astronomical figure, most fans have been left querying whether Bale is worth the record-breaking fee. The Welshman is a phenomenal footballer on a par with other Premier League heavyweights; Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. Yet these players aren’t nearly attracting the astronomical figures to their names as Bale. Robin van Persie, last season’s top goalscorer, was bought for a measly £22.5 million last year. One of the finest all-round English players of the last decade, Wayne Rooney, was only recently valued at a mere £25 million by Chelsea. Luis Suarez, scorer of 30 goals last season, has attracted massive offers from Arsenal but that famous 40 million and a one pound pales in comparison to the reported Bale fee.

The residing question then is this: what exactly are Madrid up to? Gareth Bale is undoubtedly a superb footballer. Not even the most ardent of Arsenal fans would question that. For club and country, the midfielder scored 31 goals last term. He single-handedly won games for his team in sublime fashion on more than a handful of occasions. These are facts that nobody can deny. They are also facts that fans of Manchester United (Rooney and van Persie) and Liverpool can boast of their stars yet no record transfer fee hangs over the heads of these players. Real Madrid president Florentine Perez obviously sees value in the Welshman and is willing to part with £85 million to prove it.

Real Madrid are no strangers to blockbuster signings. In 2001 it was Zinedine Zidane (a then world record £45.6 million). In 2009, it was Kaka (another world record of around £56m) and then Cristiano Ronaldo (yet another world record fee of £80 million). At a cheaper, but no less significant, level they signed David Beckham from Manchester United in 2003 for £24.5 million.

Real Madrid is unashamedly a brand and each of the players mentioned slotted perfectly into the on-going mission to solidify the Galácticos as the largest global brand in football. Through sponsorships and worldwide touring Madrid have become the most recognised football club on the planet.

Gareth Bale

With Beckham they acquired Europe’s most valuable sporting personality. From the very beginning of his Spanish adventure David Beckham was helping his new club recoup the money they had dished out on him – even his medical was sponsored by a health-care firm. Add this to multi-million pound Adidas deal to match Madrid’s and a merchandising agreement that reportedly had Beckham handing 50% of his personal sponsorship earnings to Madrid then it is safe to say that the Spanish giants have an idea of how to spend money to make money.

‘Brand Madrid’ seek players that are able to enhance not just their on-field success but also that off it. Jose Mourinho’s managerial credentials need no clarification yet he was considered surplus to requirements at Madrid as his controversial antics were just not in keeping with the angelic sheen of the nine-time European Cup winners. When Mourinho was seen to poke then Barcelona assistant Tito Vilanova in the eye the Spanish press called it ‘deplorable’. Not an image football’s biggest commercial club wished to convey.

Madrid were often linked to Liverpool’s Luis Suarez this summer, a player with statistics that at times outshine Bale’s, yet this interest never gathered any momentum and it can only be assumed that this is down to the tainted image of the Uruguayan. Like Mourinho, Suarez is capable of too much brand-damaging controversy to justify spending such amounts of money regardless of his talent.

Just a quick glance at Real Madrid’s history of signings provides a clearer picture of why they are willing to spend such an enormous amount on a clean-cut, fresh faced, superstar in the making. In Bale, Madrid have a young star in the making that they will be able to mould and shape to fit their own needs. In Madrid, Bale has a platform to expand his own brand. It was not so long that it was revealed Bale was attempting to trademark his heart-shaped goal celebration – he is clearly aware of the benefits of building his own brand beyond the game and the benefits of a Madrid move will not be lost on the 24-year-old.

Even on a brand-building level, Bale at such a price will still be seen as a gamble for Madrid. Unlike, Zidane, Kaka, Ronaldo or Beckham, he is not a pre-packaged global star just waiting to become a shirt-selling machine. He doesn’t yet transcend sport like, say, Beckham did. The more cynical of supporters will assume the long drawn-out pursuit of Bale by Madrid is merely a clever marketing ploy to allow the world time to catch up and get to know the world’s most expensive footballer-elect before the eventual finalities are complete.

