Parker and Chelsea disprove reality theory

According to Mick McGuire, Gordon Taylor's deputy at the Professional Footballers' Association, players and clubs alike have taken a reality check, and the sport's finances are no longer those of the madhouse. It is a reasonable assessment, though there is still a point at which reality blurs into fantasy football; and that point is the main gate at Stamford Bridge.

For all Chelsea's pledges to break even within the next five years, their unprecedented spending power continues to distort the domestic game, as has been illustrated twice in the past couple of weeks. First there was a perfect example brought out almost incidentally at the deadlocked High Court trial in which Harry Kewell was suing Gary Lineker for libel. Kewell's "personal manager", Bernie Mandic, said that soon after the Roman Abramovich coup, he had taken a call from Chelsea's chief executive, Trevor Birch. Knowing that his client was set on joining Liverpool, he "plucked a number out of the air and said Harry wouldn't go for less than £100,000 [a week]". Birch's reply startled Mandic as much as it should anyone else in football: "He said that wouldn't be a problem."

A similarly huge salary increase prompted Scott Parker to leave Charlton for Chelsea six months later, which had unwanted repercussions last week for Newcastle United and all other Premiership clubs - among them Birmingham, Everton, Tottenham and even Wigan - interested in signing him. It was estimated at the time that the player's wages had trebled from £15,000 a week, a tempting enough carrot for any 22-year-old. Charlton were annoyed he had recently signed a new contract, but the inflated £10m fee - paid almost in full the following day - has enabled them to buy eight new players, with money being handed on to Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal, Ipswich and Oxford among others.

The problem occurred once it became clear that Parker was surplus to a new manager's requirements. Most Premiership clubs - including Charlton - would have been in the market for him at a sensible fee. But even Chelsea were reluctant to lose too much on their original invest-ment and crucially, the number of clubs prepared to match wages believed to have risen to £55,000 was tiny. It is as much of a gamble for Newcastle to have done so, having shelled out £6.5m for the transfer, as it is for Parker, desperate to resurrect his international career, to have joined such an unstable club.

Meanwhile, the rod Chelsea have made for their own backs by paying excessive fees is still being used to beat them with. Milan and Athletic Bilbao can demand unrealistic sums for the left-backs they know the Premiership champions want (Kakha Kaladze and Asier Del Horno respectively), assuming there is a good chance Chelsea will eventually lose patience and sign the cheque. Jose Mourinho's return from holiday is expected to prompt increased urgency, for he will want the new full-back, midfield player and striker identified as prime targets to be in situ well before the club's US tour.

Market moves elsewhere have tended to centre on the promoted and relegated clubs, mostly bearing out McGuire's contention about more responsible trading. Wigan's interest in Parker hinted at ambitions they have so far been unable to achieve, but Sunderland and West Ham have shopped sensibly.

Mick McCarthy is pursuing the path he followed to good effect in turning the club round after relegation two seasons ago, by looking for potential at prices to match; Kelvin Davis and Tommy Miller, the goalkeeper and midfielder from poor, ransacked Ipswich, full-back Nyron Nosworthy from Gillingham and strikers Jon Stead from Blackburn and Daryl Murphy from Waterford have cost no more than £3m in total. West Ham have taken a £1.25m plunge on Watford's Heidar Helguson to follow Roy Carroll into the club, and are presumably writing clauses into the contracts about wages decreasing if relegation materialises again.

Those clubs moving in the opposite direction must strike the difficult balance between maximising chances of an immediate return while cutting costs. The best solution is generally to sacrifice one well-paid player for a big fee, which Crystal Palace hoped they had done by selling Wayne Routledge to Tottenham. But now Andrew Johnson has requested a move, with Liverpool, Newcastle and Everton interested, supporters will be fearing the worst despite the chairman's insistence he will be staying.

Followers of Norwich and Southampton still fear other new internationals such as Robert Green and Peter Crouch will be leaving, while Harry Redknapp faces the worry that a majority of his squad (and their agents) regard themselves as established Premiership players.

Ah, agents; it would hardly be surprising if the Kewell v Lineker jury found the arcane ways of the football transfer as difficult to comprehend as the most financially complex fraud trial. How did you make £2m from the deal when Leeds wanted to sell and Liverpool wanted to buy, Mandic was asked. "I didn't have to find a buyer. I just sat back and let them call," he responded with commendable candour.

Now the Football Association's compliance unit has charged Paul Stretford eight months after he was a star turn at a high-profile trial in Warrington Crown Court last September, when the prosecuting barrister said: "We do not feel able to rely upon Paul Stretford as a witness."

Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
A photograph taken by David Redferm of Sonny Rollins
people
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker