Sunday, 3 May 2015

Nothing new

In the season after Sir Alex departed, Man Utd struggled to emulate the results they got under the great man. They finished 7th in the league and ended the season without a major trophy. For any other club, that kind of season would've meant a few years away from the top table, like Liverpool in the 2009-13 phase. But Man Utd are different. After Moyes' season, in walked Herrera, di Maria, Shaw, Rojo and Blind, and now they look set to challenge for the title and play in the Champions League next season - just as they always have.

The amount of money they can throw at their problems is staggering, all enabled by their past success. There is no real way a team without their revenue can now hope to take their place, long term. Even before FFP became real, Man United's domination in the Premier League was only challenged when teams that could match or better their spending power came along. Realistically, how many bad seasons can a club like theirs afford before the status quo truly changes? Three? Five? Ten? Will they even allow it to get that bad?

Atletico Madrid mean business, but are little more than interlopers
Atletico mean business, but are little more than short-term interlopers

In 2013-14, Atletico Madrid won La Liga and finished as Champions League runners-up. While theirs is a heart-warming tale, the reaction to these events reflects how those holding the clout prevail in the long run.

Thibaut Courtois, Diego Costa and Filipe Luis are now turning out for Chelsea. James Rodriguez and Kroos headed to the Bernabeu and Barcelona snapped up Rakitic and Suarez. The big two are now miles ahead of the rest in Spain, again. Atletico look set to end the season 3rd and trophyless, as they were before last season. The inequality in TV rights in Spain already ensured the two major clubs would be spearheading most title races, and now FFP has completed the lockdown. (It has transpired that, beginning 2016-17, TV revenue would be shared among the 20 La Liga clubs)

Bayern took back the reigns in Germany as quickly as they surrendered them to Dortmund, while snapping up two of their best players to boot. Unpredictable one-off games such as the recent cup semifinal maintain interest in the fixture itself, but the two clubs are now competing at very different levels. Wolfsburg have had a great domestic season, but they are no harbingers of true change, just like Dortmund weren't. Germany has had its own financial regulations in place for quite some time now, and the result ever since they were implemented has usually been a Bayern triumph.

The status quo is set in stone. In three of the last four seasons, Bayern, Barcelona and Real Madrid all made the Champions League semifinals. And they will probably do it again next season. And the one after. Clubs like Atletico Madrid and Dortmund will probably get their 15 minutes of fame, but will always be mercilessly returned to their place in the food chain.

Chelsea striker Diego Costa
Chelsea's title charge has been driven by Diego Costa (Image credits: Daily Mail)

Chelsea have lacked a top goal scorer up front since Didier Drogba in 2009-10, the last time they won the title. With 19 Premier League goals in 23 starts, Diego Costa has proved to be great value for money. His strikes put Chelsea in a position where it was just a matter of getting across the finishing line - something they went on to do with minimum fuss.

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