Simply by being attached to such lucrative and high-profile transfers in recent history, Real Madrid have ensured their names in both the history books and newspapers all around the world; the Gareth Bale situation is no different. Madrid are being talked about by football fans and non-fans alike the world over, and that is just the way the like it as the brand continues to flourish with the latest star commodity preparing his keepy-up skills for the big Bernabeu reveal.

by Jack Poland


Rooney won’t be handing in a transfer request at Manchester United

After United’s 0-0 draw with Chelsea last night, Jose Mourinho urged Wayne Rooney to come out in public and state where he wanted to play his football this season. However, the chances of the England international handing in a transfer request are very unlikely.

Whether Rooney is unsettled at Old Trafford or not, and whether he wants to play for Chelsea or not, he will not say it in public. With a handful of days left in the transfer window, Rooney would limit his chances of first-team football.

Wayne Rooney

What would happen if he stated he wanted a move but United refused to sell? He would be shooting himself in the foot with the fans that sang his name last night and compromise his chances of playing regularly for the Premier League champions.

Mourinho is right that players transfer to and from rivals on the continent all the time – unfortunately for him it happens very rarely in England.

Will Wayne Rooney stay at Manchester United?

Wayne Rooney supposedly asked Sir Alex Ferguson about transferring away from Manchester United. When Sir Alex retired to be replaced by David Moyes, Rooney’s future away from United seemed to be gathering momentum. Last season, Robin van Persie stole Rooney’s thunder as the lead striker for United and the England man ended up bouncing around between midfield and supporting van Persie upfront. His desire to move was driven by a desire to play first team football in a new environment. However, given what happened in 2010, when Rooney requested to leave, citing the club’s lack of ambition, which of course resulted in him becoming the highest paid player in the Premier League, the suspicion of something similar is always there. Now, reports are emerging that regaining that status from Yaya Toure could be enough to keep him at Old Trafford.

He has two years left on his contract now so United need to make a decision. To avoid the kind of forced sale that saw Arsenal lose van Persie and that is causing problems for Borussia Dortmund with Robert Lewandowski next summer, they either need to extend his contract or sell him. The latter option is what he originally wanted, but the lack of realistic suitors may be driving this apparent change of heart. Before they Barcelona signed Neymar and Real Madrid identified Edinson Cavani as their main target, the Clasico sides were the main options. He was interested in moving to Bayern Munich when they won the Champions League but they are chasing Robert Lewandowski and Luis Suarez ahead of Rooney. This seems to leave PSG, Chelsea and Arsenal. However, with Arsenal on the verge of signing Gonzalo Higuain they would seem to be out of the running. And this is if United would even consider selling in England. Chelsea seem to be interested but selling him to Mourinho is a big risk. PSG haven’t made a strong push and it seems unlikely that he and his family would want to move overseas.

Wayne Rooney

So if he’s not being heavily pursued, he might have no choice but to stay. Or, he might have been flirting with other teams in an action replay of his last face off with the club, which netted him his new £250,000 a week contract. As long as Van Persie is there, Rooney won’t get back his number one striker status. But, his role with England is unquestioned, so unlike players like Mario Gomez or David Villa who want moves to assure their position in very competitive squads for Brazil next summer, Rooney doesn’t have that threat. It possibly means his need to move doesn’t have that same urgency.

It’s almost impossible to know what is going on with the Rooney situation but as more and more big clubs that could afford him are looking at other options, his chances to leave look increasingly unlikely. But, this is if he even wants to leave in the first place. We’ve seen this kind of brinkmanship from Rooney before and it got him a new contract. At 27, a three or four year extension would see him in to his 30s, so this could be his last big contract.

It’s hard to tell who really has the power here. If Rooney did indeed ask to leave, he went out on a limb assuming that Bayern/Real/Barcelona would come calling. He’s watched them all choose other players ahead of him. So theoretically United can say that’s he’s tried to attract attention but hasn’t. Chelsea ought to be their main title challengers next season so it seems inconceivable that they’d sell to them. He’s not the main man at United anymore and that seems to bother him. The best thing for all concerned would be for him to work hard to become that again and the problem will go away.

