Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Money or belief?

Is Money or belief more important in today’s game?

As this is a blog with a Celtic-dominated readership, I am going to answer this question from their point of view.

What better example than the fact that Celtic managed to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League, when numerous “bigger clubs” failed.

I cite the infamous ITV tweet, where moments after the draw for the group stages was made, they posted a tweet that diminished Celtic’s chances of qualifying before a ball had been kicked. How they would live to regret those words. 

Celtic qualified for the group stages along with fellow British clubs Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Despite Manchester City getting a tough group which included Borussia Dortmund, Ajax and Real Madrid, you would have expected them, with their transfer budget allocation, to qualify.

What about Chelsea?

The current holders were given a slightly simpler group. They had to face Celtic’s last 16 opponents Juventus, Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk and relatively unheard of, Nordsjælland.

A challenging group, but Chelsea have been no strangers to splashing the cash over recent years, so you would also expect them to come through this group, as either group winners, or at the very least, runners up.

How about little old Celtic? There to make up the numbers, to boost the tarnished reputation of Scottish football, to give Celtic fans the opportunity enjoy a night out of the house.

This was, unfortunately, the patronising reality that Celtic were facing going into the group stages. ITV’s tweet confirmed this.

Throughout the competition, the reputation of Celtic grew. This was thanks to performances from players such as Fraser Forster and Victor Wanyama. Results such as winning 3-2 away in Russia and beating European giants Barcelona at Celtic Park, helped make people sit-up and realise we were not just here for a party.

There is another player I would like to single out for praise. Georgios Samaras, that is.

The Greek, who has been criticised in the past, was sensational in the group stages.

This season in Europe, Samaras managed five goals. Multi-million pound Manchester City players such as, Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli, Carloz Tevez and Edin Dzeko, all cost a combined £114m. How many goals did they ALL score in Europe this season? Four.  One goal fewer than our two million pound talisman.

The cost of transforming Manchester City from mid-table mediocrities to English Premier League champions was an eye-watering £930million. Yet they came bottom of their Champions League group.

Stats such as these make Neil Lennon and Celtic’s achievements all the more impressive.

What about the Champions League holders?

They too, like Manchester City were a mediocre club until Mr Abramovich came along and bought success.

Despite Abramovich seeming to have an unlimited wallet to dig into, a 3-0 rout by Juventus in Turin, in the end cost his side a place in the last 16. The starting 11 that night cost a staggering £266m. This is not including £50m substitute Fernando Torres.

The Celtic side that came second in their group is only worth around £15m at most.

Heroic performances from Fraser Forster, or as he is better known by the Spanish media, “La Gran Muralla (The Great Wall)” has seen him put into Roy Hodgson’s England squad, as well as earning world-wide praise. How much did Celtic spend on him? Was it anything like the ludicrous amounts spent by the eliminated English clubs? No, it wasn’t. After two loan spells, we only spent £2m for his services. What a bargain.

An even more impressive buy was the Kenyan power-house Victor Wanyama.

The 21-year-old midfielder has gone from an unheard of youngster, to one of Europe’s hottest properties, with the likes of Manchester United interested in his services.

Neil Lennon wants the bidding to begin at £25m, and who could blame him? Wanyama's excellent performances and outstanding potential were recognised in late 2012 when he was selected by influential football website IBWM in their list of the 100 most exciting players in world football for 2013.

It seems Celtic may struggle to keep Wanyama, but if he does go, it will be an impressive profit made, as he only cost £900,000.

These were two of the most impressive performers in the Champions League so far and they didn’t even cost £3m.

So, judging by Celtic’s European success this year, how important is money in football? It seems the willingness to win for each other and having the best supporters in the world behind them, means it matters very little.

How much further can Celtic go? I was extremely offended by Michel Platini’s comments, saying Celtic are as good as out. With the dedication shown in the group stages, there is no reason why we can’t progress and qualify. As we have shown, money is no factor.

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