Creeping up, not so surreptitiously, on football in Europe is the prospect of a European Super League.
Remember the old days when the top European Club competition was known simply as the European Cup? And, this is quite important, teams qualified for the competition of league champions by, strange as it may seem to modern football fans, winning their domestic league title?
But then, strangely symmetrical with the formation of the Premier League in England, the European Cup, from 1992-93, became the UEFA Champions League which of course morphed into a competition by which, in certain favoured countries, a club can finish fourth in their domestic league competition and still qualify for the Champions League.
Next on the agenda is surely an enhanced Champions League or Super League except there will be one major difference, qualification. There will be a façade of playing success on the field, but the single factor determining entry into such a league will be financial.
The clues are already there with the top clubs in the big four European domestic leagues; the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga. The only club outside the usual suspects will be Paris Saint-Germain and therein lies the biggest clue indicating a Super League isn’t too far away.
Since being taken over by Qatar Sports Investment Authority in 2011, who became sole shareholder the following year, PSG has become the richest football club in France and one of the richest in the world. It has paid out countless millions in buying players such as David Luiz, the most expensive defender in the world at 62 million euros. In fact, PSG have half of the top 10 most expensive signings in Ligue 1;
Top of the pile is Edinson Cavani at 64.5 million euros, Luiz is second, Thiago Silva, 5th, Javier Pastore 6th and Lucas Moura 8th.
Despite that glittering array at their disposal and dominating the French League title, which they won in 2013 and 2014, PSG still, as yet, have not won the Champions League. Their best showing was getting to the Quarter Final stage in 2013 when they went out to Barcelona. However, domination of their domestic league ensures annual qualification to the Champions League. The added bonus for their stellar player recruitment is the massive wage playing against lesser clubs brings while they wait for better opposition in Champions League football.
No doubt PSG, funded by Middle Eastern money, has brought Ligue 1 to prominence but it is still ranked only 6th in Europe, immediately behind the Primeira Liga of Portugal. A European Super League would allow PSG to leapfrog Portugal and join the elite of clubs from; the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga, who would all have no trouble finding the financial clout, FFP rules not withstanding, that would be the only criterion required.
Television money was the biggest catalyst for the growth of top flight European football and it is a growth that has been accelerated by sponsorship that has flooded in from oil and gas rich companies from oil and gas rich nations.
Gone are the days when football, at least top flight football, was a rich man’s plaything. Even the money men and oligarchs behind Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, PSG, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich et al want to see a return on their investment and a regular, televised across the globe, European Super League, with the elite of world footballers on show, would be just the ticket. Unless you are a season ticket holder at the Etihad, Emirates or Old Trafford etc who would then have to budget and take time off work to catch a flight to the next away game in Madrid or Moscow.