Can You Buy a Champions League Trophy?

I don’t know anyone who would argue that money is a necessary commodity if a team is going to win the Champions League. In fact, I think most people would assume that only the richest clubs can actually win the Champions League. It takes money to buy the best players, and only the teams with the best players can win, right? So can you buy a Champions League trophy? Perhaps you should ask Juventus.

Despite this image, there is no proven correlation between winning and religion

At the height of Berlusconi’s reign of terror at Milan, it seemed that you could basically buy a Champions League trophy. If you were using a team for political gain, for example, there was no limit as to how much of your own money you could invest to buy new players. And so Berlusconi bought five of them… trophies, that is. He obviously bought far more players than that to achieve so much greatness. That brought Milan’s total trophies up to seven. It wasn’t just the players bought, though. It was the core of the team that was already there and a winning DNA that was further nurtured by great coaches and treating your players well.

However, those theories do not hold true for others competing in the Champions League. Inter, for example, achieved their singular pinnacle of success in this century by wiretapping, withholding information, obstruction of justice, and more in the Calciopoli scandal of 2006. After taking out their most competitive opponents, buying those teams’ players on the cheap after punishments were unfairly doled out, then spending €150m per year, they finally got their trophy. Despite often spending that kind of cash on the best players, they have been unable to replicate that success since then, not to mention the FFP sanctions.

Completely blowing the theory that cheaters never prosper

Outside of Italy, clubs like PSG and Manchester City have tried the spend to win method of Champions League competition and come up empty, despite having owners who could afford to buy all of UEFA if it were for sale. However, Real Madrid, who now have the most Champions League trophies including three back to back, have consistently spent a lot of money on top quality players, yet are the most FFP compliant of any of the clubs mentioned because they also bring in plenty of money every year. But they, too, have a history and culture of winning and great coaches and keeping their players happy.

Back to Italy, the club which has most consistently spent to win and yet still lost is Juventus. They actually hold the record for the most Champions League Final losses, having lost seven of them. They only ever won one in the 1980’s and another in the 1990’s, and have become singularly obsessed with the Champions League since then. They have managed to stay within FFP limitations by focusing on the business side of the club. But having achieved a ridiculous level of Serie A dominance makes it seem like they are trying harder than ever to “buy” a Champions League trophy by spending even bigger on players they think will give them that edge.

The most successful Champions League player of all time... until he moved to Juventus

Last year, it was €112 for Cristiano Ronaldo, but he only took them to the quarterfinal. So this year, they bought the player who knocked them out of that quarterfinal, De Ligt. And for good measure, they brought back Buffon and grabbed Ramsey and Rabiot on free transfers. To date, they have spent €150m on this transfer window. They apparently have recently adopted the policy of “If you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em,” and that still hasn’t worked for them… yet.

In case you haven’t noticed, money does not necessarily win Champions League Finals. Although many who do win have spent, there is greater correlation between actual hard work, fair play, good character, teamwork, and more. For example, for a team like Juventus, where winning is the only thing, they are more likely to have off-the-pitch issues that interfere with building a successful team. After harboring Ronaldo from his charges in the rape accusation case, rumors are that Neymar, facing a similar situation, wants to join Juventus. Rumors also link Juventus with the player that not even Inter wants anymore for so many reasons, Icardi. And while all of those players are talented footballers, they are not good human beings. Every team has players with issues, but it also depends on how the clubs treat their players. And Juventus have treated their players as disposable commodities. Their fans cite "No one is bigger than the team" like members of a cult. And yet the reality is, there are plenty of people that have Champions League winners medals,  for example, just not won at Juventus.

Spending is not everything, but it sure helps

Seven years ago, I wrote about how much a Scudetto should cost, comparing wage bills and rosters of recent Scudetto winners. This correlation between money spent on players and trophies won is not a new idea by any means. The correlation is not entirely correct, but some clubs are still hell-bent on proving that it is. Ironically, it is the very obsession with winning and other character flaws that often prevents it. Or at least it seems that way in the case of Juventus. Will this be their year? Their fans hope so. If not, maybe they should work on the criminal method. It certainly worked for Inter.

This post inspired by the music of Queen’s “We Are the Champions”

Our next match is a friendly
Bayern Munich vs. AC Milan
Tuesday, July 23 • 8pm CDT (9pm EDT)
Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City

Can You Buy a Champions League Trophy? Can You Buy a Champions League Trophy? Reviewed by Elaine on 8:27 AM Rating: 5
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