IN an unprecedented time of crisis, we are repeatedly told “we are all in it together”.
Obviously those rules don’t apply to professional football, where greed is still good and it remains every man for himself.
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is counting the days to the game’s imminent crash if this week’s comments are anything to go by.
The Manchester United boss made no attempt to hide the club’s eye for a killing when he candidly spoke about his summer transfer plans.
He said: “Who knows which clubs will need to sell players when football gets back to normal?
“It might be a situation we can exploit, because Manchester United are one of the biggest clubs and financially well-off.”
There we have it. Britain’s richest club, simply biding its time until it can pick over the carcass of a rival.
While dozens of teams face the threat of going to the wall, the fortunate few are sensing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cash in on the weakness of competitors.
A handful of super-rich clubs will emerge virtually untouched. And you can bet your life they will take full advantage to snap up the best players.
United, bolstered by their Champions League millions, were one of a handful of Prem teams to record a profit last season.
The majority — including Europa League winners Chelsea and finalists Arsenal — finished the campaign deep in the red.
No club is going to come out of the current season in the black if teams have to repay £762million to the TV companies.
But some are far more cushioned against impending losses than others. And they will be the ones seeking to capitalise on this misery.
Financial analysts are already predicting that the transfer market could all but collapse this summer.
There will be no more circa £40m deals for the likes of Sebastien Haller and Joelinton, while players negotiating new contracts will see a huge drop in the salaries being offered.
But a handful of super-rich clubs will also emerge virtually untouched by the pandemic.
And you can bet your life they will take full advantage of their positions to snap up the best players.
No wonder players remain deeply suspicious of clubs’ motives as they come under more pressure to accept a cut.
No wonder they are so reluctant to hand over a penny without assurances that their money will go to good use.
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Southampton’s squad started the ball rolling by accepting a pay deferral for three months and other teams are sure to follow suit.
But somewhere down the line, they are going to demand that money back — unless the owners can prove they are in real danger of going under.
As admirable as the #PlayersTogether effort is, it is not their duty to fund the NHS.
Their taxes are already doing that, as the PFA repeatedly points out.
The £4m which #PlayersTogether is aiming to raise will just about cover the cost to the taxpayer of Spurs, Newcastle, Bournemouth and Norwich furloughing their staff for a month.
It would be better to use their generosity to look after the lowest-paid staff.
This is no longer billionaire owners crying wolf. This is real and the only way clubs can make up the shortfall is reducing wage bills
Yet Mesut Ozil’s agent, Erkut Sogut, advised his client to refuse a cut to his £350,000-a-week Arsenal wages and claimed: “Premier League clubs are not in the bad positions they are showing themselves in.
“Clubs are in trouble because they mismanage their finances.”
And he is absolutely right, mainly because they agree to such ludicrous contracts with players like Ozil.
But this is no longer a case of billionaire owners crying wolf. This is real and the only way clubs can make up the shortfall is by reducing wage bills.
If the players can’t see that, they are in for a nasty shock.
Even that scenario would be viewed as an open goal by some of football’s more rapacious advisers.
If a player is offered reduced wages, he would be able to walk away as a free agent.
And no transfer fee equals a bigger signing-on fee.
For Premier League footballers, it seems that every cloud really does have a silver lining.
DOMB ‘N DUMBER
JOSE MOURINHO is not an idiot, far from it. In fact, he is one of the smartest managers in the world.
So how did he think he could get away with his public training session on Hadley Common this week?
Wearing his trademark purple top and joined by a number of players in full Tottenham training kit, Mourinho could not have been more conspicuous if he’d tried.
Maybe he thought breaking the Government’s social-distancing rules was a price worth paying just to raise a sweat from record-signing Tanguy Ndombele.
TAYLOR TAKING £23m GAMBLE
GORDON TAYLOR and the PFA should beware biting the hand that feeds them in their escalating war with top-flight clubs.
Virtually all of the union’s £24million annual turnover comes as a hand-out from the Premier League’s TV deal.
Less than £1m is raised from the £150-per-year player subscriptions — which is £46 cheaper than annual membership of the Royal College of Nursing.
Fat cat chief exec Taylor, said to be the highest-paid union official in the world, might do well to remember that when he is cashing his next £2m cheque.
And he certainly should not be surprised if he finds himself out in the cold when the next round of TV talks gets under way.
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WHO else was shocked by claims that Russia and Qatar bribed Fifa officials to hand them the World Cup finals?
This week’s allegations from the US Department of Justice’s investigation into football corruption have been met with predictable denials and little more than a shrug of the shoulders from the world’s governing body.
Sadly, it is too late to do anything about the Russians, who have reaped the benefits from hosting the 2018 finals.
But wouldn’t it be nice if the 2022 tournament was taken away from the Qataris, who appear to have broken all the rules to get their hands on football’s crown jewels?
That’s not going to happen if money means far more than morals to Fifa and their cronies.
Nor will England boycott the event despite our FA repeatedly taking the moral high ground on these kind of issues.
But if ever there was a tournament to be missed, this is it.
RED FACES FOR TERRIBLE EXCUSE
I HAD to laugh when I read that Liverpool were ‘forced’ to announce their non-playing staff were being put into furlough by a Premier League rival leaking their plans.
As excuses go, that is right up there with “the TV made me do it”.
But some people will swallow anything, especially if it means they can avoid criticising the European Champions.
Thankfully, not all of their supporters were convinced as they forced the club into a swift and painful climbdown.