Arsenal transfer targets: Rooney yes, Fellaini no

This summer is the first for many years that Arsenal are being talked about for signing other teams’ star players rather than losing their own, and two of the most commonly discussed names are Wayne Rooney and Marouane Fellaini. Even as recently as last summer the idea of Arsenal getting either of these, never mind both, would be laughed at, but this summer is different. Next season is when UEFA’s Financial Fair Play restrictions really kick in and this is what Arsenal have been preparing for over the last five years or so. Their payment schedule on the new stadium eases considerably and as they are so reliant on generating their own money they are in a strong position to take advantage of the FFP rules. So Rooney and Fellaini are affordable, they’ve got the cash sat ready and waiting. But how realistic is it for Arsenal to get them, and what would they bring to the team?

Wayne Rooney has asked to leave Manchester United. Rooney doesn’t want to play for David Moyes, his wife wants to live in London and Rooney wants to be the star striker. Arsenal could certainly satisfy the last two. In fact, not only would he be the star striker, he’d be their star player full stop. The arrival of Robin van Persie from Arsenal last summer saw Rooney drift further and further back towards, and even into, midfield. But he is openly unhappy about this. He still sees himself as a pure striker, and his goal scoring numbers back this belief in himself up. In the 2009/10 and 2011/12 seasons Rooney was deployed often as a lone striker, but always as a striker. He scored 34 and 35 goals respectively, by far the best output of his career.

Arsene Wenger

The strange thing with Rooney is that his best qualities are often overlooked in favour of his additional qualities. He works hard for a striker and has a good passing range for a striker, and this means managers are tempted to use him further back. But he’s best at scoring goals. At Arsenal, that would be exactly what he is brought in to do. With Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, possibly even Steven Jovetic, in place, they have no need for him to play deep. Olivier Giroud is a decent striker but no more. If Arsenal sign Rooney and play him up front they will have themselves the 30-goal striker they had when they sold van Persie. Even with all of the other talent, he would be the star of the show, and he would revel in that.

Would Manchester United be willing to sell though? Surprisingly the fee discussed so far has only been around £30m because he has just two years left on his contract. Arsenal sound like they can easily afford that. If they can also pay him the circa £200k a week he get’s at United, which again chief executive Ivan Gazidis has said they can, then this could happen. He’d be an excellent signing and a real statement of intent.

Marouane Fellaini

Where Rooney is a clear fit for Arsenal, the same isn’t necessarily true of Fellaini. For many years Arsenal’s supposed weakness was in defensive midfield, they had no shield and thus a flimsy defence. But last season they had the second best defence in the league. This was not least down to a transformed Aaron Ramsey who, over the last three months of the season, was as good a protector as any midfielder in the league. His tenacity in the tackle and particularly his interceptions marked him out. Arsenal fans bemoan his passing and lack of inventiveness, but in his new position he can keep it simple and focus on defending. What does Fellaini offer that is different? Like Ramsey, he is not a particularly good or subtle passer of the ball. He’s an athletic and tough presence when deep in midfield and although there is no doubting he is a little better at that than Ramsey, can you justify spending £24m on a minor upgrade?

Fellaini caused devastation as an attacking midfielder at Everton when supplied aerially. Does Arsene Wenger really want to use Fellaini as a number ten? He’d certainly offer them a Plan B but again, is that enough to justify spending so much on? Unless Wenger is convinced that Fellaini is a significantly better defensive midfielder than Ramsey then he should not make the move. Fellaini after all, gets most of his praise for the carnage he can cause if supplied correctly in the other team’s half. He’s a very good player, but not worth Arsenal spending £24m on when they still need a goalkeeper.

Manchester United and Chelsea should be in for Gonzalo Higuain

If you were to list the best ten strikers in the world off the top of your head, where would Gonzalo Higuain come? Probably nowhere. And yet, he has been the starting striker for Real Madrid for seven years, in which time he has managed to score 107 goals in 187 games, which makes him the club’s 11th highest scorer of all time. He has scored 20 goals in 32 games for Argentina and was their first choice at the last World Cup, arguably only losing his status as that to accommodate Lionel Messi more centrally and because he is not as glamorous as Sergio Aguero or Carlos Tevez. He’s done all of this already, and is only 25 years old. Whether it is because he doesn’t seek fame off the pitch or because he is just quietly efficient on it, he doesn’t get mentioned in the same breath as the other top strikers. Even rotated around this season he’d have been the joint seventh top scorer in the Premier League with his 15 goals coming in just 27 games. Chelsea have his ex-manager who made him captain joining them, and they badly need a striker. Manchester United are in the process of selling Wayne Rooney, and need a striker. They should be swarming all over him. We are talking about a genuinely world class forward, and he is available this summer.

