The Heart Is Still Beating, But The Soul Is Long Gone

by Brian Kennedy

(first published in the July 2009 Finn Harps programme)


Sitting here on Sunday evening I don’t know what has depressed me more. Seeing John Terry linked with a £350,000 a week move North or the Anti-Christ of sport – Roger Federer – making life even more painful to live by winning Wimbledon for the 858th time.

Perhaps both are dwarfed by the insane and disgusting use of money currently being thrown about by Real Madrid where, in hopes of bridging a gap between themselves and Barcelona – 9 points after last season’s race – Florentino Perez has spent almost 180 million euro on three players.

Less than 30 years ago (1979 to be exact), Trevor Francis became the first million pound player when he moved from Birmingham City to Nottingham Forest, and although inflation has to be taken into account since the late ’70s, the £80 million price tag on Christano Ronaldo is absolutely absurd.

Even as late as 1987  Ian Rush went for £3.2 million to Juventus (which lasted only a year and spawned Rush’s classic quote “It was like living in a foreign country”) and by the end of the eighties Chris Waddle’s 1989 move to Marseille was still less than five million (4.25 to be exact) Throw in the fact that as late as 1995 Andy Cole still only cost 7 million when he transferred from Newcastle to Manchester United and started the process of Kevin Keegan going  grey-haired almost overnight.

Not that I’m taking anything away from the Portuguese man’s move to Madrid. Love him or hate him he was instrumental in everything Manchester United did over the last two seasons and many an Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool supporter will be glad to see the back of him. However it’s the fee, plus Ronaldo’s weekly wage, that leaves a bitter taste.

Though it does seem to be only Spanish clubs that are prepared to be such idiots when it comes to splashing the cash. Along with Ronaldo of course Kaka has joined and just last week young Lyon striker Karim Benzema was added bringing Los Galactico’s spending to almost 180 million euro. Not that their sworn enemies Barcelona are far behind them. Barca have paid big bucks for plenty of players, however this is normally done by way of first unsettling the targeted player for as long as they can (normally done by Joan Laporta claiming every player in the world loves him and Barcelona) and offering absurd amounts of payments, sign on fees and goal bonuses, before the opposing club gets so sick of the sight of Laporta harping on in the paper that they eventually sell!

At least the good old English have things in perspective – all of course except Manchester City, rapidly overtaking their near neighbours as the most hated club in England. Their bid for John Terry (a man on £140,000 a week at Chelsea) by way of offering him £350K a week (that’s a MILLION A MONTH folks) is soul-destroying for the game. I’m not a fond lover of Mr Terry but for football’s sake you really hope he will stay in London playing Champions League football, rather than Carling Cup ties against Scunthorpe United on cold Tuesday’s in November.

Below I’ve put a list of just how far some English clubs have gone in terms of signing and cashing in on their talent, and if you take out Ferdinand’s 2002 transfer from Leeds to United, you’ll see that whatever heart is still left beating in the modern game, you can be sure it’s in intensive care in England, rather than buried six feet under down in Spain.

Trevor Francis, Birmingham City to Nottingham Forest, £1.18m, 1979

Steve Daley, Wolverhampton Wanderers to Manchester City, £1.45m, 1979

Andy Gray, Aston Villa to Wolverhampton Wanderers, £1.469m, 1979

Bryan Robson, West Bromwich Albion to Manchester United, £1.5m, 1981

Ray Wilkins, Manchester United to AC Milan, £1.5m, 1984

Mark Hughes, Manchester United to Barcelona, £2.3m, 1986

Ian Rush, Liverpool to Juventus, £3.2m, 1987

Chris Waddle, Tottenham Hotspur to Marseille, £4.25m, 1989

David Platt, Aston Villa to Bari, £5.5m, 1991

Paul Gascoigne, Tottenham Hotspur to Lazio, £5.5m, 1992

Andy Cole, Newcastle United to Manchester United, £7m, 1995

Stan Collymore, Nottingham Forest to Liverpool, £8.5m, 1995

Alan Shearer, Blackburn Rovers to Newcastle United, £15m, 1996

Rio Ferdinand, Leeds United to Manchester United, £29m, 2002

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