Lou Macari: Money is taking away excitement from European leagues... and how does Arsene Wenger do it
YOU only have to look at the story involving Portsmouth at the weekend to realise that money matters in football.
The League One strugglers are in administration, but still boosted the coffers when Carlisle made the 700-mile round trip to Fratton Park.
Having spent an eternity on the motorway, Carlisle were more than a little surprised when they were charged £20 to park their team bus!
I mean, have you ever heard anything like it?
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That may be the lighter side of the game, but the pounds and pence are having a significant impact in the Premier League, which is becoming predictable because of the money around at the big clubs.
Stoke are currently nestled in 10th place, and fans are hoping they can achieve their first-ever top-half finish in the Premier League in what is their fifth season.
But will achieving that be comfort to Tony Pulis? I doubt it really because it doesn't make a huge amount of difference.
At the start of any season we know who will be in the top six – not necessarily in what order they'll finish – and you can pick six sides who will be fighting to avoid relegation.
The rest of the teams will be bunched up in the middle and looking to finish at the top of that group.
But if Stoke did manage to do that, would it get fans flocking down to the Britannia Stadium?
When the Premier League started it attracted interest because it was a step into the unknown, but that has all gone by the wayside.
Teams like Stoke have got little chance of breaking into the top group because of finances.
They might do it for a month at the start of the season, and people will say 'aren't they doing well', and then it reverts to type.
I can guarantee we'll never see a surprise package win the Premier League title.
The money is taking over – and it is becoming widespread across Europe.
In Spain it is all about Real Madrid and Barcelona, while in Germany it is Bayern Munich.
Galatasaray are currently top of the Turkish league, and have just splashed the cash to sign Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder. What chance have the others got?
Up in Scotland, Celtic are a stupid amount of points clear, while in Division Three, Rangers are also virtually home and hosed in the title race.
Some of the teams in that league get 144 fans to watch them, while Rangers attract 44,000.
It's the equivalent of putting Stoke in the Conference, and it's making football boring. If a player is attracting interest from Chelsea, Manchester Untied and Stoke, the Potters can forget it because they can't afford the wages the player wants.
A couple of weeks ago, Peter Coates was talking about paying £10m for Peter Crouch.
Every deal of that nature at a club like Stoke will be scrutinised, but it won't be at the bigger clubs at the top end because they have money to burn.
I mean, no-one batted an eyelid when Manchester United spent £24m on Robin van Persie.
Sadly, the pounds are taking over football, and in the next couple of years I fear money will truly dominate.
I MUST congratulate Arsene Wenger on his long spell in charge at Arsenal.
I just don't know how he manages it. They haven't won a trophy for seven seasons, and Saturday's FA Cup defeat at home to Blackburn leaves them with just the Champions League to fight for.
And there's just the small matter of Bayern Munich to get past in that.
In modern day football, staying that long at one of the top clubs without winning silverware is unheard of.
As is the trend today, Arsene made changes to 'rest' players in preparation for tonight's clash with Munich and paid the price.
Why couldn't he pick his strongest side, and then take his players away ahead of the Champions League tie? Three days' rest is enough for anyone, let alone footballers.
And Swansea boss Michael Laudrup extended the recuperation period to a full week with his team selection at Liverpool on Sunday.
He made six or seven changes, with this weekend's Capital One Cup final against Bradford City in mind.
Instead of going into their Wembley date full of confidence, they head there on the back of a 5-0 thumping, which, the manager admitted could have been 10. Laudrup has done well at Swansea and this was probably the first wrong decision he's made. In fact it wasn't wrong, it was crazy.