For a while, it was the oil-drenched Russian ruble. Now it is the rebounding U.S. dollar that is looming largest over the financial corridors of the English Premier League.
With Newcastle United gripped by crisis and unpopular owner Michael Ashley under increasing pressure to sell his stake, all the suggested takeover favorites being touted in the British press are Americans. Los Angeles Galaxy owner Phil Anschutz of AEG, Mark Cuban of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks and Clark Hunt, who owns FC Dallas and the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL, are all reportedly in the mix.
So why are we no longer hearing so much about mysterious Russians determined to flex their monetary muscles in England and instead talking about statesiders?
Much of it depends on circumstances surrounding the U.S. economy. Wealthy men such as Anschutz, Cuban and Hunt need a secure place in which to put their money right now, and the convulsing fortress of Wall Street is not the answer.
With future television revenues that are effectively set in stone, investment in the EPL is a no-brainer if you've got the cash. Furthermore, the British pound has weakened significantly against the dollar in recent months, making the 225 million pounds price demanded by Ashley worth around $100 million less than it would have been in the early part of the year.
But American business giants need to beware. Chances are that if any one of the three takes over they will have a lot to do to prove themselves to the Newcastle faithful. The wonderfully passionate and dedicated fans of this corner of England's northeast will be highly skeptical of whoever comes in, especially those seen as outsiders.
They have had enough of being among the biggest underachievers in the soccer world and want nothing short of someone who can usher in an era of glory. They will not want to hear about financial prudence and profit margins.
Any investor who thinks this club is nothing more than a chance to turn a quick buck should think again.
The First XI
1. Get him an Advil
Danny Jordaan, chairman of the 2010 World Cup organizing committee, was in New York last week as part of a tour aimed at convincing the world that South Africa will be ready as hosts. However, while Jordaan presents a solid case in defense of his nation, there are serious problems plaguing the tournament.
Government uncertainty due to an impending election has raised further fears over South Africa's preparation, with high crime rates and security concerns among the questions Jordaan will never stop hearing from now until the opening kickoff in 2010.
2. Get him a beer
Samir Nasri scored twice as Arsenal beat Manchester United 2-1 on Saturday, but the real winner was the game of soccer.
It is quite possible that neither of these two excellent teams will finish in the top two of the English Premier League, with Chelsea and Liverpool seeming to have a certain sense of rugged ruthlessness about them.
However, in terms of free-flowing entertainment, this game had it all, and the show provided was a credit to the aggressive and pure footballing mentality of managers Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson.
3. Get him some earplugs (or at least some black plastic ears from Disneyland)
Referee Martin Atkinson was referred to as a "Mickey Mouse" official by irate Newcastle manager Joe Kinnear after his side lost 2-1 to Fulham.
Just weeks after an outrageous and foul-mouthed attack on media members following his appointment as interim boss, Kinnear vented his anger on another bleak day for the club.
4. California dreaming
The New York Red Bulls were expected to be thinking of how to fill those empty winter months by now. Instead, Juan Carlos Osorio's side is still in the hunt for a trip to the Nov. 23 MLS Cup final in Carson, Calif.
The Red Bulls completed one of the biggest upsets in MLS playoff history by tearing apart the two-time defending champion Houston Dynamo 3-0 at Robertson Stadium. Star striker Juan Pablo Angel has hit form at the right moment and the Red Bulls are now just one win away from reaching the title game for the first time in franchise history.
5. Catch a flight to …
The winner will instantly become a heavy favorite to lift the MLS Cup.
6. A round of applause for …
• Heather O'Reilly – She continued her excellent year by scoring the winning goal in the U.S. women's soccer team's 1-0 exhibition victory over South Korea on Saturday.
• Dr. Richard Steadman – The legendary knee specialist worked his magic once again, offering Real Madrid doctors over the telephone that striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy will be back in action within three weeks instead of the two-month layoff that was feared.
7. Get them a Kleenex
• Carlo Ancelotti – The AC Milan boss complained bitterly about poor refereeing after his team was denied the top spot in Serie A by Lecce defender Andrea Esposito's last-minute equalizer. To make matters worse, hated rivals Inter Milan took over first place.
• Diego Simeone – He made an emotional farewell as River Plate boss, seeing his players fight back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 with Huracan in his final game. Simeone announced he was quitting the Argentinean first division's last-place team after its early departure in the Copa Sudamericana.
8. Get ready to say hello to …
Stephen Appiah. This one could be a long shot, but rumors out of Africa suggest the midfielder could consider a move to Major League Soccer on a short-term loan.
Appiah had been involved in a dispute with his former club Fenerbahce. A switch to MLS would allow him to regain physical and match fitness before heading to a new club in Europe at the start of the 2009-2010 campaign.
9. Get ready to say goodbye to …
Dane Richards. The Red Bulls youngster is being watched by a handful of clubs in Spain, England and Germany and his excellent display in the MLS conference semifinals increases the chances of a postseason move.
10. Get excited about …
Diego Maradona's appointment as Argentina coach. I know, I know, I described the decision as odd and improbable just a few weeks ago, but it will certainly be exciting. Maradona has already made a positive start, jetting over to Europe to meet several of his international players. The look on their faces as they posed for pictures with their idol spoke volumes – this is a man they will fight to the death for.
11. Why it's good to be a soccer player
Check out Nereida Gallardo, the former girlfriend of Cristiano Ronaldo.