The summer is almost over in European club soccer, and as usual it seems that some sort of soccer apocalypse is imminent.
Summer is when the world’s biggest club teams, such as Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United, spend ridiculous amounts of money on new players. With no actual soccer played, fans are confronted with the seedy financial side of soccer, rather than the fun of watching the game.
Despite the annual nature of this disgust, though, it feels like this year is worse than usual, something best shown by AS Monaco, the French champion.
Going into last season, it seemed that Paris Saint-Germain might never lose the French title again. PSG has, seemingly, more money than the rest of Ligue 1 combined, and nobody picked Monaco, or anyone else, to make up that gap. Monaco, though, ran away with the championship, thanks to a youth-focused strategy that finally paid off. In the Champions League, too, Les Monégasques found success, getting to the final four before losing to Juventus.
Monaco should have been a team poised for great things — a second consecutive French title and a run at a European title, for sure.
The season had hardly ended, though, before players began departing for other teams. Manchester City sent Monaco $125 million for the services of Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy, two key cogs on the title team. Midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko departed for Chelsea for $52 million. If both teen sensation Kylian Mbappe and midfielder Thomas Lemar depart, as has been widely rumored, Monaco could end the summer with nearly $400 million in the bank — and an almost entirely new starting lineup.
Monaco probably won’t complain too much, given the amount of money that has flowed into its coffers. The players themselves, all of whom will cash enormous paychecks at their new clubs, won’t be complaining, either. But something’s very broken when Monaco, champion of France and the best story in Europe last year, can be stripped for parts almost immediately upon winning a title.
It’s not exactly unprecedented. Last summer, N’Golo Kante left Premier League champion Leicester City for Chelsea. Never mind that Kante and company had shocked the world and won the title, or that the Foxes would be trying to put together a maiden Champions League run. As soon as the season ended, Kante was off for a more lucrative deal. His departure was a big part of the reason Leicester City struggled all season.
You cannot blame the players for taking a chance to increase their paychecks, and you can’t blame rich teams for trying to improve. But something’s wrong when, no matter what happens, the same handful of clubs spend increasingly astonishing sums for the best players, no matter how good the selling clubs are.
Every summer, the rich spend more and everyone else is forced to sell, and you have to wonder: Where does it all end?
WEEKEND WATCH GUIDE
MLS: Orlando at Atlanta, 4 p.m. Saturday, Ch. 9. With Dom Dwyer in the fold, Orlando City needs to start its playoff push now. Atlanta, meanwhile, seems set to become MLS’ best-ever expansion team, with the league’s best crowds and a star-studded lineup. It’s hard for Minnesota fans to not be a little envious of their fellow expansion side.
MLS: Seattle at Los Angeles, 9 p.m. Saturday, ESPN. The Sounders fired Sigi Schmid last year, a move that turned around their season en route to an MLS Cup. Los Angeles is hoping for the opposite. It hired Schmid this week, gambling that he can repeat his prior success at the Galaxy helm. He’ll start by facing the team that fired him.
MLS: New York City at Toronto, 1 p.m. Sunday, ESPN. Toronto looks poised to run away with the Supporters’ Shield, but NYC is one of the teams that would stand in its way. It’s impossible to not see this as a battle between big-name foreign stars, with Sebastian Giovinco leading the Toronto attack and David Villa doing the same for NYC.
Tournament of Nations: Brazil at United States, 7 p.m. Sunday, ESPN. Without a summer women’s tournament this year, U.S. Soccer invented its own, inviting Brazil and Australia and Japan for what could be called the Tournament of Moneymaking. The U.S. lost its first game 1-0 to Australia. Brazil won’t be any easier.
• Last week’s Seattle Reign-Sky Blue FC tilt will go down as one of the greatest NWSL games ever. It was 1-0 Seattle at halftime before the Reign scored three more goals in the opening 12 minutes of the second half to take a 4-0 lead. Sky Blue responded with four goals in 20 minutes. But Seattle’s Megan Rapinoe completed her hat trick in the 87th minute, giving Seattle a 5-4 victory.
• It will be interesting to see what happens with FC Kansas City striker Sydney Leroux. Her husband, Dom Dwyer, was traded from Sporting Kansas City to Orlando City last week. Leroux, who requested a trade to Kansas City to be in the same place as her husband, told reporters that she’s not thinking about doing the same to try to get to Orlando. Sports trades tear families apart all the time. It’s rare, though, to have on-field issues affecting both sides of the marriage.
• Los Angeles FC announced that former United States national team manager Bob Bradley will be its first coach when it starts play in 2018. Bradley, widely seen as one of the best American managers ever, will have LAFC’s very deep pockets backing up what should be a successful return to MLS.