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Old 14th April 2007, 11:29   #1
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Default Winning brings extra rewards in fight for Europe's big prize

Winning brings extra rewards in fight for Europe's big prize
Three English clubs are on the gravy train to Athens. Our correspondent looks at who stands to gain most from being last man standing

Rick Broadbent
The Times
April 13, 2007


Manchester United
Manchester United will make the most money from a successful European campaign because of their greater capacity. Ian Todd, former vice-president of Nike’s global sports marketing division, gave warning that poor results could be “a problem” and failure to qualify from the group stage last season cost the club an estimated £20 million. United’s shirt sponsorship deal with AIG, brokered a year ago, is worth £56.5 million over four years and proves the club is already a global brand. Like Roman Abramovich, Malcolm Glazer may hope in vain that European glory will act as a sop to public ill-feeling.

Dan Jones, partner in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, said that Chelsea have most to gain from lifting the European Cup. A club makes £13 million in prize-money from winning the Champions League, but gate receipts and TV money push that up towards £30 million. “The real benefit is in raising the profile of the club around the world,” Jones said. “Liverpool and Manchester United have won it before, but it would have a huge impact for Chelsea.” Success would help Chelsea to achieve their aim of breaking even by 2010 and increase popular support for José Mourinho in his power struggle with Abramovich. Liverpool Wyn Grant, a football financial expert from Warwick University, disgraeed and said Liverpool would be the biggest winners. “The club in the worst position is Liverpool because of the new stadium,” he said. “The finance for that is set aside so the money from being successful in Europe could be used for players.” Being champions for the second time in three years would also give Tom Hicks and George Gillett bartering power in negotiating a new kit deal to beat the modest £5 million-a-year agreement with Carlsberg. As winners, Liverpool would receive a high six-figure bonus from their sponsors, but that would be countered by player bonuses.

AC Milan
Even for a man who has been accused of embezzlement, fraud and bribery, Silvio Berlusconi, the Milan president, has much to lose in the semi-final. With Milan lying fifth in Serie A, victory may be the only thing to spare Milan from the Uefa Cup.


Manchester United
Mark Longden, of the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association, said that the priority remained the Premiership. “With the depth of squad we have got I think winning the league would be a bigger achievement than winning the treble in 1999,” he said. “We have got 18 outfield places and two of those are John O’Shea and Kieran Richardson. Nobody will question Fergie if we don’t win anything.”

Fans hope that a European title renders Mourinho unsackable, but Rob Hobson, editor of CFC Net, sounded a cautionary note. “Roman Abramovich is one of the richest men in the world and is used to getting what he wants,” he said. “In the last few weeks José has struck me as a man who already knows his fate.” Hobson also believes that most supporters would take the league title over the Champions League. “I don’t think anyone would say Porto or Liverpool were the best sides in Europe when they won it. It’s a glittery disco ball.”

In one suburban street in Fazackerley yesterday, opinions differed about the meaning of the Champions League. Mark Simpson said it did not excuse Liverpool’s absence from the title race, but Sophie Buckman said it was evidence of BenÍtez’s genius. “Everyone wants the Premiership, yes, but nobody will ever forget Istanbul,” she said. “Those are the nights that stay with you forever.” Not all Liverpool fans have been so effusive this season, however, with calls for BenÍtez’s head and even rumblings from the boardroom.

AC Milan
A poor season has prompted an air of pessimism on the Milanmania website, where Bosniacop wrote: “I don’t see us getting past Man Utd. They are a much younger squad and too quick.” However, Nefremo said: “We will kill the game.” In a poll on AC Milan Online, Mourinho is second to Marcello Lippi to replace Ancelotti.


Manchester United
Earlier this season Sir Alex Ferguson said it was “scandalous” that people thought he should retire, and the 65-year-old patriarch has responded in style. To borrow from his canon, it is squeaky bum time, though, and United may yet squander their lead in the title race and fail on foreign fields. That might tempt Glazer to scandalise his manager, who would have only one FA Cup to show for his efforts in four seasons. For all his domestic success, United’s travails under Ferguson in Europe have been modest and a barren year would deflect allegations of ageism.

“If I have to leave for some reason or because someone wants me to, that’s life in soccer,” José Mourinho said yesterday. A Champions League win with Chelsea would leave him in an enviable position. If Abramovich decides to run the gauntlet of public anger by forcing him out, Mourinho will have leading clubs, possibly including Real Madrid, queuing up to sympathise. If Abramovich backs down, Mourinho will either remain as a Special One with bells on or depart in a celebratory hissy fit. Failure will fuel Abramovich’s ire given that Claudio Ranieri’s Chelsea made the semi-final.

Rafael BenÍtez says that he is staying at Anfield, but Madrid will surely covet their old boy if he lands a second Champions League title in three seasons. Winning in Athens will bring in only another £4.7 million in prize-money, but BenÍtez is believed to have received some guarantees from the Gillett-Hicks axis that he will have a sizeable warchest in the summer. The Americans have not endeared themselves to BenÍtez with suspect PR skills, but they are unlikely to have been overhwlemed by Liverpool’s domestic labours either.

AC Milan
Carlo Ancelotti remains under pressure. Failure to requalify could see him sacked, while he has told the Italian media that he would like to coach the national side.


Manchester United
The downside to lighting up Europe like a bonfire and becoming the sixth Beatle is that avaricious club presidents want you for their trophy cabinet. Real Madrid’s technical director, Franco Baldini, has reportedly met Jorge Mendes, Cristiano Ronaldo’s agent, and intimidated that the ailing Spanish giants will pay £54 million. Glazer’s eyes will light up if that world-record offer comes, while fans will hope Mendes was talking about his other client, José Mourinho. The cost of the European run would cover the price of Bayern Munich’s Owen Hargreaves at £17 million

The outcome of the Champions League is likely to have less of an effect at Chelsea than the fate of their coach. Mourinho has a teak-tough bond with his players and his exit might well cause others to follow. Chelsea’s cause is strengthened by the fact they are able to pay £121,000 a week to the likes of Michael Ballack, but they, too, are bound by the European Union law that could see John Terry and Frank Lampard buy out their contracts or, at least, use Article 17 to improve their deals. Mourinho has said the days of spending “silly money” are over, but will be pleased to know the cost of the European run would cover the price of Manchester City’s Micah Richards at £20 million.

If BenÍtez does stay, he faces a frenetic summer of contract talks and transfer moves. European champion status would make it easier to convince the terminally indecisive Steven Gerrard to resign as well as tempting Xabi Alonso to resist Barcelona’s overtures and agree to a £70,000-a-week pay packet. Like all the big payers, Liverpool are also at risk from European Law enabling players to buy out their contracts. Champion status will also make Liverpool attractive to players, such as Daniel Alves, of Seville, who might be otherwise unimpressed by the lack of a league title since 1990. The cost of the European run would cover the price of Valenica’s David Villa at £25 million.

AC Milan
The great on-off saga of Italian football last season was Kaka’s potential switch to Real Madrid. Predrag Mijatovic, Real’s sporting director, said last month that it was matter of time and only a Champions League medal ma pre ent Kaka’s e it
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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