The world of football – defying the recession and common sense

About four months ago the world of football was turned on its head by several massive transfers.  In fact the previous record for a sale of a player (Zinidine Zidane in 2001) was broken four times this past summer, and I find it unbelievable that not only was the small matter of a global recession totally ignored by certain clubs but also any shred of common sense on the part of some managers/chairmen was thrown out the window in order to sign their key targets.  The most insane one for me saw Zlatan Ibrohimovic sold to Barcelona for nearly €70 million – and saw a better player go the other way in Samuel Eto’o.  €70 million + Eto’o for a player who can only really perform well against inferior opposition, at first I thought the deal was simply a straight swap which I could have just about understood but I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard that so much money had also been exchanged.  At the time the footballing world had gone mad.

Ibrahimovic's transfer was the most ridiculous in history

Fast-forward to the present day and we’re roughly six weeks away from the transfer window reopening in January, meaning all sorts of rumours are flying around regarding potential player transfers.  There seems to be an after effect of clubs spending €90 million here and €65 million there from the summer though, as evident by certain rumours I read about just this morning.We’ll start at the more reasonable valuation of Liverpool’s Ryan Babel and Andrea Dossena, who according to the BBC say “Rafa Benitez hopes to raise £15 million from the sale of defender Dossena and forward Babel – and wants to splash some of the cash on Hamburg striker Eljero Elia.”  Presumably he means £15 million for the pair of them, but in the crazy world it wouldn’t surprise me if he wanted that much money for each of them.  Both players join a long list of Anfield flops, but considering the price Benitez paid for them (about £19 million for the pair) losing out on £4 million seems reasonable.

From the reasonable to the insanenow, we come to the transfer speculation surrounding Everton’s Jack Rodwell.  The teenager is wanted by both Chelsea and Manchester United so they obviously see a lot of potential in him, but while Chelsea have already offered a ridiculous £14 million and United are planning on a £16 million bid Everton are in fact demanding £20 million for the kid.  This is a player who hasn’t even made thirty appearances for the senior team, and they want the equivalent of what Liverpool paid for Fernando Torres two years ago.  If you had £20million to spend on either one of the best strikers in the world or a teenager who’s rarely played at senior level, who would you pick?

It doesn’t end there either.  According to The News of The World website Manchester City have had a £36 million offer accepted for Angel di Maria of Benfica.  I know exactly what you’re thinking – who?  £36 million is more than the amount spent on such global superstars as Gianluigi Buffon, Dimitar Berbatov, Christian Vieri, Hernan Crespo and even Robinho, and this is a player who’s only made three appearances for Argentina and hasn’t exactly set the footballing world on fire from what I can gather.  A couple of years ago £36 million could buy a club almost anything, since the big money moves of certain players more recently it gets a 21 year old Argentine who I’d imagine hardly anybody outside Portugal and Argentina have even heard of.

These examples just go to show that too much money has been spent on players recently, so much so that certain managers are demanding outrageous amounts for practically anybody.  Perhaps a bigger problem is with the clubs willing to pay the asking price, I’m not surprised that Manchester City are spending what they’re spending considering their bottomless money pit but I am somewhat bemused by Manchester United and Chelsea already willing to spend £15 million (probably rising to £20 million) on a virtually unproven teenager.  In lots of ways it’s something that needs to end soon before clubs go bankrupt, but on the other hand it’s good for the smaller clubs making a huge profit.  Everton have already cashed in on Wayne Rooney in recent years and will definitely get a sizeable fee for Rodwell regardless of the final price he’s sold for, but ultimately players need to have a more realistic price slapped on them.  Jack Rodwell is worth no more than £5 or £6 million, the unknown Argentine certainly isn’t worth £36 million and Cristiano Ronaldo (probably) wasn’t worth the £80 million Real Madrid paid for him.  It’s a mad, mad world.

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Posted on November 15, 2009, in Sport and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I wholeheartedly agree, but I also think times are changing.

