It’s just a dead rubber, they say, nothing is riding on it. Right? WRONG.
As the final weekend of the Premier League season approaches with all the crescendo of a pre-school orchestra, with the title and relegation questions already answered, it’s easy to forget the one major motivation in football these days.
The sport might be lacking drama and intrigue on its last day – all bar the monumentally over-hyped Champions League ‘race’ between Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal – but there is still cash to be divvied up.
In fact, the difference between three points and none on the final afternoon of the campaign could be as much as £13.3million for some clubs – enough only to fund a raid for a second-string midfielder, perhaps, but still not exactly insignificant.
It’s all because of the Premier League’s merit league – the breakdown of cash payments made to clubs depending on their finishing positions in the division.
Some are already set in stone – Chelsea, for instance, will bag a very tidy £38million for winning the title, Spurs are guaranteed second and therefore £36.1million, Everton have made seventh their own and that’s worth £26.6million and even Hull, relegated in 18th, will take home £5.7million.
But for others, there is still much to be decided. Particularly in midtable – the traditional hotbed for ‘being on the beach’ early.
So while games such as Southampton-Stoke and Swansea-West Brom couldn’t set a caffeine addict’s pulse racing, there is at least something riding on it.
For some, that cash will matter more than others.
There are many clubs for whom the prize money on offer isn’t hugely noteworthy. Leicester, for instance, still revelling in their miracle title triumph of 12 months ago and a lucrative Champions League campaign which followed, can finish in any position between eighth and 15th (£24.7million to £11.4milion). Yet the Foxes have a wealth of riches to fall back on anyway – their record signing, Islam Slimani, cost £5million more than the biggest prize they can possibly collect from the Premier League this term.
And how much will West Ham, after all the glitz and glamour (and ultimately disappointment) of their move to the Olympic Stadium, covet that same £10million or so?
For teams like Burnley, who play West Ham at Turf Moor on Sunday, the scenario is different. Much, much different.
The Clarets could finish as high as 11th, a £19million payday. Or as low as 15th, for £11.4million. That £7.6million difference is roughly the fee paid to Brentford for Andre Gray, the man whose goals have kept them in the top flight this season.
While some clubs will choose to rest and rotate this weekend, therefore – Jose Mourinho, we’re looking at you – it would not be surprising to see some managers encouraged to make the most of the opportunities afforded to them by the insane prizes made available by the Premier League.
After all, money really does make the world go round.