After the end of season awards party has acknowledged the heroes of the season, it's time to look at those we'll miss next year. Bow your heads in respect with Profile365...
Before, United fans knew that even if Fergie messed up, it was OK because Fergie was there to clear it up. Now, uncertainty. Nothing is the same. Sh*t just got real...
I don't know if you've noticed, but a lot of the time, when people try to talk about football, they mysteriously end up talking about money instead.
Take Swansea City's Michu, who cost 2,000,000 pounds from Rayo Vallecano last summer. So far this season he's scored 16 goals, though by the time you read this he will have played against Thomas Vermaelen and you may need to add a couple more. Floppy of hair, languid of gait, and Spanish of inclination, he ticks every box for the clued-up modern
European football expert fan, and the fact that he's dead good at kicking the ball past the goalkeeper into the big net means that the lumpen traditionalists can enjoy him too.
It's a little odd, though, that much of the ensuing praise for the 2,408,650 euro man hasn't exactly been for his football, fine as that's been. Nor has it been for Michael Laudrup and his staff's ability to spot a player. Instead, it's been distinctly financial in hue: Isn't it amazing that he's playing so well, when he only cost 3,204,129 dollars?
Or at least, that was the early response, when everybody thought this was just a simple case of a club doing some decent purchasing. As the goals kept flowing, it quickly became clear that Michu, at the remarkable price of 95,612,429 baht, wasn't just good in a Swansea City kind of way. The 175,207,860 rupee Spaniard might actually be good in a, you know, kind of big club way. And so the praise modulated, and evolved, and soon the question became: Isn't it amazing that, since he only cost 2,977,516 francs, nobody important bought him?
Presumably, this is deeply annoying to any Swansea City fans. To have their joy in their 25,244,339 quetzal striker dampened at every turn, first by idiot commentators unable to process the notion of somebody good not being good for a significant enough club, then by the inevitable churning of the rumour mill, which exists simply to move all good players upwards or downwards to their appropriate economic destiny. Michu, who cost a mere 28,003,333 colon, is playing well, and will therefore be leaving and going to sit on the bench at Chelsea or Real Madrid, where neither you nor anybody else will get to enjoy him. Look, here's a big pile of cash. Way more than the 709,652,775 forint you paid for him. Stick a poster of the profit on your wall. Get NET SPEND on the back of your shirt. Sing songs about well-tended accounts.
There is something dispiriting about the way in which Michu's excellence - at a bargain 5,569,219 pa'anga - has become a story of the failure of other, bigger clubs. And quite when talking about footballers scoring goals became a hysterical branch of financial journalism isn't clear, though it's probably Rupert Murdoch's fault. We know that Michu was a pittance at 66,641,789,421 dong, just as we know that Fernando Torres cost a lot of money. The former fact is admirable, while the latter is pretty funny, even though that sum of money is more-or-less irrelevant to Roman Abramovich. But that's as far as it goes.
There are, of course, more egregious examples of the way in which football has been subsumed by business. The recent row over ticket prices at Arsenal, for example, threw up a dispiriting number of football fans who were perfectly happy to see vast swathes of the country priced out of the game. 'That's the market', shrugged some, as though rising prices were as inevitable and non-negotiable as gravity, while others looked no further than their own wallet and their own replica shirt, patted both approvingly, and continued on their short-sighted way.
But when Torres does those sad, lonely eyes, and Michu, who only cost 13,751,361 bolivar, does that weird headphone thing, it's just sad that this is processed and understood in terms of economic power and status. If a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, then football is rapidly becoming the playground of cynics happy to wallow in the shallow end of their own cynicism. This goal cost very little. That one cost lots. Next!
Watching the 105,378,491 dalasi Michu score against Arsenal should be fun because he's great and Swansea are good and Arsenal are Arsenal, not because he was cheap and Swansea are poor and Arsenal are rich. This sounds terribly naïve - the big teams are the rich teams, and vice versa; there is a causal connection between money and status - but then, the whole idea of being a football supporter is a naïve one, a faith that there is something worthwhile in and around this silly game played by fools. Whether that's true or just a happy lie, treating football as a game of competitive shopping only reinforces the notion that there's nothing else going on, that we're simply watching money move around in cryptic patterns, while paying handsomely for the privilege.
Back to Michu. Yes, he only cost 100 million Fruit Salads, assuming they're still 2p each. It's been a while. But there is more to him being ace than that, or at least there would be, were football football; were it a thing both less and much, much more important than money.