Premier League Transfer News: Why Mr Chelsea can't resist City millions
Is it mere coincidence that John Terry and Mark Hughes have been holidaying in the same hotel? Perhaps, but Ralph Ellis believes it makes a deal more likely...
I'm too old to get lost in computer games, but I know all about Championship Manager. My younger son is an addict, and spends his evenings debating how much a week to offer Lionel Messi to bring him to Aston Villa (not so difficult, incidentally, in his virtual world where Villa have won the European Cup five years in a row).
Maybe it's because a whole generation of football fans are hooked on that piece of fantasy football that the rest of us don't bat an eyelid when the potential wages being paid to players in the real world are splattered across the back pages. John Terry, already on £130,000 a week, is now being offered nearer £200,000 to move from to Manchester City.
"He won't go," said one Chelsea fan who e-mailed Sky Sports News this morning. "He is Mr Chelsea and is much too loyal and won't be swayed by a few thousand pounds difference."
Back in the real world, £70,000 a week difference adds up to £3.64million a year. Over a four-year contract for a player who'll turn 29 this December that's £14.56million (or £8.7million after tax) more than he gets now. So is it surprising that England's captain has been a tad reluctant to make his usual statements about how he wants to play the rest of his career at Stamford Bridge? Throw in the twist, revealed this morning, that Terry and City manager Mark Hughes were on holiday in the same Dubai hotel complex last week, and the move looks more and more likely.
The pursuit of Terry is a huge psychological step for Manchester City's new owners. It's the one that puts down a marker that they have now blown Roman Abramovich out of the water as the country's richest football club owner. The Russian oil billionaire and his sidekick Peter Kenyon were used to the idea that they could have anything they wanted by getting out the most money. Now along comes Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, whose income rises £300million a day every time the oil price jumps a dollar a barrel, to put them back in the Leyton Orient League.
City have already taken Carlos Tevez from Manchester United, got ahead of Liverpool to sign Gareth Barry, and are now ready to plunder Chelsea too. Behind their massive pay offer to the player himself they've got a bid of around £35million for a transfer fee. Abramovich won't want to accept that and show the world he's not the richest kid in the playground any more. That's why he'll try to force Terry to ask to go. But the truth is that a fee that size for a player with a dodgy back is hugely tempting for club and player.
Hughes could spend £100million this week if he ties up deals for Tevez and Samuel Eto'o and then captures Terry too. Amazingly City are not yet odds on to be the Premier League's winner without the big four at a current price of [2.48]. That looks a massive value bet to me, especially given that Hughes would have more cash to spend in January if City start the season well.
The top end of the division is full of uncertainties. Will Arsenal be hit by bids for Cesc Fabregas from Real Madrid or Barcelona? Will Emmanuel Adebayor finally engineer a move away from The Emirates? Could Chelsea lose Didier Drogba as well as Terry? What's the true financial position at Liverpool? How hard will the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo hit Manchester United?
All those issues make City better value not only to be the winner without the big four, but to break them up. I'm sorely tempted by a punt on the [9.6] for a top two finish, and definitely by the [3.15] for a top four finish.
Why people love playing fantasy football games in the virtual world is that unlimited budgets allied to good management can achieve amazing results (hence Villa winning five European Cups). Chelsea have already proved that the same thing can be true in the real world. Before Abramovich arrived and then later installed Jose Mourinho, who could have seen them breaking up the cosy monopoly enjoyed by United and Arsenal? Now there's a new player on the block and the same thing could happen again.