Spanish football, a natural predator these last few years suddenly faces two threats: China and the Premier League. The hunter has become the hunted. For all the talk of economic crises, the price of footballers continues to skyrocket. We have become used to being the preferred destination for the world's top talent; the Rivaldos, Ronaldinhos, Figos, Zidanes, Ronaldos, Beckhams, Messis, Cristianos, Bales, Neymars and all the others, when suddenly two other aggressive rivals have joined the hunt. The Premier League is so cash rich that the outrageous has suddenly become ordinary; €190 million for Neymar is now being considered by not one, but two clubs; and they both hail from the same Northern English city. Then there's the rise of the dragon, China.
Let's set China aside for one minute, assuming it a paper tiger; may Mao pardon me. As much as they pay - and they're willing to pay much more - no player who values himself and his career at the right age in his right mind is going to go to China for the money and nothing else. Jackson went, rejected by Atleti, at 29 years of age. He did not look a happy man on the day of his signing. He'll achieve financial security for the rest of his life, and for the next three generations of his kin at least, but that signature was him throwing in the towel. He renounced his chance of being remembered in the pantheon of truly great footballers, and he knows it. Hence the distant and downcast demeanour at his signing for Guangzhou Evergrande, and in the airport on his arrival in the middle kingdom.
China is a threat to our football, to Spanish football, but only up to a certain point: taking those who aspire to gain, at the price of glory. For those who want both, the great temptation is now the Premier League. There players can have it all: prominence, respect, the glamour of the Champions League... a big bag of swag... I fear that financial 'fair play' has fallen into the purgatory of good intentions. The Premier has been pumped with an uninhibited influx of cash injections - steroids for the bodybuilding contest that is the transfer market - a huge financial fix that can put an already prestigious product on the podium. The Premier League is no paper tiger.