On Sunday he told reporters that ‘I feel that my time here is over, I want a change…I want to go to another club, new challenges’. Higuain has never been popular in Madrid, and he wants to ‘go where they tell me they love me’. Nowhere quite does player adoration like Old Trafford but after having watched Fernando Torres for nearly three years, Chelsea fans will love him if he keeps scoring at his career rate. Real Madrid are intent on signing Luis Suarez and have not moved to say Higuain cannot leave. He could be available for as little as £20m, which is absolute theft.

Gonzalo Higuain

For Chelsea, the fit with Higuain is obvious. If Jose Mourinho isn’t ready to commit to Romelu Lukaku as his starter, then who better to fill the gap upfront than Higuain. With the chances created by Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar, he could comfortably get 25 goals in the league. He is ready to go, ready to score goals right now. Even if they only had it in mind for him to be the starter for two or three years he would still be the perfect option. He and Edinson Cavani are basically the same standard but with a possible £30m price difference. If Chelsea sign Higuain, who is also a perfect tactical fit, able to hold the ball up nicely and quick enough to cause defenders problems, they could spend their budget on upgrading the central defence, which is a relative chasm compared to the rest of the team.

For Manchester United the fit is a little less obvious as it doesn’t fit an immediate need but he would still be an excellent signing. David Moyes usually played a 4-4-2 type system at Everton but with Wayne Rooney leaving and doubts over the quality of Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck, Higuain could be a perfect foil to Robin van Persie. They would both be as comfortable dropping deep as hanging around the box which would give United extra attacking fluency, and most importantly, goals. Van Persie delivered spectacularly in the league last year but they were reliant on lots of players scoring, rather than players scoring lots. This hindered them in Europe. If Moyes does sell Rooney, then a ready-made, world-class replacement such as Higuain would be ideal.

Higuain has previously spoken of his comfort with playing in England and has the body type and game to adapt easily to the Premier League. He doesn’t look like a player who will take time to acclimatise, and can be bought, put in the team and left to score goals. He wants to be loved and both crowds are known for adoring their heroes no matter what. Chelsea and Manchester United should definitely move in on the cheapest world-class striker on the market.

Is Marouane Fellaini a good fit for Manchester United?

With David Moyes assuming the Manchester United hotseat, the transfer of Everton’s best players Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini to Old Trafford could well be on the cards. With Baines’ form and Patrice Evra in need of some top competition, the England international’s signing would make sense. But do the Premier League champions need Fellaini?

The Belgian has offered Everton a versatility that could well be useful for United. Fellaini has played most of his football this season as a brutish second striker, but has admitted that he prefers playing as an enforcer in front of his side’s defence.

United could potentially use one new signing in both of these positions. Michael Carrick has been devoid of support over the last 12 months in the centre of the park, while doubts remain over Wayne Rooney’s mindset.

Marouane Fellaini

In the attacking role, Fellaini certainly would provide an addition offensive option. His direct approach, ability in the air and endless running have made him a star in a good Everton team, and Fellaini has proved a nightmare for many a defence, including United’s, over the last 12 months.

In the centre of the midfield, Fellaini would certainly offer United more energy and a physical presence that has been missing since the retirement of Roy Keane. With Paul Scholes hanging up his boots, a creative central midfielder needs to be a priority, however Fellaini’s ability to be a stopper in the centre of the park could also be a sensible signing. Phil Jones has filled the enforcer role well in the recent past, but his preferred position is yet to be determined.

However, whether Fellaini has the ability on the ball and craft to fit into the United passing game is questionable. The Old Trafford faithful will want to avoid a scenario where the side compromise style for a direct approach, and utilising Fellaini in an attacking position could result in this.

Fellaini’s transfer fee is likely to be sizeable given Everton’s financial position, but it appears that he does not have a definite place in the United set-up. His versatility may well be asset, but the Red Devils may well end up signing a player that is good at two positions but great at neither.

