In an interview with Kicker Magazine, former Bayern Munich and German international goalkeeper Oliver Kahn believes that Chelsea FC, along with other top clubs, are buying their way to the top of the heap. As opposed to how things used to be, Kahn believes money in football is now “the deciding factor” in who is crowned the best team in Europe. He goes on to claim that just to compete in the top leagues in Europe you must have a significant budget.
Kahn expanded on the subject here:
“For promotion to the Bundesliga, you now need a budget of 20 to 25 million euro. To win the Champions League, €300m. Abramovich bought the title but what makes [Chelsea] any different to Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern?”
It appears that Kahn’s comments are less controversial than they appear but he does single out Chelsea as the representative of the so-called noveau riche in football. The list of clubs in that same category include Paris Saint Germain, Monaco, and Manchester City because of their recent changes in ownership. Kahn does backtrack on his claim a little by including clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Real Madrid who have been big spenders for decades. While there is some truth to Kahn’s statements about money being a deciding factor it’s certainly not the only one.
Teams with recent increases in their bank accounts like Chelsea and Man City are indeed guilty of paying exorbitant sums for players but that is simply part of attracting top-tier talent to clubs without the pedigree of say a Real Madrid. Chelsea may be as big of a club as Madrid or Barca now but in terms of history the Spanish clubs are light years ahead. In order to build that prestige and that reputation clubs must spend big initially to improve their play on the field and improve the club’s reputation worldwide.
This strategy has worked particularly well for Chelsea. In the first three years of Roman Abramovich’s ownership, Chelsea spent roughly £325,000,000 on new players including Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Petr Cech, and Claude Makelele. These players and many more were, and still are, directly responsible for building the club’s reputation as a giant in world football. They won Premiership titles, FA Cups, and a Champions League title to cement Chelsea’s place in history.
Those trophies came with the worldwide exposure necessary to build a brand and compete with the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid for global recognition. Without this recognition, would a young Belgian starlet like Romelu Lukaku dream of playing in Chelsea blue? Definitely not. So if the price of a place in the hearts of fans and players all over the world is whatever Chelsea has spent in transfers, then that was easily money well spent.