talkSPORT’s Ian Cruise explains why escalating transfer fees are no problem…
There has been much hand wringing and shaking of heads over Gonzalo Higuaín’s £75million move from Napoli to Juventus. But why? So what?
Yes, it currently makes him the third most expensive player in the history of the game (about to be relegated to fourth once Paul Pogba’s long drawn out move to Manchester United is completed), and that is patently ridiculous for a 29-year-old who is the third best striker in his country, behind Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero, let alone the world.
But it doesn’t matter. To all intents and purposes, transfer fees are now completely irrelevant.
Yes, it’s clearly better for the selling club to wring every last pound, euro, rouble or Chinese yuan they can out of the buying club, but why should Juve quibble over giving Napoli a few extra quid when United are about to hand them £100m for a player they let go for virtually nothing four years ago?
And yes, I know lower division clubs rely on the income generated from growing their own and selling them on (or perhaps more realistically they used to), but when was the last time a Premier League side took a proper chance on one of them?
Sure, they’ll snap up promising youngsters from academies for a song in the hope they will continue their progression and make the breakthrough, but that’s a low-risk strategy. They no longer need to shop in the bargain basement of the Football League, simply because they are swimming in cash.
Back in the day, the 83 goals in 159 games Jordan Rhodes scored for Blackburn in the Championship would have earned him a move to the top-flight. Instead, they saw him transferred to same division rival, Middlesbrough.
Meanwhile, 12 months later, Chelsea splash out £33m on 22-year-old Belgian striker, Michy Batshuayi. Let’s be honest, barely anyone in SW6, or anywhere else outside Marseille for that matter, had heard of Batshuayi until he scored for his country against the Republic of Ireland at Euro 2016 little over a month ago.
But that’s where we’re at, and that’s why players like Sadio Mane, Eric Bailly and Batshuayi have been sold for sums around the £30m mark this summer. And why Liverpool are holding out for £32m for Christian Benteke, a player who, by any definition of the word, has been a flop at Anfield.
It doesn’t matter.
In 1992-93, the first season of the Premier League, the 22 clubs in the division shared £38m in prize money between them. Last season, Aston Villa were rewarded to the tune of £66m for finishing a thoroughly pathetic campaign rock bottom. This season, that figure for gross under-achievement is set to rise to an eye-watering £100m.
So you see, money doesn’t matter.
A mere 20 years ago this week, Alan Shearer joined Newcastle from Blackburn for a world record fee of £15m. But he was a player who had scored 30-plus goals in each of the three previous Premier League seasons, winning the title along the way. For that sum (although huge at the time), Toon boss Kevin Keegan was pretty much buying the best in the business.
Almost 40 years ago, in February 1979, the football world was aghast when Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough splashed out £1m (or £999,999) depending on which story you believe) to sign Trevor Francis from Birmingham. Three months later, he scored the goal that won the European Cup.
Is Mane going to win Liverpool the Premier League title this season? Unlikely. Will Benteke, if Crystal Palace cave in and the pay the fee Liverpool want for him, elevate the Eagles to the riches on offer in the top four? Doubtful.
But none of that matters.
Transfer fees are no longer a guide as to how good a player is. A transfer fee is only a number.
And it will continue to be that way while football has more money than it knows what to do with.