Manchester United without Sir Alex or Wayne Rooney, Chelsea with Jose Mourinho – next season is set to be a cracker

As the 2012/13 Premier League season lurches towards its underwhelming end, the realisation for many a fan is that it left us with precious little memories, compared to other seasons – notably the most sensational ending in the competition’s 21-year history last term.

As Sergio Aguero slammed home the winner that gave Manchester City the Premier League over fierce local rivals Manchester United with the last kick of the game against Queen Park Rangers last season, Martin Tyler screamed: “I swear you will never see anything like this again.”

Tyler’s now iconic sound bite may have had some truth to it, certainly this season at least, he was right.

Sergio Aguero

As the season sleepwalks into its final day, there is only the tedious race for fourth place that is still to play for amongst London trio Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. The champions United won the division as far back at April 22. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side took advantage of a lacklustre competition and they marched to their 13th Premier League title in an efficient, if unspectacular, manner.

Two of the three relegated teams’ fate were sealed a week later when Queens Park Rangers played out a dour 0-0 with Reading before Wigan Athletic joined them on Tuesday following a 4-1 defeat to Arsenal.

Indeed the most exciting events to happen in the league this season were announcements and decisions that will not come into focus until next season.

Happily next season is already shaping up to be mouth-watering, with a whole of changes sweeping throughout the league, giving it a fresh feel for the summer of 2013.

To begin with, four of the top six teams this season will be starting the 2013/14 campaign with new managers at the helm.

Manchester United will be without Alex Ferguson for the first time in 26 years, with his replacement David Moyes leaving Everton, where he served for over a decade himself.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Ferguson’s absence from English football is a concept millions of fans around the country have never known and Moyes’ adaptation to the country’s biggest club will be the most fascinating plot next season.

Everton chairman Bill Kenwright admitted that he will not be hasty in appointing Moyes’ successor, with the most reliable reports linking the Blues with Wigan’s Roberto Martinez, Porto coach Vitor Pereira and Swansea City boss Michael Laudrup.

Rafael Benitez will depart Chelsea, with Jose Mourinho seemingly set for a second stint at Stamford Bridge. The return of the ‘Special One’ is enough to excite every Chelsea fan and most neutrals. Love him or loathe him, Mourinho is pure box office and his return to England is sure to stir up feuds, drama and entertainment.

Man City are looking for a new manager with Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini touted as the favourite to take over from the axed Roberto Mancini. Incidentally, the Italian was given his P45 just 366 days after he ended his side’s 44-year wait for a league title in the top division.

Pellegrini’s presence in English football would provide another interesting sub-plot to next season’s 38 act drama. The Chilean has won widespread plaudits for his work with the Andalusians this season, after guiding them to a Champions League quarter-final in their first season in the competition, despite working against a backdrop of financial meltdown at the club.

Away from the dug-out, the division will be without two players who will have played 1456 top-flight games between them by Sunday evening. Jamie Carragher will retire from Liverpool after 16 years of sterling service for the Reds, while Paul Scholes looks set to make the last of 718 appearances for United when they play West Bromwich Albion.

Between them they have won five FA Cups, three Champions Leagues, five League Cups, a UEFA Cup, a Super Cup and two World Club Championships. Scholes leaves United with 11 Premier Leagues and both players say goodbye to the game as archetypal one-club legends for their respective teams.

Wayne Rooney’s future is also subject to speculation with Ferguson admitting that the England international had asked for a transfer request a few weeks back. Rooney has been linked with moves abroad to Paris Saint-Germain amongst others, but there have also been reports suggesting that the former Everton forward could move to Chelsea.

Wayne Rooney

A move to Stamford Bridge would be another incredible development in United’s recent evolution, and perhaps it may seem incomprehensible that Rooney could turn out for the Blues next season. However, stranger things have happened in football, and Man Utd’s decision-makers have never been shy of selling a star player when they think his talent may be on the wane.

Next season will also have the fixture that pits Cardiff City against Swansea City, a game which will only add more spice to a division that already boasts the Merseyside, Manchester, north London and Tyne-Wear derbies.

Equate in all this with the fact that the transfer window is not yet even open and you get the feeling that next season could be one of the most intriguing all of time.

Wayne Rooney’s options in leaving Manchester United are very limited

Much has been made of the transition at Premier League champions Manchester United. The Old Trafford club will have to come to terms with the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson will no longer be the man in charge, with new boss David Moyes to assume the position next season. However, a key player could also be on his way out in the form of Wayne Rooney. The England international is said to have handed in a transfer request – however realistic options on where the forward could move to are few and far between.

United have stated that Rooney is not for sale, but if the attacker insists on leaving the Premier League champions could well be forced to part with the forward. Those who bet on the Premier League will know that the Old Trafford outfit will be reluctant to sell Rooney to one of their domestic rivals, despite links with Chelsea and Arsenal of late. The favourable odds are on Rooney moving abroad should he leave Manchester United.

The attacker’s salary and the potential transfer fee will also be an issue. Rooney is rumoured to currently earn more than £200,000 per week at Old Trafford, and the number of clubs that could, or would be willing to, come close to offering this are minimal. Add to this a transfer fee likely to be well in excess of £20 million, and Rooney’s purchase is a very expensive one.

Wayne Rooney

Barcelona have been linked with Rooney, but a move to the Camp Nou seems unlikely given the Catalan club’s policy to build from within. Real Madrid are unlikely to be interested, while a move to an Italian club like Juventus would force Rooney to drop his salary considerably. Bayern Munich have the financial means to buy him, but have publicly stated that they are not interested.

Realistically this only really leave Paris Saint-Germain, with betting tips pointing in this direction. A move to the French capital would make sense, as Carlo ancelotti’s men are on the rise, have the financial clout to buy him and have former team-mate David Beckham in their ranks. However, despite PSG having ambitions to become a major force in Europe, Rooney would have to settle for second-rate domestic football in Ligue 1.

Although Rooney may well be unsettled currently, with Moyes coming to the club there is no guarantee that he won’t see the changes at United as an opportunity to reinvigorate his career at Old Trafford. Given the obstacles such as his wages and transfer fee, the lack of big-name suitors and United’s reluctancy to sell to another Premier League club, and Rooney does not have a lot of options.

Change of Face, Change of Pace. The shift in Strategy of Manchester United’s attack

Change of face, change of pace; the shift in strategy of Manchester United’s attack

When Manchester United sold Dimitar Berbatov last summer it was no surprise given the arrival of Robin Van Persie and the lack of playing time afforded to the former Spurs man over the previous season. It has become a bit apparent recently though that the move signalled more than just a change in terms of bringing in one gifted front man for another. One of the reasons the Bulgarian cited had been given to him by Sir Alex Ferguson was a shift in the Old Trafford side’s attacking ethos. Berbatov had been told that he did not fit in with a move toward a faster and more direct attacking style.

In the derby on Monday night, United’s new methods were particularly apparent and interestingly a slight weakness in the plan was also on display. Many of the Reds’ wide players in particular regularly seem to overrun the ball when sprinting and on several occasions when the home side were surging at the City backline a heavy touch saw the move break down. Rafael was the main offender on Monday, but an out of sorts Antonio Valencia has been doing this for months. Danny Welbeck displays a good first touch at times but at top speed often resembles a cart horse attempting to dribble a beach ball. Ashley Young is not immune, nor is Nani or reserve left back Alexander Buttner.

Dimitar Berbatov

This may seem harsh given how potent United have looked in attack this season with the addition of Van Persie to an already well-stocked squad of strikers and wingers, but it is something that needs to been fine-tuned before Sir Alex Ferguson’s new design is the finished article. Perhaps Wilfried Zaha’s dribbling ability will improve the situation next term.

United sides of old held an ability to patiently probe for an opening. Slow build-up followed by a devastatingly quick interchange would often see defences unlocked after 30 or more passes had gradually pulled them out of position. Perhaps the demise of Paul Scholes has something to do with the death of this style in Ferguson’s plans. Neither Scholes nor Berbatov would have ever made the local sprint relay team, but their styles complimented an ability to attack while controlling possession for long periods.

