The transfer window in soccer closed yesterday evening, and after Cristiano Ronaldo took his rape accusations to Manchester United, there weren’t too many surprises. Man City didn’t find the striker they were after, Chelsea added to an already ridiculous squad, blah blah blah. Perhaps everyone was just gobsmacked with what was going on with the two Spanish giants and PSG.
It’s hard to overstate the sheer stupidity, or hypocrisy, or lunacy, of what Madrid and PSG put together over the past week. So it’s probably best to start here. Madrid’s president, human Vegas neon sign Florentino Perez, stood in front of the world last spring and tried to convince it that the Super League was the only way that soccer could survive financially, and that Madrid would suffer without it. And then, not six months later, he stumped up somewhere in the very respectable neighborhood of $240 million for Kylian Mbappé, a player HE CAN HAVE FOR FREE IN A YEAR.
And then PSG turned him down! Bewildering isn’t anywhere near sufficient of an adjective for this.
Imagine if Fernando Tatis Jr. was one year from free agency, and had made it clear to the Padres that he was not going to re-sign with them. Hates fish tacos and Stone IPA or something. And then, before his last season in San Diego, the White Sox decided to try and right one of their past wrongs by bringing Tatis back to the South Side. So they offered Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito, and Eloy Jimenez for Tatis. And the Padres were like, “Nah, we’re good with this.”
Would never happen, right? Mbappé is headed for the exit after this season for a bigger challenge than Ligue 1, and to attain the global icon status that PSG still doesn’t quite provide (Neymar got his before he arrived in Paris, after all). His dream of playing for Real Madrid, and Madrid’s insatiable desire to fulfill that dream for him, has never been a secret. This is happening. So why wouldn’t PSG take the oil tanker (apt!) of cash and then either see if they could pry Harry Kane loose from Spurs, or some other option? Once again, a little louder for those in the back, they turned down $240 million to get not a cent next summer. Nothing. Zip. Nada.
As for Madrid, maybe it’s pretty easy to see why their finances aren’t really that much better than Barcelona’s at the moment. Why did they need to fork over the world’s second biggest transfer fee to get Mbappé a year earlier than when they can have him, and I really can’t stress this enough, for just his salary? Mbappé doesn’t make Madrid a Champions League favorite by himself. It’s debatable whether he would even make them a contender. They’re still awfully old in midfield, which Chelsea greatly exposed last year, and they’ve still lost last year’s starting defensive partnership in Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, who weren’t replaced either. Mbappé improves them, but enough? In the league, Barcelona is such a mess that their only competition for La Liga might be Atletico Madrid, whom they were only two points behind last season. Maybe Mbappé makes up that difference by himself, maybe he doesn’t, but it’s also quite possible some more frugal and logical buys can make up that difference too.
Even with Mbappé, Madrid needs a pretty big overhaul. He’s not going to play with Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard for long given the latter two’s age. And while the purchase of Eduardo Camavinga is the exact type of thing Madrid need to start to overhaul the midfield as Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić start putting tennis balls on the ends of their feet, there’s still some ways to go. Why blow all the cash you said you didn’t have in the first place on one move that, and I have to keep saying this, would cost no transfer fee in 12 months?
The truly dispiriting thing is that PSG simply don’t operate in a way that we’ve ever seen before, and Madrid don’t either, but in a different way. Every other club in the world, save maybe Man City, wouldn’t be able to turn down that money for a player leaving in a year like PSG did. But because they’re owned by a Middle East Oil-archy, with a bottomless vault of cash, they don’t have to operate in any way resembling logic. It doesn’t matter to them. They’re on a different plane only inhabited by them. They can just hurl everything at one last stab at a Champions League victory this season and shrug off the $240 million they didn’t get like you and I would shrug off the fiver we found on the sidewalk that blew away right before we got to it — oh, rats. It’s really great then that PSG’s president is the one in charge of Financial Fair Play then.
As for Madrid, they might not have PSG’s money but they do have the lack of logic. They’ll behave however they want, and someone will come to bail them out. It’s been the Spanish government before, or some shady sponsor deal. Or maybe they’ll be the next Barca. It’s not like they can see anything beyond five feet in front of them.
And what’s hilarious is that neither of these two might have been the dumbest looking yesterday. Two years ago, Barcelona just had to have Antoine Griezmann, even though he didn’t really fit in with what they did. So they paid Atletico Madrid $142 million for their new trinket. They got two ho-hum seasons out of him that saw one league title and two pretty thorough Champions League defeats, as well as draining their accounts to the point that they had to wave goodbye to only the greatest player in the history of the game. They then had to sell Griezmann back to Atletico for $47 million yesterday, which they won’t get until next season after Griezmann’s initial loan spell ends. So Atletico essentially got paid $95 million to loan out Griezmann for two seasons, in which they won as many league titles as Barcelona did. And they got that league championship partly because they also got to take Luis Suárez off Barcelona’s hands, as the latter could no longer afford his wages, partially because they had taken on Griezmann’s enormous financial burden.
And this is how you fuck up the biggest club in the world, boys and girls.