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so, i don’t know about your team, but mine spent $121 million this offseason to grab nine players off the open market.
sound too “spendy” to be true? not in brave new world that is the english premier league.
as a long time footy player (mostly in goal) and footy fan (college, national teams, d.c. united), i always wanted to follow the epl … but it wasn’t until recently that state-siders had the means (via two dedicated cable channels and al gore’s birth of the interweb) to actually follow an english club.
so, for the last three seasons, i’ve been following Tottenham Hotspur, a side from North London that is probably best compared to the pre-2004 Boston Red Sox … a storied club, with a good bit of success early in their history, but lately there’s been a lot of, um, “potential.”
quick detour …
so why pick the Spurs, as oppose to one of the more successful english clubs?
well, there’s manchester united … who are the new york yankees of the league and they annoyingly win pretty much everything (well, “the yankees” back when they actually won things). there *is* a good club in liverpool, but they are, well, in liverpool.
there’s chelsea, which is funded by a vaguely scary russian oligarch who spends money as if his team were the yankees (but they aren’t, which makes the spending that much more offensive). then there is arsenal, a team staffed almost entirely by the french.
as you can see, the decision wasn’t terribly hard at all.
back to the $121 million …
as you might guess there isn’t a salary cap in the epl, but that’s okay because the money we are talking about isn’t actually the player’s salary — it’s the money that the team spends to get permission to sign another team’s player. (yes, you read that right.)
for example: some bureaucrat at Tottenham watched the European footy championships this summer, and noticed that one of the Russian players (Roman Pavlyuchenko) scored a lot of goals. well, “we like scoring goals,” mr. bureaucrat thought, so he rang up Pavlyuchenko’s team (Spartak Moscow) in Russia and gave them a lot of money ($25 million) for the right to sign Roman to a contract worth even more money (5 years, at $100,000+ a week).
now, if you made it past the made it past the “veritable orgy of money” part and noticed that we had to bring in *nine* players this off season … you may have thought that so much turnover could be good (boston celtics!) but probably isn’t (florida marlins).
right now, only eight Spurs (out of 40+ on the expanded roster) have been on the team for longer than two years. and, (oh, by the way) we are on our 6th manager in ten years.
fortunately for spurs-fans’ sanity, there are only four months out of the year when players are allowed to transfer between teams (three in the summer, one in January). the summer transfer window just closed, which should bring much needed (if temporary and obligatory) stability to the team. so, for now, no more “silly season” and we’ll have to shut up an play, for better or worse.
while we gained a bunch of good players during this window (a keeper from Brazil, midfielders from Croatia, Mexico and England, that Russian striker I mentioned) we lost two players who scored more than half of our goals last season. (ouch.)
if i was a cubs fan, i’d say “well, there’s always next year” …
… except that’s actually not always the case in the epl. as a special brand of torture for english footy fans, if your team finishes as one of the three worst teams in the league, you are “relegated” down to a lower league and have to win your way back up some later season.
imagine the washington nationals getting booted to the minor leagues, the memphis grizzlies getting demoted to the nba’s “developmental” league, or the miami dolphins playing a year of college ball next season (… yes, they’d all still lose).
so, *hopefully* there’s always next year …