Attempting to tempt the former FIFA world player of the year with a salary that only an ousted Anglo Irish Bank executive would sniff at smacked of a conscious show of clout as much as anything.
Possibly afraid of upsetting his employers, Hughes claimed he’d an input into the proposed transaction, and that it would be ‘a good bit of business’ all-round. Few if any were convinced, Kaka included.
After all their years of hurt and second-class citizenry, one can’t begrudge City fans for feeling all their Christmases have come at once; they’ve seen so many false dawns and dark nights since paying Norwich £1.25m for striker Kevin Reeves and £1,437,500 for Wolves’ winger Steve Daley (a waste-of-money double whammy) back in the even more economically-straightened times of 1980.
However, genuine supporters of the Sky Blues, relieved that they’re no longer at the whim of a Thai dictator, will hope that the high-profile collapse of the Kaka ‘deal’ will result in a more sensible (if that’s the right word) approach to the Middle Eastlands ‘project’, allowing Hughes, or someone else (Mourinho’s said to be the owners’ coach of choice) to build a fit and proper team, free from uninformed interference.
The player at the centre of the tug-o’-war seemed suitably unimpressed by the prospect of earning his living at one of Lancashire’s lesser lights from the get-go. As AC fans demonstrated in the streets and left love letters outside his window, Kaka must have been wondering what all the fuss was about. San Siro or Coronation Street? As if. There are more things to life than money, he reasoned, and Betty’s hot pot certainly isn’t one of them.
The popular press, if there is such a thing, rushed to the conclusion that not even an ultra-charitable God worshipper could turn down £500,000-a-week, while wailing that football would never be the same again.
Even Kaka’s club president, Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi (a willing vendor, despite his ‘Hallelujah’ claims to the contrary) might concede that soccer has been a sick business for a long time. All valuations and no values. £100million, or whatever it is that City were supposed to have offered AC Milan, is merely the combined cost of Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov (or Juan Sebastian Veron, remember him?). Man U’s neighbours would have simply decided to buy one for the price of three. You pay your money you take your choice. And the more sterling you have the bigger the selection box.
That’s if you believe everything you read in the papers, though, which, as a journalist, I definitely don’t. Sources close to Sheihk Mansour told ‘The Observer’ (usually a reliable informant) that the money they’d put on the table was nothing like as silly as what’d had been reported elsewhere. Then again, at least one well-placed observer of the Arab oil industry found the published estimates of the Abu Dhabi Group’s wealth (reputed to be £15billion) laughable, instead putting their fortune at around $750billion.
It really is fantasy football, if that’s not an early contender for oxymoron of the year. Just because the rest of the world is falling apart at the seams doesn’t necessarily mean football will take any notice. Until, that is, another major club (Leeds being the last) goes bust.
English soccer has existed in a parallel universe for a decade, propelled into the sports-salary stratosphere by satellite TV receipts. Some pro’s remain rooted, but most top players’ separation from everyday realities and any sense of loyalty is virtually complete. (Craig Bellamy scores an average of seven goals for a club every 18 months, and invariably moves on, golf clubs in tow, for a small fortune.)
Given the global economic downturn, with workers worldwide losing their jobs by the new time, one would have thought, even hoped, that the bubble within which the Premier League in particular operates – oblivious to the avarice that’s alienating ordinary, paying turnstile/television customers – would be burst, or at worst diluted to tangible proportions, by the credit crunch.
However, with the exception of West Ham, there doesn’t seem to be too much financial panic about, in public at any rate. This is despite English FA Chairman, Lord Triesman’s warning last year about clubs’ collective £3billion debt burden, and counting; around two-thirds of it accumulated by the elite.
Taken together, the Premier League’s perennial top four are seriously in the red. Yet they’re the clubs all the others – led by Aston Villa, mainly thanks the managerial craft of Martin O’Neill – aspire to.
Below them there’s scarcely a top-flight football company that isn’t hopelessly over-exposed to what corporate cushion fluffers call ‘challenging market conditions’.
With the internet spreading its extra-terrestrial tentacles into live media, television revenues will eventually recede. And in that context, how long will a hard-pressed and already increasingly disaffected public continue to buttress salaries and transfer fees by paying exorbitant ticket prices and digital subscriptions to watch pampered, mostly-foreign multi-millionaires, kicking up a fuss and kissing a new crest every six months?
Meanwhile, the game’s so-called moral guardians in UEFA and FIFA profess to be worried that so many European clubs, especially those in England, are at risk of financial meltdown. Yet their silence while football’s minnows, such as those here in Ireland, live from hand to mouth, begging the public for help year in, year out, has been deafening. Blatter, Platini and co only care about the big fish, not the small fry.