Money matters

KEITH BRADFORD -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

There will be tears and laughter, sadness and joy.

Champions will be crowned and others will endure the pain of defeat. But when the post-celebration and commiseration hangovers finally wear off, the real action starts.

Chairmen dust off their chequebooks. Agents charge up their cellphones. And players start to feel unsettled. But not necessarily in that order.

In fact, if this week is anything to go by, the waiting is already over - despite the fact that the season isn't done.

Chelsea - having already won its first English league championship in 50 years - has already unveiled its shopping list (a left back, a midfielder and a striker). And a suitably impoverished club (Italy's Parma, in this case), is already talking up the value of its star player (about $80 million for Alberto Gilardino at the last count).

"No player has scored as many goals as Gilardino and with such continuity," Parma administrator Luca Baraldi told the BBC.

Which all points to a drawn-out, messy transfer several months down the line. Revelations about Baraldi's lifelong dream to play for club X, Y and/or Z notwithstanding.

Fast forward to a few weeks from now - by which time Barcelona will likely have wrapped up the Spanish title and Juventus or AC Milan will have done the same in Italy - and the real bidding wars will start.

Chelsea, Madrid, Milan and Manchester will finally go head to head where it seems to matter most - off the field. So before a ball is kicked in anger. Before we start arguing about touchline bans, biased referees and goals that shouldn't have been allowed to stand, the game's galacticos will be bought and sold.

And after the unofficial summer spending champion is crowned, the drama of it all will leave us all wondering if the forthcoming season really matters. Because, if the last few years are anything to by, it may already be won or lost.

HAIR TODAY: The game already comes a distant second to money in the eyes of many.

And for one eccentric soccer coach, it's third behind his beloved moustache.

When CSKA Moscow was dumped out of the champions league, coach Valery Gazzayev made a promise to the team's fans.

If the club that was bankrolled away from obscurity by the proceeds of oil company sponsorship deals made it to the UEFA Cup Final, he vowed to shave off his trademark bushy moustache. But after his team capped a fairytale season by beating Italian club Parma in the semifinals, the 50-year-old had a change of heart.

"I have received numerous messages from our fans in the last few days, urging me to keep my moustache and bring the cup home to Moscow instead."

Which all goes to show that, to paraphrase the great Bill Shankly, soccer isn't a matter of life and death, it's far more important than that.

Unless it gets in the way of selling soccer jerseys. Or keeping your moustache.


Photos