Norwich City and Manchester City - feast or famine at English football’s top table
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
When Norwich and Manchester City step onto the Carrow Road pitch this weekend it will be a meeting of Premier League extremes.
Never has the gulf between the Canaries and one of their opponents been as stark.
The Qatar-owned visitors are the most expensively assembled squad in the top flight - while the Canaries are at the opposite end of that particular table.
The Manchester giants have become the first team to have cost more than one billion Euros - which puts Norwich's mere 32m Euros outlay into sharp perspective.
It means Pep Guardiola has spent 32 times more than Daniel Farke in putting together his squad for the 2019-20 campaign.
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If ever there was a fixture in one domestic division that reflected the incredible financial divides in English football, it is at Carrow Road on Saturday evening.
It seems almost inconceivable that a football club can spend one billion Euros on assembling a squad of men to play football.
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It's the sort of out-of-this-world figure that might have a place in a Brexit fibber's PR strategy, but in our most popular sport it will one day become the norm.
Four decades ago, Trevor Francis became the country's first £1m player, so it's easy to work out which direction the game is continuing to take. One billion Euro squads will be far from unique. One day.
Manchester City's most expensive player is Rodri, who cost £62m. To put that into some sort of context ahead of their trip to Carrow Road this weekend, Norwich have never paid out more than £10m on a player.
The fee for Rodri is now considered to be the norm: the Premier League champions have set a standard which means only the very best players get to pull on the shirt.
To get to the top you cannot afford mistakes, therefore you don't take risks. When you have the ability to splash out huge amounts, you take advantage. The best produce the best, in theory.
Pep Guardiola is a tactical genius, he has put together a special squad, but he has spent a lot of money doing it. But if he had the same budget as Daniel Farke, how successful would he be? No one is denying his abilities as a coach, but the money goes an awful long way to creating a title-winning squad. And I doubt we will ever know the answer to the question because Guardiola will never be working in a cash-less society.
This isn't sour grapes, either, but if Manchester City finish second in the Premier League, Guardiola will be a man under pressure, because the club's owners expect a dividend for their outlay, in the shape of the Premier League trophy - and more.
There was a time when managers were sacked if their club was relegated. Today, finishing anywhere other than top puts you 'at risk'. And it is because of the telephone number transfers that Manchester City and their closest rivals deal in.
The pressure to remain at the top of the tree means you have to spend big, although it helps when you are financed by an oil-rich Middle East country. Manchester City are Qatari. Norwich are more Iceland.
For Daniel Farke, success will be finishing fourth from bottom, especially when you look at the spending table and see the team immediately above them, Sheffield United, have invested twice as much in their squad building - £32m plays £64m. That is a huge gap between the sides that finished top and second in the Championship last season.
This is where Farke's coaching ability really does come to the fore, because it has to. Farke is unable to buy success, he has to make it himself.
If Norwich stay in the Premier League for a few seasons, then football's evolutionary ladder (vicious circle to some) will see them spend more and more, because they will have more and more - and (not to labour the point) more and more will be needed to ensure survival. As they have declared, very publicly, that they intend to be self sufficient, then survival and the TV revenue it brings will be needed to avoid the need to sell their most valuable assets.
Should they be relegated, those assets go, and the job of getting back to the top flight is, obviously, much more difficult - although they would have incoming transfer revenue. Which is where the trick of signing free transfers like Teemu Pukki becomes even more necessary and more remarkable.
Guardiola doesn't have to worry about finding a free transfer signing. Farke does.
Which is why, according to statistics in a report by CIES Football Observatory, Manchester City have spent 1.015bn Euros on this season's squad. Manchester United are closest to that, with a cost of 751m Euros, with Liverpool third on 639m.
At the bottom, Norwich have spent 32m, Sheffield United 64m and Burnley 132m.
If you think the gap between this weekend's Carrow Road combatants is wide, then think again: in La Liga, Real Madrid's 902m Euros is 148 times more than Mallorca's outlay.
Manchester City 1.014bn
Manchester Utd 751m
West Ham 259m
Aston Villa 214m
Crystal Palace 208m
Sheffield Utd 64m
Norwich City 32m