While the world's money men go into panic-stricken shutdown as fears of a global recession increase, soccer's financial overlords are taking a different approach.
From the bosses of Europe's big domestic leagues, to the cloistered circles of UEFA and FIFA, the world game is chasing the big money when most major companies are tightening their belts.
Several key television rights deals are up for negotiation in the coming weeks and months, and with television companies looking for value like never before, the big leagues and competitions are actually in a stronger position than in buoyant economic times. The networks are looking for guaranteed winners, programs which are certain to attract advertisers.
Soccer fits that bill perfectly.
The English Premier League will rake in megabillions when its deal for the 2010 through 2013 seasons is revamped. The German Bundesliga can also expect to outstrip all previous deals in that country with a long-term agreement for live rights and highlights packages. And despite concerns of whether Poland and Ukraine will be ready to stage Euro 2012, the TV rights will sell for huge money following the success of Euro 2008 as a spectacle.
At the club level, however, the excess cash may only serve to widen the gap between the haves and have-nots.
Of course, predictions about the demise of competitiveness have been raised before, but clubs still have been able to make the jump up to the top leagues.
With prize money – especially in the EPL – heavily staggered, chances are that the rich will keep getting richer. And everyone else will attempt in vain to scale the slippery slope. The only opportunity for most clubs to bridge the gap will be if they attract investment from a multibillionaire prepared to plough in vast sums of cash – like at Manchester City.
Soccer's financiers may be proudly crowing they have made the sport recession-proof. But is there a hidden cost to the health of the game?
1. Get him an Advil
Los Angeles Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena faces a long and difficult offseason after L.A. failed to qualify for the MLS playoffs for the third year in a row. The league's best-known but least-effective team reached a new level of ineptitude in 2008, putting together a dreadful midseason run despite the regular availability of David Beckham and Landon Donovan.
Arena needs to usher in a new mentality with new players, and needs to find a way to get Beckham motivated again – or more misery will follow for the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center.
2. Get him a beer
Wayne Rooney was in spectacular form as Manchester United trounced West Bromwich Albion 4-0. The England star scored one goal and set up two as United sounded a warning to its Premiership rivals.
Rooney's efforts fully deserved a glass of the cold stuff. But you might want to check with his wife, Coleen, before you buy him one.
3. Get him some earplugs
French president Nicolas Sarkozy made a fool of himself this week by suggesting France's clash with Tunisia should have been canceled when some Tunisian fans started booing the national anthem. There is enough politics in soccer already without some clumsy bureaucrat trying to prove he is in touch with the people by interfering in the beautiful game.
4. California dreaming
Two-time defending MLS Cup champion Houston Dynamo is in dominant form once again and must be the favorite to three-peat. Dwayne De Rosario is playing better than anyone in the league right now, and always seems to save his best for this time of year.
Houston's miserable start to the season, when they secured just four points from six games, seems a long time ago.
5. Catch a flight to …
The Gaza Strip. Why not see the Palestine national team take on Jordan on October 26, its first game on home soil in a decade? Last year, Palestine had to forfeit a match against Singapore when Israel denied travel permits to 18 players and staff, as Gaza is considered "hostile territory." You'll be fine.
6. A round of applause for …
Danny Cepero. The New York Red Bulls youngster became the first goalkeeper in MLS history to score a goal from open play on Saturday when his free kick from within his own half bounced over Columbus Crew keeper Andy Gruenebaum and into the net in a 3-1 victory.
7. Get them a Kleenex
• Atletico Madrid, which lost the Madrid derby to Real in heartbreaking fashion when Gonzalo Higuain converted a penalty six minutes into injury time.
• River Plate, which slumped to second from the bottom in the Argentinean first division after losing 1-0 to hated rivals Boca Juniors.
• AS Roma, which suffered more humiliation as they were hammered 4-0 at home to Inter Milan in yet another miserable performance despite the return of Francesco Totti.
• Middlesbrough, whose head coach Gareth Southgate admitted his team "could have conceded eight" after a 5-0 home defeat to a rampant Chelsea spearheaded by Juliano Belletti in an unfamiliar midfield role.
8. Get ready to say hello to …
Ariel Ortega. The veteran Argentine is out of favor at struggling River Plate and has told the press he is considering a move to Major League Soccer next season. He is probably too old to make a serious impact on the league, but unless he prices himself too high, someone will give him a chance.
9. Say goodbye to …
David Beckham. For now at least.
Beckham seems set to head to Italy for a training stint with AC Milan in January in an attempt to prolong his international career with England. His chase for cheap caps – he has played only a few minutes in each of England's last two games – is becoming embarrassing and should be brought to a merciful end.
With Theo Walcott and Shaun Wright-Phillips ahead of him in the pecking order, Beckham would be better served resting up and trying to improve the fortunes of the awful Galaxy next season.
10. Get excited about …
Juventus vs. Real Madrid. Games like this are what the Champions League is all about, and Tuesday's clash at the Stadio Olimpico promises to be a classic. Juve is in poor form in Serie A and head coach Claudio Ranieri is on the verge of being fired, but the Old Lady will have a point to prove after a disappointing run.
11. Why it's good to be a soccer player
Check out Alessia Ventura, girlfriend of AC Milan playboy Filippo Inzaghi.
- David Beckham
- English Premier League