Transfer Fees: The Pointless Comparisons
By George Ogier
Love it or hate it – and football fans seem to be drawn into two distinct tribes on the subject – it’s transfer window time. Officially opened almost three weeks ago but debated throughout the season, we’re in the midst of that period when ideas of squad rebuilding are rife in the minds of fans and club directors alike.
Personally, I love it. I can convince myself that my team, Tottenham Hotspur are going to sign the striker they so desperately need. For two months I can dream that Emmanuel Adebayor won’t still be at the club on the first of September. Yes, I’m the guy who gets more enjoyment from putting together a squad on FIFA 13 than from playing the football bits. I love transfers.
My desire for new names on shirts and worries about work permits being linked to international appearances is a well-worn emotion. However, there is one thing about the transfer window guaranteed to boil my piss quicker than an inappropriately used Teasmaid. The comparison of transfer fees.
Every six months we hear the familiar cry of “he’s not a £10 million player!” or “ho, ho, ho, £35 million for Andy Carroll. That must mean Liverpool think he’s better than blah blah blah ”. This kind of talk is the backbone of transfer chit-chat and quite frankly it’s moronic.
Like most businesses a football transfer is governed by market forces. The value of a player is dictated by two simple things, how much the purchasing club is willing to pay and how much the club selling is willing to accept. Sure, goals scored, assists provided, clean sheets kept are all factors but the value placed on these attributes mean nothing if a sale fails to occur.
There are other things to consider too like wages and contract length with the club holding the player’s registration. Someone pointed out yesterday that Sunderland acquired the services of Italian international Emanuele Giaccherini for £1.5m less than it might have cost to secure Blackpool’s championship player, Tom Ince. That point would be almost as ridiculous were Ince and Giaccherini the same age, nationality and style of player.
Look at the deals which took Andy Carroll permanently to West Ham and Carlos Tevez to Juventus. Carroll went for around £15m and Tevez around £10m. There are people who will scoff at the price difference and say that West ham have been sold a pup. Yes, Tevez is almost certainly a better player than Carroll but it is worth noting that Manchester City have got a reported £17m off their wage bill plus they have sold a player with a history of causing trouble.
How can we as fans really know how much a player is worth, let alone bellow these proclamations with such ferocity? It would take an intimate knowledge of a football club’s long term strategies and tactics, both of which we rarely, if ever, have. There are so many variables present in every deal that is impossible for us as outsiders to gauge anything remotely useful from transfer fees alone.
I’m have no idea when we reached the point in football where if player X costs a certain amount then player Y should only cost a fraction of that. Spending money on a footballer is not the same as buying a car. There isn’t a guide price for purchasing human beings (at least not any more, thank goodness).
Let’s imagine a player, we’ll call him Billy Wondergoal. Billy is a transfer target for both Midtable Wanderers and Topfour Rovers. To Wanderers, Billy is a player who might help the side push for a European place. For Rovers, Billy is decent addition to the squad and will be handy for the rotation system. It’s highly likely that the two clubs will have a different idea of what Billy is worth simply because he is of different value to the team. He is still the same player but one team will be prepared to spend more to sign him.
It would appear to be a simple idea and yet people get frothy-mouthed with rage at the prices involved. Comparisons of transfer fees is like counting grains of rice in a paella, time consuming and ultimately pointless. People say Andy Carroll isn’t a £35m footballer but that’s exactly what he is. Why? Because Liverpool decided that Carroll was worth spending that much on at the time. You or I have no idea what a footballer’s definitive value is simply because there is no such thing. It’s time to stop pretending that we do.