Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Robinho: Just how much?

There has been plenty of speculation about how much cash Manchester City are paying new-signing Robinho. Without the help of either the player, his agent or the club's HR department, it's impossible to answer accurately but perhaps a few assumptions can be made.

The claim Robinho will earn €6million-a-year after tax has been made enough times to give it some credibility. That works out at around £94,000-a-week. Compared to the likes of Chelsea's Frank Lampard, Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand and even Liverpool's Fernando Torres, that might not seem like too much. But that £94,000 is after tax. That's his take-home amount.

I'm no accountant and I would never want to be one. But my basic maths is not too shoddy and it tells me that £94,000 after tax (assuming the tax is just income tax at 40 per cent, for the sake of simplicity) is roughly £160,000 before tax. Each and every week. For the next four years.

Such a sum would appear to make him the highest-paid player in England, and one of the highest-paid players in the world - possible the highest-paid player. Scary? In itself, not really. We know they have money and we know they had to do the deals within 10 hours or so. But from what is coming out of Maine Road, erm, Eastlands (I'm stuck in the past!), there is little reason to think they won't offer similar amounts, and far more, in the future.

As for the £4million signing-on fee he may or may not have pocketed...!

Manchester City: Oh, the Irony!

Of all of the teams who could have suddenly, and unexpectedly, been catapulted to the top-table of world football, the fact it was Manchester City brought a wry smile to my lips.

I've never been a Man City fan and never hated them. Heck, I've never really had any feelings for them whatsoever unless they happen to be on in the pub against one of the "big boys" (the irony now being Man City are set to enter that prestigious group).

But some years ago I went along to a League One play-off final with a Gillingham-supporting friend at the old Wembley. This was at the stage when Man City were in a lot of trouble and (while I can't remember the exact finances) there was as belief they may go out of business if they didn't bounce back to the top-flight with haste.

I expected them to beat Gillingham. My mate expected them to beat Gillingham. If fact, of all the near-80,000 fans crammed into Wembley that day, I doubt more than 10 honestly expected anything other than a Manchester City win.

Even as the clock stuck 70 and the score was at 0-0, it seemed unlikely. Then Gillingham scored. Then again. Man City were 2-0 down and there were just minutes left to play. Somehow, they managed to score in the 86th-or-so minute and then again in the fourth minute (or so, it was a while ago!) of injury time to take it into extra time and then win on penalties.

Man City soon reached the Premier League. Gillingham, oddly, came from behind against Wigan the next season to reach the Championship. But I was reminded of Manchester City's unlikely Wembley win when they looked like heading out of the UEFA Cup last week.

Once again, the boys in light blue grabbed a late, late away goal to take the game into extra-time before winning on penalties. I turned to a friend and said "Amazing, isn't it, to think they did that against Gillingham not that long ago. Imagine if Gillingham were in Man City's position".

Yet, even then, even while respecting their position compare to Gillingham, who are now languishing in League Two, little did I know how, in just a few days time, every club in the world would be jealous of City, not just a little team from Kent.

Manchester City: The Beginning of the End

When I crawled out of bed on deadline day - September 1 - I had no idea what would happen in the next 18 hours. Given the previous few deadline days have been short of surprises, I wasn't expecting anything exciting.

So, while enjoying a fresh pot of tea and a fine chocolate digestive, imagine my surprise when Sky Sports News reported Manchester City were on the verge of, or had been, taken over by a ridiculously rich group of Middle Eastern multi-billionaires.

From seemingly being in serious trouble to being the richest club in the world, all within a few seconds. And on deadline day, of all days!

Of course, I assumed nothing would happen immediately. This was the real world, not Football Manager. A club could not be in the first throes of being taken over and, at the same time, throw money around to try and sign players, could they? And their boss, Mark Hughes, was playing golf - surely he wouldn't be doing that if he was expecting to play the transfer market?

How wrong I was. And how strange the events of those 10 hours or so from it being made clear Man City wanted to spend money to the window closing now seem. While it was fun at the time - and made for the most exciting deadline day bar none - it's now clear it was the start of the end for top-flight football as we know it.

So here I am, ready to share some views. Sure, some will disagree. Others will claim football died the day the Premier League started (and they may have a point, to be fair) but I write about a few home truths for those who are not totally aware of what the Middle Eastern takeover means.

As entertainment, it should be fun. In terms of "wow" factors, it should be fun. But in the medium to long term of the game we all love, it will be the saddest story of them all.

Unless, as I very much hope, I am totally wrong.