THE dire warnings of a financial crisis seem a million miles away from the Premier League reality.
When Chelsea are spending in a manner reminiscent of the early days of Roman Abramovich and Manchester City were ready to pay Lionel Messi whatever he wanted, talk of doom, gloom and a game on the verge of the abyss seems contradictory.
But Juventus president Andrea Agnelli, chairman of the influential European Club Association, does not see a disconnect between his words and the landscape across the continent.
Indeed, from Agnelli’s perspective, it is simple – the exceptions PROVE the rule.
The Italian is measured, calm and compelling. You have to be when you inherit the legacy of The Old Lady.
So for Agnelli, the Prem big spenders represent an expected but small proportion of the greater European market.
A market which does face the biggest belt-tightening exercise in football history as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.
But which, by its very nature, is in a state of flux that allows the likes of Chelsea to take advantage from a position of strength magnified by the global repercussions of the pandemic.
Agnelli, in his opening address to the ECA general assembly on Tuesday, outlined the financial forces facing football.
He explained that, as a result of Covid-19, even Europe’s biggest clubs have to deal with “zero” gate receipts, broadcasters demanding rebates, a certain decline in sponsorship values, massive reduction in merchandising sales AND a “20 to 30 per cent” fall in the value of the summer transfer market.
It might have been even worse. The ECA has calculated that the £3.6billion cost of the pandemic would have almost doubled, to £6.4bn, if the majority of European leagues had not been able to play out to a behind closed doors conclusion this summer.
Agnelli warned: “I have the fear that some of the big clubs will probably suffer losses that are bigger than entire federations or confederations across the world.”
But the Juventus chief explained that there would always be exceptions – and that is why he is not engaged in special pleading for the global elite.
One factor is financial accounting. As a result of the crisis, Uefa and the major leagues will play their Financial Fair Play calculations for 2019-20 on hold.
If I compare it to the housing market, if I have a prime location in a crisis, that will not lose much value but it will have a restricted number of buyers.
Instead, figures for last season and this one will be “rolled up” together. That gives leeway.
And, as Agnelli pointed out with Chelsea, a combination of the huge fee they received for Eden Hazard and last season’s transfer ban (although it was voluntarily extended into the January window, despite the club winning its appeal to have the original penalty halved) leave the Blues in a stronger situation than most.
Agnelli said: “It is not obvious to explain to every single fan of every club that takes an individual picture of the situation.
“In England there was one buyer who wasn’t allowed to spend much money in the past couple of windows and who have been active this summer.
“But we are talking about an overall 20-30 per cent deduction which will hit medium and small clubs.
“Our job is to look at overall value and we can expect a contraction of the transfer system in the range of 20-30 per cent.
“Most of that money will not be circulating to medium and small clubs.
“If I compare it to the housing market, if I have a prime location in a crisis, that will not lose much value but it will have a restricted number of buyers.
“It is the locations in the outskirts that will lose most of the value.
“And it is the same with football, although I will allow you to say who are the prime location players and who lives in the suburbs.”