In the memorable Harry Enfield Loadsamoney act, at one point a news presenter announces the score — "Manchester United 0, Loadsamoney United Loads". The sketch was a stinging critique of Margaret Thatcher's Prime Ministerial reign, which brought unbridled capitalism to the United Kingdom. In the act, Enfield personified a man who had earned a lot of money but lacked grace. The wads of cash trumped everything.
Premier League clubs have come to represent the 'Loadsamoney' man. Manchester United is no longer losing out to him. The Red Devils and their rich competitiors have become the living image of 'Loadsamoney'. That's what they have got — loads of money. Like the crass, rich man, the clubs have shown little hesitation in throwing bundles of cash at assets they desire.
In Enfield's sketch, there is also a stammering man who somehow brings himself to comment, "This is an insult to our intelligence." Loadsamoney is quick to respond: "Shut your mouth."
This is the kind of response we have received, whenever someone has questioned the financial wisdom of a transfer move. "It's the market value of the player, we have to pay that"; "The player is young, we are investing in future"; "The club will make money from the shirt sales"; "The clubs have money, so they will spend it". "Shut your mouth. Shut up."
You can't argue with the transfer fee, they tell you. Because it is what it is. Either you pay the price or fall behind. Another argument goes that everybody's value is inflated, so it's pointless discussing transfer fees. So, what is the actual value? Is the player who you bought for 60 million, actually worth 30 million? What does a 30 million player look like? Does he have turborops installed on his shoes? Does he sing a good rap? Does he have a charismatic personality? Which part of the player decides the value? Or is it the whole of him?
The problem with 'Loadsamoney' clubs is that they seem don't seem to be about much more. Is any English club touted among the favourites for the Champions League this season? Not really. The top contenders of European competition still lie outside the British Isles. Admittedly, that might change with the appointment of the "supercoaches", who have arrived on the back of 'Loadsamoney'. But there is unlikely to be an immediate change of guard.
As Matt Spiro noted on Twitter, Manchester United was the only club this summer to make a statement signing in the form of Paul Pogba. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still a very good player but he is in the twilight of his career. Chelsea's best signing this summer has been the Leicester City star N'Golo Kante. As mentioned by Spiro, Arsenal should have been trying for Mats Hummels instead of Shkodran Mustafi. Manchester City has also bought B-grade stars like Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan. None of their Champions League rivals have been weakened.
The only clubs that can function on the same financial plane as the Premier League top guns are Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. The transfer activities of these three clubs over the summer has only given us reason to regard them highly. Madrid, in fact, has been uncharacteristically low-profile, but the stars of its second Champions League triumph in three seasons are still there. Barcelona has boosted its bench strength remarkably, opening up the possibility of resting its star players whenever it wants. Bayern has strengthened its roster as well; also, in Carlo Ancelotti, it has a manager who has made a career out of dominating the continental competition.
Do any of the Premier League sides possess the perception of threat that these three sides pose? Probably not. Manchester City was in the Champions League semis last year, but put in an underwhelming performance against eventual winners Real Madrid. Pep Guardiola will certainly improve the team, but this season is too early to expect a total reversal in fortunes. It needs to be remembered that he could not take a stronger Bayern Munich side beyond the semis during his three-year tenure in Germany.
Considering the remarkably low number of world-class signings, it would be reasonable to temper the expectations from Premier League sides in spite of their astronomical spending. But what about the second-class stars that the English clubs seem to have in bounteous supply?
On Deadline Day alone, Chelsea loaned 11 players out. In all, the club now has 38 players out on loan. Admittedly, not all of them are vital to the club's present or future, but the hoarding of players has taken another dimension. It is no longer about sending players out to gain experience or match-time; rather loan them out because you bought too many of them. This is also because of English football's 'Loadsamoney' problem.
Then there are those who used to be good. What do you do with them? Liverpool had to write its losses off and let Mario Balotelli leave for free to Nice. Juan Cuadrado has been sent back to Juventus by Chelsea on a bizarre three-year loan deal. Manchester City has had to get rid of Samir Nasri and Joe Hart. Hart, obviously, is not done but he was not prepared to sit on the bench. This is the consequence of having too many good players in your squad. Alas! A coach can field only 11 players at a time.
Of course, there does not seem to be any lesson learnt from the experience. Come the next summer and these same clubs will be back with 'Loadsamoney'. Despite having so much wealth, clubs will still force their fans to stump the highest prices in the world for seeing a few world-class footballers in action. The spectators — you know it by now — will have to pay 'Loadsamoney'.
Because, we are told, that's how the market works and there is no point arguing about that. Loadsanonsense!