Football may never be the same again.
The beautiful game has been given a wake-up call by the coronavirus crisis which cannot be ignored.
In fact, it may be time to press the reset button with clubs, players, agents and football authorities taking a long, hard look at themselves ahead of a very different tomorrow.
One leading figure at a top club said this week: “Is it acceptable to pay a player so much money?
“How will the public react if clubs spend hundreds of millions of pounds on a new signing, spend millions on a new contract or pay agents millions to get deals done.
“Everyone thought football was safe but the reality is it is just as vulnerable as other businesses and the days of excess might be a thing of the past.
“One thing’s for sure, football will never be the same again after this.”
The top clubs are all nervous about spending millions on new players when there could be a public backlash with the nation in a desperate state following the pandemic.
They thought their assets – footballers – would only go up in value but nothing is safe and suddenly the value of contracts, players and even TV deals will be worth nothing if everything stops.
There is genuine concern that even if the coronavirus goes away soon it may come back – and football must face up to that and be more frugal.
You are already seeing a knock-on effect with deals and transfers on hold as uncertainty grips the whole of society way beyond just football.
It would be a terrible look for football if, on the back of thousands of deaths and a modern day tragedy together with a global recession, wealthy clubs carry on spending regardless.
They are also facing an uncertain few months because they are desperate to resume games and make sure the multi-billion TV deals are safeguarded but there is in excess of £700m at stake and if another ball is not kicked that cash will have to be paid back.
With hundreds of millions at stake, clubs at all levels are having to be more wary because they genuinely do not know what the future holds.
Of course life goes on and it would be naive to suggest there will never be big deals again in future but it the sheer scale of excess which must come down.
Premier League clubs have spent over £1bn in the last four summer transfer windows, last year reaching an eye watering £1.4bn.
The difference in the future is likely to be a scaling back on that figure because clubs will still want to buy big-name players – but this crisis will represent a moment in time for football.
It proves football is not indestructible, clubs must be more responsible and that is already taking shape as the coronavirus has clearly done more than just prick people’s consciences.
They have become socially aware, more socially responsible with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola donating £920,000 to fight the virus in Spain, Brighton donating tickets to NHS workers, players getting involved and clubs giving big sums to the community.
There has been a reconnection with the real world, the multi-billion pound football industry has perhaps rediscovered its soul through the most devastating, desperate and heart breaking circumstances.
Football does not really matter at times like this and that perhaps highlights that paying players in excess of £300,000-a-week makes no real sense.
Equally, sponsors are likely to be more cautious. In Germany, Bayern Munich, Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach’s players agreed to take a 20 per cent pay cut to help their clubs and game through the crisis.
But amid the generous offer, there is a realisation that while millions of people suffer around the world, no-one wants to see football flaunt its excess. Multi-million pound players can afford to be paid a bit less.
One leading agent admitted that negotiations are going on for smaller deals even amid the crisis – but the big ones are on hold for now until we know where this crisis is heading.
No-one wants to see a player flaunting a new, flash car on the back of a big money move or contract. No-one wants to see £150m spent on a player when their business has gone bust.
That is the reality check facing football and, finally, those at the top of the game have got the message.