    You say – quite correctly in my opinion – that Rodwell, at this stage at least, shouldn’t be worth more than £5m or £6m – perhaps further down his career yes, a more sizeable sum could be possible, but at this stage I’d say that’s about right.

    However, consider football just 15 or 16 years ago – Roy Keane moves to Manchester United for a British record £3.75m. At the time, the papers were asking whether THIS youngster was really worth that kind of money. So, unfortunately, £36m for the likes of di Maria could well dictate the worrying trend of football players costing what they are worth to their new club, and no longer what they were valued at by their present (or former, after the deal goes through) club.

    As a Sunderland fan, I will openly admit to scoffing when we paid so much for Darren Bent – but as it turns out, it could even prove a bargain to US because of the goals he can clearly bring to Wearside – he’s one of the best signings the Cats have made (along with certain others of course), and as a result his fee just seems to be forgotten.

    However, your comments about the Ibrohimovic transfer (with Eto’o going the other way PLUS cash – crazy) is spot on, and in a global recession you just think football has really outgrown its own working class, grass-root limitations and become a global phenomenon – of course it is a beautiful game, but the money is in serious danger of initially saturating the game completely – we are not far from that now in my opinion, at least not in the higher echelons of the sport – and at some stage the big clubs will get richer and richer while the smaller, less wealthy clubs will just fall by the wayside.

    It’s sad really.

  2. *EDIT*

    This is a bloody blog post in its own right, sorry about this. 😛

    Well said, and the whole situation is causing the massive gap in quality between the big clubs of world football and all the others beneath them further and further. The English Premiership is the best example with our Big 4 clubs, basically nobody apart from Manchester City (who have themselves spent millions in an attempt to keep up with them) can touch them and as usual there will no doubt be at least a 10 point gap between whoever finishes fourth and fifth. Liverpool are in danger of losing their place but I have little doubt that the team will settle and either finish third of fourth. There’s only so far a great manager and a couple of low-key signings who turn out to be excellent can take you, cases in point Martin O’Neill with Aston Villa or Harry Redknapp with Tottenham. They’re both great managers with decent squads but they’re not going to break into the top 4 just yet. Arsenal are about the only team who can get away with it, but they are an, erm, exceptional exception.

    I really like what you’ve said about Roy Keane and Jack Rodwell, I think more and more clubs are wanting to sell their players for what they’ll be worth in the long run rather than what they’re worth today. Rodwell may well be a £20 million-rated player one day and Everton are keen to get that value out of him right now regardless of how unrealistic the price on his head may be, but that didn’t happen with Roy Keane – had Brian Clough known he would become one of the best midfield generals to ever play the game he would have probably easily quadrupled his asking price.

    But yeah, all this money being thrown around is saturating the game. Most world-class players only want to go to either Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona or Milan – or Manchester City if money is more important than anything else. It makes life increasingly harder for clubs who not only can’t afford the ever-inflating costs of these players but have little chance of luring the players to their clubs even if they could. The smaller clubs are relying more and more on rare bargain signings and a great manager, the problem there is most chairman don’t give them the chance to really show what they can do. Look at Sam Allardyce when he was as Newcastle, fair enough his record was unspectacular but it was supposed to be a gradual process of climbing up the table in the same way he’d done with Bolton beforehand. The trouble was the chairman (and a lot of fans) wanted to see Newcastle back as a top 6 side with immediate effect which simply wasn’t going to happen without a couple of years for the manager to get his team exactly how he wants it. Of course Allardyce got sacked and the club ultimately ended up in the Championship which says it all.

    The point is that money seems to be everything in the game which does indeed saturate it. Sometimes it works for the likes of Sunderland with Bent but in my opinion no player in the world is worth more than £30 million let alone nearly three times that that a certain someone was bought for, which means that unless you support one of the big five or six European clubs you’re more than likely going to be in for a mediocre season with literally nothing of interest happening or a struggling one with the fear of losing your best players and the threat of relegation staring you in the face. These are tough times for clubs and a lot of supporters, and it is indeed sad.

  3. Nice Article – Some history making football transfers buys there. I agree the €70 million + Eto’o for Ibrahimovic was crazy.

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