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The Prodigal Son: A Fairy Tale?

There once was a footballer, let’s call him Zlatan Ibrahimovic, or “Ibra” for short. He was a wanderer, kind of a Mary Poppins of Football™. He spent anywhere from 1-3 years at each club, blessing them with his awesomeness. That is, until he came to a club that we’ll call “Milan.” Something was different about this club. His awesomeness was a perfect fit, and he and his family were very happy there. He made it clear that he wanted to stay beyond his average of two years, and even obtained the promise of the evil emperor’s advisor that he would not be banished.

Had the Mary Poppins of Football™ left too soon?

But the evil emperor, let’s call him “Berlusconi,” did not manage well his fortunes, and together with his advisor, we’ll call him “Galliani,” schemed to profit from Ibra by selling him to a neighboring land called “Ligue 1” and a kingdom called “PSG.”

The emperor claimed to have sold his finest asset due to a decree called “Financial Fair Play,” but he was foolish and vain and did not understand that the decree wasn’t about decreasing his wage bill, but rather a comparison of profit vs. loss that defined this "FFP." Despite being warned by his daughter, the empress Barbara, about the probable negative aspects of this sale, he smugly bragged about how much money he had saved by selling the incomparable Ibra.

Not the Milan everyone knew and loved

He failed to realize the error of his ways, however, until well after the season began. Ticket sales plummeted, cutting the club’s income to drastic levels. So drastic, in fact, that they were the lowest ticket sales ever under his 26 year reign. The sales of the royal jerseys also dropped, as the players he purchased to replace Ibra and others who left the club did not perform well and were much less popular. And of course, there were the results. Without Ibra’s magic, the club started its season with its worst results in over 80 years. Meanwhile, in the land of PSG, Ibra had scored nine goals in seven games and was as magical as ever.

There was much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in the land of Milan. The suffering of the people fell on deaf ears, as rumor after hopeful rumor was dashed by the evil emperor and his advisor. Would they sell the club? No. Would they bring in investors to help with the financial crisis? No. Sack the coach and bring in someone new? No. Spend big in the next transfer window? No. With what money? You see, the sale of Ibra was not actually a move made for the decree of FFP, it was actually a desperate act to balance the books and cover the epic financial incompetence of the emperor and his advisor. And they had no plan to correct their evil ways, either.

Ibra pleaded to be able to return to his club, his home, his family

Meanwhile, in the kingdom of PSG, Ibra kept saying nice things about Milan. Usually, he would have moved on from his past club and that would be it. Sometimes, he would be critical of former managers, players, etc. But this time, it was different. He kept talking abut how much Milan had meant to him, how well he liked the club and the other players, how he missed his Milan family. Naysayers wouldn't believe it, calling him a mercenary and writing him off.

Then one day, he came out and said that he normally wouldn’t return to former clubs, but that he would like to return to Milan. That’s right, he would like to be the Prodigal Son.

Milan fans wept and indicated that they would welcome him back with open arms. And why not? He was such a dominant player that he could carry a whole team on his shoulders. And with the results so far this season, even the most skeptical fan would want him to return to help restore the club’s dignity and status in the league. Some fans went so far as to go to the offices of the advisor and place a sign which read “Give us back our Zlatan.”

What joy and celebration in the land when the Prodigal Son returned

What followed was your typical fairy tale ending. Milan continued to suffer in the league.  Despite sacking the manager, they simply lacked the quality of players needed to be competitive, and finished the lowest in the table that they had under the emperor’s reign. This led the emperor to concede defeat and sell the club to a new, rich and benevolent ruler at season’s end. The new owner wisely reinforced the club, and personally went to the kingdom of PSG to negotiate the return of Ibra.

The club prospered. The Prodigal Son had returned, and with him also ticket sales, jersey sales, and success in the league. With smarter management, the club actually fit into FFP rules despite their higher wage bill, and subsequently won their 19th league title.

And they lived happily ever after. The End.

The moral of this story is to hang on to a good thing when you find it. Well that, and never fall in love with a team led by corrupt leaders.


This post inspired by the music of Enya