Football fans have long known that it is money, not passion or loyalty that runs the game these days. It’s something that has already been proven this month courtesy of Ross Barkley’s move to Chelsea. Barkley will claim it is to further his career and move up a level in search of trophies. The finances behind it, however, prove otherwise.
The manner in which he betrayed his boyhood club and cost them £20 million (in turn, making his agent a tidy £7 million from the eventual £15 million deal) was one that was undeniably motivated by Roman Abramovich’s money. If Barkley had wanted progression, he would have gone to Tottenham Hotspur. When making the decision to leave Goodison Park, Barkley had to choose between money and philosophy. He chose the former without a second’s hesitation.
Unfamiliar Territory for City
Alexis Sanchez has a similar problem on his hands when deciding in which part of Manchester his future lies. At United there is the offer of bumper wages, at City there is the offer of a reunion with Pep Guardiola, its money vs philosophy in its purest form. Painting Manchester City as the paupers in any debate seems foolish but that is the role they find themselves occupying in this latest battle with their fierce rivals. Guardiola wants Sanchez to bolster his already star studded attacking options and the groundwork has been worked on since last summer. He and his club, however, are not willing to pay a premium to get the 29-year-old.
City, it’s clear, do not want to pay Arsenal’s asking price and they are unlikely to pay the huge wages that the Chilean is reportedly keen on making. They want him — but they don’t want him that much. The league-leaders had hoped that the offer of a second spell under Guardiola – combined with the promise of joining a side destined for glory on numerous fronts under the Catalan’s tutelage — would be enough to lure him to the Etihad.
At first, it had seemed it would. If Sanchez’s performances are anything to go by, his head and heart have been with City for months. Instead, however, fierce rivals Manchester United have entered the fray and thrown an unexpected spanner into the works. They are willing to offer Sanchez exactly what he wants, and will do so for two reasons.
Firstly, it is because they want to get a superstar player to supplement a squad in need of an attacking boost. On the other hand, though, they are willing to do it to get one over their rivals and give them the kind of psychological victory Jose Mourinho just can’t resist. Beating City to the signing of Sanchez would be a sign to all — including their own players — that they are still the biggest club in the city, despite the gap having been closed significantly this season.
And should Sanchez decide Old Trafford is his preferred destination, it would be a sign that money has finally won the battle for football. Choosing the other side of Manchester would essentially be him giving up only the fifth title he’s ever won, the second outside of South America, for more money. It would show that at whatever level, a player’s thinking could be better swayed by money than by the chance to add medals to their cabinets.
The legacy of Neymar?
Will Sanchez go up another level by playing for Mourinho at United? The evidence suggests he would not. Indeed, at this moment in time it is arguable he would be better served staying at Arsenal and remaining the big fish in a worryingly shrinking pond.
In the past, the world’s elite only moved to ensure their careers continued on an upward trajectory. Look at the world’s biggest moves and most were done in terms of career goals. The obvious counterpoint is the most expensive ever, Neymar to Paris Saint Germain. Sanchez turning down this City side would be akin to that move.
Turning his back on a reunion with Guardiola and the chance of glory for a bigger pay packet would be the latest blow in a fight that was truly started by the Brazilian. It would show that he, and the rest of the elite level footballers, now truly value the pay packet above the ultimate glory of winning.
Manchester United beating Manchester City to Sanchez would be a huge victory for them but for football, it would be a saddening defeat that further helps to take the game from its roots and into the hands of the moneymen.