Record breaking transfer sums have snatched the recent football headlines as Europe’s largest clubs exchange players for vast sums of money. Cast your eye over some of the smaller nations however, and the contrast is stark.
While Chelsea acquired another star striker to reinforce their squad as we approach the 2011 denouement, Czech champions Sparta Praha have sold their leading marskman Bony Wilfried to Vitesse Arnhem for a meagre €4million.
On the surface this appears a rather poor bit of business. Sparta intend to win the Gambrinus League each year and in order to overhaul Autumn’s surprise package Plzen, one would expect them to hold on to key players in their search for the title. In spite of this and their forthcoming lucrative tie against Liverpool in Europe, Sparta have cashed in on both Wilfried and their Slovakian midfield lynchpin, Juraj Kucka.
However Sparta will be pleased with their winter business. In Czech football €4million is quite a windfall, which underlines the wealth disparity between the EPL juggernaught and the Gambrinus League. What plays in Sparta’s favour is that (with Slavia out of the financial picture) the talent vacuum is filled by the best of Sparta’s rivals. In this instance, fourth-placed Jablonec have allowed the league’s second leading striker Tomáš Pekhart to join Sparta on loan until the end of the season.
Young Pekhart has bagged 11 goals already this season pushing Jablonec into fourth spot as an outsider for the title. Not any more. It seems quite a peculiarity that a championship rival appears only too happy to adhere to Sparta’s needs. It is similar to Newcastle allowing Andy Carroll to join Liverpool, but without£35million ever entering the equation.
Jablonec coach Komnácky justifies the transfer by reconciling that Jablonec are a “provincial” club in austere times. Sparta have no option to buy, so presumably Jablonec are hoping Pekhart’s value will heighten at Sparta and they can cash in over the summer.
It seems unthinkable that clubs could sell their ambition this way but such is the financial predicament of Czech football. Plzen are chasing their first ever title and look to be locked in a two way battle with Sparta over the Spring, yet they have also sold key performers despite their unexpectedly favourable position.
Czech football’s poverty coupled with its enforced 3 month winter break means that clubs in the Gambrinus League are forced to break-up and rebuild squads twice each season. The Spring first XI often has a wildly different complexion to that seen during Autumn, which prohibits any consistency and obstructs the development of the Gambrinus League and its players. It is an infuriating reality to adjust to when following the have-nots of European football.