As the Champions League group stage is wrapping up and FA Cup matches will be played for Premier League sides soon, I figured to ask the question, is consistently finishing top four more important for a club, or winning FA Cups, but finishing outside the top four, more important? Normally, clubs do not have to choose whether to finish top four or win the FA Cup; this question is purely hypothetical.
For some background, the FA Cup is the second most prestigious trophy in English soccer after the Premier League title. It is a competition that has large historical significance as it is the oldest club soccer competition in the world. In addition, by winning the FA Cup, a club automatically qualifies for the Europa League. Europa League is the second tier European soccer competition.
Finishing top four does not give a team a trophy. However, it does qualify a club for the Champions League. The Champions League is the first tier European soccer competition and is arguably the most prestigious club soccer competition.
One benefit of winning the FA Cup is the fact that a club gets to win a trophy. Trophies are not easy to come by in English soccer. Having trophies can create a legacy that will forever live on. It is proof that a club did something no other club could that season, and to reward the accomplishment, clubs get a nice piece of silverware.
A second benefit of winning the FA Cup is the payout. A club that wins the FA Cup in the 2020/2021 competition will receive a total of $2,406,687 or £1,800,000. This money is key for paying player wages and even adding to the transfer fund to bring new talent into the club.
The third and final benefit is automatically qualifying for Europa League. Qualifying for the Europa League group stage itself brings in a pretty penny for clubs. The group stage nets $3,074,983 or £2,300,000. This would give a club some wiggle room to bring in a few quality players over the summer to improve the side.
The benefit of finishing in the top four is automatically qualifying for the Champions League. This may not feel like much overall, but it is really important. Qualifying for the Champions League alone nets a club more money than it would if a club won the Europa League competition. Qualifying for the group stage brings in a total of $18,000,000 or £13,463,551 for a club. This gives a team much more opportunity to spend money and bring in quality players to improve a side.
A second, and very important, reason finishing top four and qualifying for the Champions League is beneficial is that it attracts a higher quality of players. For example: current Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Tanguy Ndombele said one of the main reasons he chose to move to Spurs was their consistent presence in the Champions League. The competition attracts young, star talent and it is something that cannot be overlooked. Not only can that talent lead to more top four finishes, but it could possibly even lead to a Premier League title down the line.
When looking at the benefits of the two competitions, I would say that consistently finishing in the top four is more important for a club than multiple FA Cup victories but no top four. If it was a one off year I would lean otherwise, but the benefits of Champions League qualification are too much to pass off for multiple years for a club.