The popularity of soccer has led to enormous sums of money being present within the game in a multitude of ways, including TV rights, sponsorship, and transfer fees.

The richest clubs in the world are way ahead of other teams in their domestic leagues financially, with only a select few capable of signing world-class players.

The imbalance of money within the sport means that only a few teams have a genuine chance of winning trophies. Sport thrives on unpredictability, but the world’s most popular sport has become increasingly stale at club level.

Premier League side Brighton and Hove Albion have been a revelation this season. Italian coach Roberto de Zerbi took over as head coach in October after Graham Potter left to take the vacant Chelsea job.

While the early parts of De Zerbi’s stint were marred by inconsistent results, Brighton steadily improved and are now widely regarded as one of the best teams to watch in England.

Their recruitment has been heavily praised, with players such as Moises Caicedo, Alexis Mac Allister, and Kaoru Mitoma emerging as some of the best-performing players in the Premier League this season.

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All three were signed for small fees from clubs in their native countries and have quickly developed into talents that could play at the highest level.

The budget on which Brighton have achieved their success this season is remarkable when compared to the spending of some of the Premier League’s top clubs, especially Chelsea who spent 37% of the league’s entire transfer outlay in January 2023.

While Chelsea are a perfect example of a team spending the most but not reaping the rewards, Brighton are the complete opposite.

However, despite qualifying for the Europa League for the first time, there is a strong likelihood that many of their stars will be signed by other clubs this summer that have significantly more financial power than Brighton do, and so this team which has excited so many will be pulled apart.

It’s a tale as old as time in the sport, with a crop of players being enormously successful and then rapidly being sold off to aid the club’s finances.

However, it’s a shame that this must be the status quo in a sport where underdog upsets and unpredictability are so widely celebrated by fans. Upsets will always happen regardless, such as Leicester’s miraculous Premier League win in 2015, but it’s a shame that stories like this can’t happen more frequently.

The established ‘top six’ in the Premier League are disliked by many fans within the UK, especially after the debacle of the breakaway European Super League (ESL), which failed miserably.

These teams generate higher revenues than other clubs in the league due to their success and global popularity and have therefore claimed a financial monopoly in the Premier League.

Those calling for hefty punishments following the ESL were naïve to think that the Premier League would severely sanction its biggest earners and harm its own income.  

Despite all this, the Premier League is still held up as the most competitive and exciting league in the world, with the competition having seen more different winners in the last decade. The lack of competitiveness is seen as a more significant issue in some of Europe’s other leagues.

In the last 10 years, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain have won 20 of the last 22 combined league titles in Germany and France respectively, while Spanish soccer has been almost entirely dominated by Real Madrid and Barcelona, with some occasional success for Atletico Madrid.

With Manchester City having now won their fifth Premier League title in six years, many are starting to question the actual competitiveness of the Premier League. City are no doubt bolstered by exceptional coaching, with their manager Pep Guardiola regarded as one of the best managers of all time.

However, the club have been plagued by claims of sportswashing, and the Premier League are currently investigating 115 different financial breaches that the club have potentially committed since their Abu Dhabi-based ownership acquired the club in 2008.

During the period that City are being investigated for, the club won three Premier League titles, and the validity of these has now been called into question by outraged fans.

City also attracted significant criticism after it was discovered that one of their sponsorship deals was with a company of questionable origins, titled 8XBet. A LinkedIn profile of the supposed CEO was discovered to have a profile picture that was just a standard stock image from the internet, with the actual listed owner seemingly having no digital footprint whatsoever.

While the deal is still active, it’s clear that the details surrounding it are suspicious. Additionally, recent financial results have painted City as the most commercially powerful club in the world, even more so than giants like Real Madrid and Manchester United, which seems dubious given the historic popularity and consistently strong commercial performance of those clubs compared to City.

The only league currently bucking the trend is Serie A, where Juventus’ stranglehold on the league was broken after winning nine titles in a row. Since then, Inter, AC Milan, and Napoli have won the title in Italy, highlighting the reversing trends in the country.

However, this occurred due to Juventus’ own mismanagement of funds, as well as poor management of the squad, and the newer title winners are teams that have been competitive in the league for many years.

Historically, Inter and AC Milan have been regular winners of the league, with Napoli being the only outlier among the trio, showing that even without a single dominant team, not much has changed within the pool of winners.

This could change in the coming years, but for now, it appears the same teams will be competing every year.

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