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Star-studded transfer window underlines ‘Super League’ absurdity

| Tuesday, August 31, 2021

In the face of worldwide condemnation for leading the effort for a breakaway European Super League in April, Florentino Perez told the football world that “the beautiful game” was dying. 

“We have to save football. Everything I do is for the good of football, which is in a critical moment,” the Real Madrid president said

A few days later, Perez added that a “Galactico” signing, the club’s traditional acquisition of a lavishly expensive, world-class player every year or so, would be “impossible” without the Super League. In other words, Perez claimed that the game could only survive if elite clubs were perpetually wealthy enough to make high-profile signings and have their hegemony guaranteed. 

Even Perez’s monstrous ego could not save the Super League from an incredible collapse following fan protests, most notably in England. The reason so many of us love the game (Hint: It’s NOT watching hundreds of television cameras surveil a player’s home before an imminent move to a big club) could not be further detached from Perez’s vision of a self-selected “closed shop” devoid of competitive integrity. 

Admittedly, this transfer window has been quite the spectacle. After Lionel Messi’s teary-eyed departure from Barcelona to Paris Saint Germain and the return of former Galactico Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United via Juventus, two GOAT candidates have moved in the same summer. 

Now, if transfer news is your thing, fine. To each his own. If you are someone who actually liked the idea of seeing Europe’s traditional behemoths and nouveau-riche clubs play each other every week without any real outside challenge … Well, I’ll decide to hold my tongue, and please stay with me for a second. 

Even for you all, the $188 and $212 million offers from Real Madrid to PSG for 22-year-old star Kylian Mbappe has to be the final straw. 

Not only is Perez so arrogant that he continues to cling to his Super League vanity project, he does so while attempting to make immense signings that fly in the face of his justifications for it. 

Apparently, when Perez said Real would be unable to purchase a young superstar like Mbappe or Erling Haaland, it was just a scare tactic, because he seems comfortable spending as profligately as ever, Super League or no. 

The Mbappe offer comes off as almost nonsensical. True, he is the heir apparent to the Messi/Ronaldo throne, and it’s no secret his dream is to play for Los Blancos. However, the Parisian only has one year left on his deal with PSG, meaning Perez will, in almost all certainly, be able to snap up the world’s most valuable player on a free next summer. 

The fact that PSG has refused to fleece Real for $200 million when they know Mbappe will leave his home city for the Spanish capital next summer says a lot about the financial might of the Qatari-bankrolled club. Meanwhile, the ludicrous offers from Perez mean his arguments for a Super League were not only tone-deaf but also just lies. Clearly, Madrid can still spend in ways that would be absurd even for many of Europe’s other elite clubs.  

Of course, the same can not be said for their bitter Catalan rivals and fellow Super League holdouts. After years of astonishing mismanagement, Barcelona was unable to re-sign the most legendary figure in the Blaugrana’s history, even though Messi was willing to take the maximum permitted pay cut of 50%. The club has reaped what it has sown, and I commend La Liga president Javier Tebas for maintaining the integrity of the league’s salary cap rules, despite Messi’s departure being a massive blow for Spanish football. 

Many of the other members of the short-lived Super League mutiny, however, have also spent mind-boggling amounts of money this summer. Chelsea had no problem dishing out a club-record $135 million to bring Romelu Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge, while Manchester City broke the British spending record by paying Aston Villa $139 million for Jack Grealish, which made the Birmingham native the most expensive English player ever. 

So if you agree with Perez that these big-money moves are the lifeblood of football, fine. Have it your way. 

Just don’t tell me that’s why we need a Super League.

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