The richest clubs in Europe made the Champions League highly anticipated | Champions League

BArsenal, with their Johan Cruyff-influenced idea of ​​the game, was more than just a club. Today, despite the high debt, they work like all the rest. They are investing on a scale that very few can afford. Barcelona officials know the market will grow for years. So the annual balance sheet is not calculated for them; They count in decades.

Barcelona Bought by Robert Lewandowski, among others, for €45 million from Bayern Munich this summer. He is 34 years old and does not represent the continuation of Tiki Taka. But he was the Bundesliga’s top scorer seven times.

Lewandowski’s transfer highlights a strategy that has prevailed among Europe’s top clubs for years: they buy players from each other in order to maintain their dominance. This does not bring new momentum, because the players are approaching or have already reached their peak, but it maintains the status quo. It ensures that the biggest clubs with the most buying power stay at the top. If we look forward to the semi-finals of this season Champions Leaguewhich begins on Tuesday, it’s a safe bet that the regular players will be there.

Bayern Buy Sadio Mane for 32 million euros. He reached the Champions League final three times with Liverpool, and the 30-year-old could now end his career with some national titles in Germany. The question of how to replace Lewandowski on the pitch is not yet clear. Lewandowski was the target man, playing Mane differently. To further complicate matters for Mane, German players tend to keep all the power in Munich. Two international stars, James Rodriguez and Philippe Coutinho, were unable to find a place in the starting line-up while Lucas Hernandez needed two years to get off the ground. Having said that the move makes sense because Mane is a great player.

Raheem Sterling moved to Chelsea after helping Manchester City win the Premier League on four occasions. City were happy to offload the 27-year-old for €55m. He had to make way because Pep Guardiola wasn’t fully convinced of the England striker anymore, just as he had lost faith in Leroy Sane before him. Sterling replaces Timo Werner, whose only option was to return to Leipzig after a miserable stint at Stamford Bridge.

Real Madrid signed Antonio Rudiger, 29, who is a physically strong defender and won the title with Chelsea. Casemiro, 30, left Real Madrid Join Manchester United who hope the five-time Champions League winner will help restore some defensive stability and enable them to return to the Champions League next season. The price was 70 million euros, and United plays in the European League.

Liverpool are doing things a little differently, replacing Mane with younger, unknown strikers. This fits Jürgen Klopp; He wants to make them his players. Italy is no longer attracting stars as it did in the 1990s, a situation confirmed by Juventus selling Matthijs de Ligt to Bayern for €70m.

Erling Haaland’s signing gives Pep Guardiola’s side the one thing Manchester City have previously lost in their quest to win the Champions League: a ruthless goalscorer. Photography: Nick Potts/PA

However, two transitions stand out from all the rest this summer. Erling Haaland, 22, who excelled in the Bundesliga, moved to Manchester City for 60 million euros. With the help of great financial support, Guardiola has developed City into one of the best clubs in European football over the past six years. Now he has the one thing that his meticulously designed winning machine lacks: a clinical striker who can mold him into a cult figure alongside Kevin De Bruyne.

The other big transfer story was a deal that didn’t happen: Real Madrid’s failed bid for Kylian Mbappe. Paris Saint-Germain was able to resist Real’s approach to holding on to the France striker, but it cost them a lot of money. They raised Mbappe’s annual salary to 100 million euros and gave him 200 million euros. The club ultimately belongs to the Emir of Qatar, who had eight of the most modern stadiums built for this year’s World Cup. This kind of financial muscle is turning the world of sports politics upside down.

Whatever the cost, PSG and City have secured the services of two players who can make their mark on the bigger stage for the next decade due to their talent and age.

One thing is indisputable: the European football market is booming. The epidemic is over. Last year, UEFA paid out more than 2.7 billion euros in the Champions League. In addition, money from abroad is increasingly flowing into football. “We are seeing an increase in outside investment in the Big Five,” says Deloitte’s latest financial report. New owners are wealthy individuals or private equity firms. “This confirms the attractiveness of football from an investor’s perspective.” This is confirmed by figures from Forbes: the ruling family of Abu Dhabi has invested about two billion euros in City over the years, and today the club is worth more than twice that. Then there are the political gains for owners who use the sport to burnish their image and connections.

The Champions League offers exhilarating nights like the semi-finals between Real and City last year. But is a competition that only about five clubs can win what we really want or what European football needs? “The Champions League has, over the years, lost all that obscurity,” the New York Times wrote. It would be “rooted in the same inequality,” and feel like an “inevitable procession.” Thus, the duel of Paris Saint-Germain against City, the duel of geopolitical opponents from the Middle East, will be the logical end.

According to Deloitte, the spending wars are far from over. Newcastle United is likely to inflate the market further with the financial backing they have. club He paid 70 million euros to buy Alexander Isaacs, a 22-year-old Swedish player who, unlike Haaland, failed to make it to Dortmund. If their ambition is not only to qualify for the Champions League but to compete in the elite competition in Europe, it will be a very costly proposition. It is no longer possible to achieve a mere two billion dollars. However, the Saudi owner of Newcastle can afford it. His fortune is estimated at $320 billion.

Philip Lahm’s column was produced in partnership with Oliver Fritsch V Online timethe German online magazine, and is published in several European countries.