The Glazer Family that owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have a bigger task for Tom Brady than any of us can appreciate.
Never mind whether Brady can lead the Bucs to another Super Bowl title. Can he save Manchester United for the Glazers? Or at least save the Glazers from the rabid fans and media that want the Glazers out of soccer?
For those in the United States who don’t make a habit of following such things, the past couple of days have been brutal for the Glazers in England. On Monday morning, powerful soccer analyst Gary Neville made headlines when he called for the Glazers to sell Man U.
“The time has come for the Glazer family to sell the football club,” said Neville, who has almost 5.3 million followers on Twitter. “It’s now.”
That statement was part of an even longer and devastating criticism by Neville of the state of Man U after its 2-1 loss Sunday to Brighton. Man U, which has star Cristiano Ronaldo, was supposed to be revitalized by the addition of new manager Erik ten Hag.
While those names and scores may not mean much to Americans, here’s some perspective: Man U is the European equivalent of the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers or Pittsburgh Steelers. Man U is the most popular club in the history of the Premier League. When it loses, half of all soccer fans are dejected. The other half are elated.
More importantly for the Glazers, the family bought the team in 2005 for $1.5 billion. It is now worth an estimated $4.6 billion, according to Forbes.
Having mentioned the Premier League, the Glazers’ unpopularity in England (and Europe, generally) goes beyond the state of Man U. Joel Glazer, who runs Man U for the family, was one of the leaders of the attempted coup upon the Premier League in 2021, when several wealthy clubs toyed with the idea of creating the Super League.
That move was so unpopular that there were riots and Joel Glazer had to publicly apologize. He figuratively fell on the sword so many times in his statement that you could almost feel his pain and fear amid the groveling.
That’s why it’s worth noting one really important moment from this past offseason that involved Brady.
On March 12, Brady was at a Man U game in England. He was on the pitch with Ronaldo and other players beforehand, giving the English media plenty to write about that day. The next day, Brady announced that he was unretiring and coming back to the Bucs.
Coincidental timing? At this point, nothing Brady does is coincidental. It is all far-reaching and critical. Brady can literally make or break franchises and people as the Bucs, Dolphins, Glazers, Bruce Arians, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and Dolphins minority owner Bruce Beal have found out. Even Brady’s swipe at the NFL Players Association in an IG post last year had impact.
In August, Brady ripped players and the union for the economic gains that the owners have made in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. By October, the NFLPA and Executive Director DeMaurice Smith announced that he would be leaving after his next term. It was the most polite and nicely crafted firing you could imagine.
That’s why some people around the Bucs think that Brady was never leaving Tampa Bay under any circumstances. The Glazers have to keep Brady at all costs and he can use them through an association with Man U to raise his international brand. When rumors started to get out that the Dolphins might want Brady, the Glazers didn’t just push out Arians as coach, they put Brady on stage in Manchester.
Or as one executive put it over the weekend: “There’s a lot of synergy going on right now … I don’t see the Glazers giving him an ownership stake. That’s not the way they do business. But if you’re talking about a job where he does appearances to help them calm the critics, no question.”
Another person with strong ties to the Bucs organization said last week, “That was no accident that Tom was at the Manchester United game that day.”
While Brady’s influence on a European soccer team might be worth questioning, there’s no question that he is a face of legitimacy the Glazers desperately need. So, don’t be surprised at some point if Brady takes on some high-profile role with Man U. It’s not unlike the contract FOX Sports recently did with Brady after losing Troy Aikman, essentially guaranteeing that Brady would start to work for FOX whenever he retires.
Of course, a deal for Brady to work with Man U could be problematic for the Glazers and Brady with the NFL because of the salary cap. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen.