The Ultimate Business Model by Alexander
While we’re bombarded with new outrageous transfer targets on a daily basis I wanted to take a break from speculation and have a look at something a bit closer to reality.
It’s pretty much well known that Arsene Wenger likes to spend low and develop players – this has been his philosophy for many years. Sometimes this policy works wonders, producing world-class players in the form of Fabregas, van Persie, Nasri, Henry, Overmars, Petit, Vieira, etc. However there are many more instances when this doesn’t work. You only have to look at the number of ineffective players sitting on the squad list to realize this.
According to most people, the big problem is when Arsenal do develop world-class players, they’re sold when they reach their peak – often to direct rivals. Many people believe Wenger has to sell these players due to the pressure of the board, who want to cash in on their biggest assets to line their own pockets. We believe this is where Arsenal falls down as a football club, as surely selling all of our best players means we sacrifice any chance of rivaling the best clubs in England – let alone Europe – for any sort of silverware.
Step up FC Porto, the most successful Portuguese club in history. Porto haven’t done too badly over the last 10 years. They’ve won their domestic league 8 times, their domestic cup 5 times, the Portuguese Super Cup 7 times, they won the last Intercontinental Cup and they have thrice been crowned European Champions. Not too bad at all really.
What’s even more surprising however, is how they’ve sold a staggering amount of world-class players over the years: Rodriguez (£39m), Moutinho (£22m), Hulk (£48m), Falcao (£41m), Bruno Alves (£19m), Lopez (£21m), Quaresma (£21m), Anderson (£27m), Pepe (£26m), Carvalho (£26m) and Deco (£18m). And that’s not even including ‘lesser’ players such as Paulo Ferreira, Maniche, Bosingwa, Gonzalez, Cissokho and Raul Meireles, whose combined sales alone equate to over £90m.
The other notable Portuguese side, Benfica, have also started emulating Porto’s policies, recently selling Javi Garcia, di Maria, Coentrao, David Luiz and Ramires, yet still competing with Porto on a domestic level. These trends sound familiar, right? Of course, this is exactly the same thing Wenger has been trying to do with Arsenal all these years – and to some extent he has made achievements – finishing in the top 4 of one of the best leagues in the world, every year.
Yet as many fans say, 4th place is no trophy, so if it works for Porto why doesn’t it work for us? Well, a number of issues come to mind. The Portuguese League isn’t exactly the most competitive. Apart from Benfica, other clubs are just too small to rival Porto. Due to this gap in quality and finance, other teams don’t have the resources to spend millions on established players to challenge for the title, and the high risk of buying lots of unproven potential future stars and watching them turn in to Bendtners and Denilsons would be too costly for a smaller club. Compare this to the likes of the Manchester clubs, Chelsea and to some extent even Tottenham and Liverpool who manage to spend ridiculous amounts of money on players every season and it’s no wonder Arsenal aren’t echoing Porto’s success in the Premier League.
Another factor may be that most of Porto’s developing starlets are scouted from the South Americas, where there seems to be an abundance of talent and where Porto obviously have a very good scouting setup. This coupled with the fact that a lot of coaches of the smaller clubs in the Americas undervalue their emerging stars makes this an excellent hunting ground for young players full of potential. Arsenal’s scouting networks have the strongest bases in Western Europe, where unfortunately promising young players are already being overpriced by worried coaches.
Compare the list of Porto’s superstars against Arsenal’s recent acquisitions from Southern America and you can see something doesn’t quite add up (think Santos, Denilson and to some extent Joel Campbell). I’m no expert but I believe this is probably because Arsenal’s scouting network isn’t very well developed in that area of the world yet, the only exception to the rule being the excellent acquisition by the name Gilberto Silva.
Porto show that it is possible in football to make money as well as win titles. They are the perfect business model. Arsenal are close to replicating that model, on a much larger scale, in a much tougher league, and in a much more complicated transfer environment. But these things take time and practice. Imagine if all the clubs in the Premier League had the same amount to spend on players every season. Who spends wisest? Who do you think would be top of the table?