James Lawton: Chelsea's move for Joaquin is too rich for game

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The Independent Online

Chelsea's pursuit of the brilliant Spanish winger Joaquin more than anything makes you want to laugh.

Chelsea's pursuit of the brilliant Spanish winger Joaquin more than anything makes you want to laugh.

Jose - "I am the special one" - Mourinho already has Arjen Robben and Damien Duff operating along the flanks, a gift of width and skill that is utterly unique in Premiership football. Joaquin, who reasonably enough is valued at £30m by his club Real Betis, would no doubt put most pressure on Duff, a richly talented operator but one who too often seems to lack an edge of self-confidence.

The real question posed by the latest Chelsea move, however, concerns something rather broader. At what point does the whole concept of real competition in the Premiership become an outright joke?

It is bad enough that someone like Roman Abramovich is able to bring his vast fortune into English football without a breath of investigation or accountability, but surely compounding the sense that English football is at the mercy of any foreign intervention is the Russian's ability to blast away any threat of serious opposition with so many strokes of a pen.

If Joaquin signs and Chelsea do as they promise and run away with the title, the Premier League may finally be obliged to consider the precise meaning of the word "league". It is supposed to indicate a group of clubs or nations who accept the principle that they are only as strong as the weakest link.

American sport is in terrible shape with the lock-out in the National Hockey League, escalating violence in the National Basketball Association, and rampant drug use in baseball and the National Football League. However, the Americans still have a draft system whereby the weakest club gets to pick the best young player coming into the market - they still see the folly of having a league in which only one club can win.

Here, the notion is laughable. But for how long?

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