Cash n Grab
Crikey. It's started. The inexorable tide of sky blue cash is washing over the football superpowers and sweeping away the best they have into a place where Lamborghinis land in your lap, and two hundred grand a week is, as the Mayor of London might put it, chicken-feed.
Prepare yourselves, boys and girls, for a lot of nods and winks towards the official line. You know the sort of thing:
a. It's not about the money, it's about a fresh challenge;
b. The manager and the board convinced me about the vision at Manchester City;
c. The (previous) club didn't do enough to keep me. (That's my personal favourite)
Of course (c) has an awful lot to do with what is inherent in (a). By not enough, a player, or at least his agent, usually means that the club couldn't cough up the sort of wages that the Abu Dhabi blokes can. But then unless Bill Gates takes over the Boro soon, I don't think anyone can.
Did Barry not consider the dough when he went to Eastlands? I don't think it was about City's tradition, which is, after all, to change managers so often that they've built a slide from the gaffer's office to the club car park. And Sparky, though he's doing his best to put a confident face on this merry-go-round, must be wondering if someone at the club will be forcing his feet into one of them little sacks and pushing him down into his open Ferrari before Christmas.
Tevez - or Carlos the Hackle as we know him in the Blue Bell - is the latest to be embraced by a bewildered City's mob. He chose to celebrate the occasion by sporting a crocheted bandage on his bonce which made him look like he was playing the lead in a particularly dark version of Alice in Wonderland.
Adebayor looks like joining the party now, too and I'm sure he can miss sitters for teams other than Arsenal. On paper it looks like a picture postcard of forwards - Robinho, Tevez, Santa Cruz, Adebayor. Sparky's job won't be to fire them up, it'll be the usual one these days of counselling the sulking millionaires who are paid six figure sums a week to keep benches warm. As the missus says, wouldn't it be cheaper to get some scatter cushions and some nice blankets?
Fact is, one of the prices you pay for going to a massive-spending club is that you might spend a season being blanked. Ask Joe Cole or SWP. Ask Robbie Keane. Given the little Argentine's phenomenal work-rate, they might just rig up a running machine to the stadiums electrics and Carlos can power the floodlights for the evening games.
Whether City can yank John Terry out of Chelsea is another matter entirely but it will take Kaka-like strength of mind to resist... and even his saintly resistance only lasted a season. If City do get the England skipper you can just about put to rest the notion that club loyalty counts for anything these days.
I don't blame any player for trotting dutifully after a trail of tenners, but like him or not, Terry has been the absolute cornerstone of Chelsea since Abramovich arrived. Hughes insists it's not about the money, and maybe that's fair enough. But surely even today's cash hungry and closeted millionaires have a saturation point and Terry must be earning the GDP of a reasonably stable African republic every week as it is.
So why would he move on?
All this stuff about challenges confuses me. Where's the challenge in fewer football matches against top-flight opposition? Where's the challenge in going to a club you don't give a damn about when the one you've worked for all your life is still reeling from you wearing slippers in a penalty shoot-out? Surely Ancelotti arriving, with new ideas and new team-mates, and another Champions League campaign guaranteed, is challenge enough.
If less excitement and exertion does qualify as a new chapter in your career, then I'll use that one on the missus when she asks why I've not moved off the sofa of an afternoon. 'I'm challenging myself, love, setting myself new goals. Now move out the road it's the Countdown conundrum.'
The only upside of this preposterous and downright ugly confetti of money that is raining down on players in Manchester and Madrid is the right hump it has given those usually calm and considered fellows, Rafa and Fergie.
Benitez, audacious as ever, says it's ridiculous how much players cost at the same time as unveiling his £17 million pound full-back. Hang on, mate! If you don't like it you don't pay!
Don't pay it and then moan about it anyway. I mean every time they put 5p on a pint I could have a right old whinge but two pints later I've forgotten why I was moaning.
Fergie was annoyingly calm about it, to be fair. It was almost refreshing to hear the old bruiser say he wasn't getting involved in the price-hikes til you pictured the seven extra noughts on United's bank balance since the Tumbler took his final bow (but somehow kept his feet).
Owen for Benzema can't be a fair swap, though. It's a bit like losing Megan Fox and making do with Felicity Kendal, if you ask me.
I think Benzema's wrong to choose Madrid mind - just another underemployed millionaire trying to find his clothes-peg amongst all the number nine's hair-products.
Still, you have to say the Real Madrid line-up means whatever talent City assemble you couldn't refer to them as galacticos. Eastlands will have to do with solarsystemicos instead.
And they'll still be working out how to fashion a team by next summer, when God knows how many riches will be laid at the door of Mourinho. You read it here first.