Throwing Money to the Wind

By: Alfonso Duro

How was the world of soccer before the big clubs had all the money they wanted and more?

It may sound like a long forgotten dream, but there was a time when teams from around the globe really had to make a point of finding the means to sign any given player, and when they did, you knew it was because that player was surely needed at that club.

Two weeks ago, Real Madrid announced the signing of Danilo for 31.5 million euros, a sum that could end up being 39 million if he hits a certain number of objectives. These figures make him the most expensive defender the Merengues have bought in their history, which is to say a lot for a team that shelled out 30 million for Fabio Coentrão, or 25 million for “glassman” Jonathan Woodgate.

But is he really necessary to the team? Daniel Carvajal was voted third best right back in Germany two years ago and returned to Real Madrid to own the spot for two years and counting. At 23 years of age, he has a world of development ahead of him, and Danilo’s arrival will surely put a damper on it.

As inexplicable as this decision may feel, it is becoming a trend on today’s main soccer stage, and these are some of the most blatant cases.

FERNANDO TORRES (50 MILLION EUROS, CHELSEA, 2011). Nobody beats Roman Abramovich when it comes to unnecessary signings. The list is long since he bought Chelsea in 2003, but perhaps not one case made him bleed as much as Fernando Torres’s. Ancelotti had Didier Drogba, Anelka, Malouda and Kallou on his team, but Abramovich—as he did in 2006 with Andriy Shevchenko—wanted more firepower. The Spaniard, coming out of two seasons full of injuries at Liverpool, managed to score 20 goals in four years before he left on a free transfer to AC Milan.

DMYTRO CHYGRYNSKIY (35 MILLION EUROS, FC BARCELONA, 2009). Pep Guardiola was enamored by the technical abilities of the disheveled-looking Shakhtar Donetsk defender. So much so that he put 35 million euros on the table to bring him to a team that had Piqué and Puyol in their prime, and Milito finally recovered from the many knee injuries he suffered while in Barcelona. Dmytro’s story as a Culé was short-lived: 10 months later he was back in Ukraine, having made a 10 million euro dent in Barça’s coffers.

JUAN SEBASTIÁN VERÓN (28 MILLION EUROS, MANCHESTER UNITED, 2001). Verón arrived at Old Trafford in 2001, when the Fergie Boys were still ruling Europe. Beckham, Roy Keane, Scholes and Giggs was a tough lineup to break into, and even less so if you were midfielder used to the much slower pace in Italian Serie A. Verón was never really accepted by the Red Devils’ fans and has been regarded by many as Man U’s biggest flop.

NICOLAS ANELKA (26 MILLION EUROS, REAL MADRID, 1999). In 1999 Real Madrid had lost some luster with Predrag Mijatović’s departure, and the soon-to-follow unglamorous exits of Clarence Seedorf and Davor Šuker. Lorenzo Sanz traveled to London and signed one of the rawest talents in Europe, French striker Nicolas Anelka, from Arsenal. The signing shook Spanish soccer, but then there was radio silence. He never adapted, took four months to score his first goal with the Whites. And although he ended up helping the team lift the Champions League, new prez Florentino Pérez sent him packing the next summer to PSG.

Alfonso Duro is a Spanish freelance writer. When he's not managing Google's agency in the United Arab Emirates (his current job), chances are he's watching and writing about soccer.