The Premier League is faster and quicker than ever and even the top European ties are not the games of chess they were 10 years ago. Intensity, if it isn’t king, was certainly eyeing the throne amid the ferocious pace of Monday’s derby. Ferguson is a master of transition and building new sides, but it would be a shame if his current charges could not revert to a more patient approach if need be. In Michael Carrick they have a player who can take on the Scholes mantle in terms of dictating tempo at least. Wayne Rooney and Van Persie seem currently focused on attempting to spin their man or lay the ball off once before making a run in behind.

Perhaps on Monday this was due to specific instructions from the boss but both front men have the quality to get involved in build-up while waiting for the right time to strike. Regardless of how direct United’s game plan is, expect them to continue to challenge, as their ability to adapt has always been one of their greatest strengths.

Chelsea’s Torres, Manchester United’s Rooney, Barcelona’s Messi and the biggest football contracts of all time

The Biggest Football Contracts of All Time

With the most recent investments into the game the price of players contracts are once again starting to soar. Take a look below to find out more on the current top ten earners in world football and their seasons rates. (Warning: you may be surprised by some of the names on the list.)

10. Cristiano Ronaldo (€10 million)

The Portuguese forward earns a hefty sum at Real Madrid, but he only just cracks our top ten list. Ronaldo came to prominence in the Sporting Lisbon youth team, where an exceptional performance in a friendly against Manchester United earned him a transfer to the English club. After a rocky beginning in England, Ronaldo developed his game and led the side to three English Premier League titles, two League Cups, one UEFA Champions League trophy and the Club World Championship. Success has followed him to Real Madrid, where he won La Liga last season.

9. Lionel Messi (€10.5 million)

Lionel Messi

He is widely considered the best player in the world, yet Messi is only ninth on this list. He is Barcelona’s most dangerous player, often being their sole threat on goal. Messi broke the record for most goals scored in a calendar year in 2012. He has already won three UEFA Champions League crowns, along with winning the Ballon d’Or on four occasions.

8. Dario Conca, Guangzhou Evergrande (€10.6 million)

Conca is an Argentine international who plies his trade in China’s major league. This contract is a massive surprise, given the fact that Conca is not among the world’s elite players.

7. Fernando Torres, Chelsea (€10.8 million)

Along with paying £50 million to Liverpool, Chelsea gave Fernando Torres a bumper contract. Unfortunately, he has rarely showed the quality to justify such a financial expense. He has struggled to recapture his Liverpool form and is likely to be sold this summer.

6. Didier Drogba, Shanghai Shenhua (€12 million)

Didier Drogba

Ironically, Drogba is the man Torres was signed to replace at Chelsea. The Ivorian moved to China where he was on a handsome contract for half a season. Unfortunately, financial problems meant the cancellation of the deal allowing Drogba to move to Turkish giants Galatasaray, with employment lawyers now likely to get involved.

5. Sergio Aguero, Manchester City (€12.5 million)

Despite failure in the UEFA Champions League for two consecutive seasons, Aguero led City to last season’s Premier League title. More will be expected in future seasons from the Argentine star.

4. Yaya Toure, Manchester City (€13 million)

From Barcelona’s reserves to Manchester City’s first team, Yaya Toure made a massive jump when he left Spain. Not only did he earn a starting spot, but he got one of the best football contracts in history. His performances have lived up to the billing as he is often City’s best player.

3. Wayne Rooney, Manchester United (€13.8 million)

Wayne Rooney

A summer after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, United faced the possibility of Rooney leaving too. Instead, he was coaxed into staying by the manager and was rewarded with the third highest football contract. He has won four Premier League titles and the UEFA Champions League at Old Trafford.

2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, PSG (€14.5 million)

Ibra continued his nomadic club journey to PSG this summer, signing a massive contract with the French giants. He will be the spearhead of their bid to dominate European football.

1. Samuel Eto’o, Anzhi Makhachkala (€20 million)

Why would a footballer leave Inter Milan (European champions at the time) for Russian football? The answer is €20 million euros a season and the largest contract ever given to a football player.

Author Bio
Jamie Stevenson is an avid copywriter who writes for a variety of websites, including specialist employment solicitors Slater & Gordon.

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