Liverpool – Real Madrid, a final free from political and economic issues?

Like a wind of 1981? That year, English football club Liverpool lifted its third European Cup by winning the final in Paris, at the Parc des Princes, against Spanish Real Madrid. More than forty years later, this Saturday, May 28, the two teams met in the final of the most prestigious club competition in Europe, again in the French capital.

Los Blancos earned their semi-final qualification against Manchester City, known to be owned by the UAE government. Thanks to the resources provided to them by the oil and gas -rich state, this club reached the final of the European Football Championship last season.

Ang Citizens then lost against Chelsea, another English team, then owned by Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch closely linked to gas interests, his country’s government and its president Vladimir Putin. The invasion of Ukraine got him punished by several countries, but was forced to sell the London club.

Read more: Champions League: a title for Chelsea, a victory for Gazprom

When French center-forward Karim Benzema scored Real’s semi-final winner in extra time, a sense of nostalgia seemed to cling to European football. The ‘new rich’ of football, powered by gas and oil, have been defeated: this season’s final is an old-school affair. The reality seems more nuanced.

ideology of the free market

Benzema’s goal could have been a relief for UEFA. The time of organizing the competition body is really hard. The Champions League began with Russian state-owned Gazprom as the main sponsor and the final was held in Vladimir Putin’s hometown of St Petersburg.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, UEFA quickly decided to move its final to Paris and terminate the sponsorship deal with Gazprom. Will the Stade de France return a positive image to fans and observers who are saddened by the influence of state politics and money on football?

Liverpool FC, where Sadio Mané plays, has a historic relationship with the English left.
Paul Ellis/AFP

It’s worth remembering that the “Liverpool-Real Madrid” poster is not just a matter of old fate or European football in the past. The two clubs have always had strong political ties, Reds with left English and the Meringues to the right of the Iberian. Whether we like it or not, football and politics have always had a symbiotic relationship.

Furthermore, over the past three decades, both clubs have openly embraced and adhered to the ideology of the free market. They are prominent in consultancy firm Deloitte’s Football Money League, which generates between them more than a billion euros a year. Football remains big business and a money game.

We must not forget that over a year ago, Liverpool and Real Madrid supported the aborted Super League project. This was to speed up the flow of income to these wealthy clubs, at the expense of everyone else in Europe. Liverpool owners have finally pulled out of the project, at least for now, but Real Madrid president Florentino Perez seems keen to see it. Various reports suggest he could use financial support from Gulf and East Asian sources to achieve this.

More on socios…

Two solid finalists in the free football market, it will also be understood through the visualization of the most lucrative trade deals. Those from Liverpool revealed that the club’s owner – the American Fenway Sports Group – has built a portfolio positioning the club within a range of entertainment businesses. The inclusion of celebrities and high-profile sports stars, such as American basketball players LeBron James and Kevin Durant, speaks to the momentum of the entry of American entertainment industries into European sports cultural assets.

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Real Madrid, on the other hand, looks like a different kind of club, owned by its members-called socios-who vote for the entry and exit of club leaders. While it may seem closer to a democratic model, the visualization of its commercial agreements and relationships shows how closely the club is linked to Asia.

Real’s relationship, in the Gulf region in particular, means that the influence of money on oil and gas will always be deeply felt in Paris, even without the presence of an official state-owned or state-owned at the club. an oligarch.

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Attention therefore for football purists, the final of the Champions League 2022 does not represent a kind of normalization of football. We were gone in 1981 and now football remains commercial, political and ideological.

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