Let’s stop comparing transfer fees

In little over two months, the 2014 summer transfer window will “slam shut” across Europe. A few associations close their windows earlier in the day and a couple try to hang on for an extra hour or two; but on September 1st 2014 there will be a huge sigh of relief that the whole thing is over.

The transfer window since it’s inception, has been polarising across the game. There are two apparent camps. Those that love the condensed time, the TV reporters at every ground reporting on whose car has shown up and the flashy TV build up that the whole is framed with; and those loathe it as a further extension of modern football veering wildly out of control and away from the fans that helped establish football as the biggest sport in the world.

I feel dirty knowing that I really enjoy it. Three months of the season can be spent fawning over rival players and conjuring up ways that they’ll become part of Manchester United’s set-up. Super teams including Cristiano Ronaldo, Christian Eriksen, Thiago, Arturo Vidal, Robin van Persie and Robert Lewandowski on FIFA 14 can be built and I’ll be able to tell myself that we’ll forget about the “David Moyes months” in due course.

Transfers, new signings, new squad numbers, work permits; the whole lot is an intriguing part of football. Now that the whole process has been squashed into two parts of the season, it simply ramps up the levels of enjoyment. Don’t get me wrong. There are times when I know it’s all pointless and that transfer rumours are simply being used to drive web traffic and sell newspapers. I get that and I read many of the “scoops” with my eyes wide open to their motives. But who doesn’t enjoy fantasising over what might become of their team if they just make three perfect signings? Who doesn’t get drawn by adding a Dutch wonderkid into the midfield along with the breakout French winger of last season and South America’s deadliest finisher?

However; I much like the wonderful George Ogier can’t stand the constant comparisons of transfer fees. Football is far too complex a beast for reported numbers to be looked at in face value only.

Andy Carroll and his £35 million price tag of January 2011 can not be compared to Edin Dzeko costing Manchester City £24 million or Luis Suarez being only £22 million when he moved from Ajax to Liverpool. Andy Carroll and his £15 million transfer of 2013 can’t be related to Carlos Tevez joining Juventus for just £12 million when it was clear Manchester City were desperate to be rid of him. Every single transfer in world football is different. There are controlled and dictated by factors that change depending on the clubs, players, the time of year and the transfers that have gone before them.

Ultimately, it comes down to how much the selling club are willing to accept and how much the buying club are prepared to pay. Of course, if there is more than one team interested then the selling club can gain leverage by butting the two teams against each other.

Take the transfer of Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal to Barcelona. Fabregas wanted to return the club he left as a teenager and made it abundantly clear there wasn’t a single other club in world football that he would consider leaving the Emirates for. That left Barcelona as the single bidder in the auction and they were able to insist on the price they wanted to pay. They knew full well that Fabregas was ready to force his way out of Arsenal to become part of the Catalan club’s first team if Arsene Wenger didn’t accept their offer. Upon signing for €29 million, Fabregas’ attitude in making the move happen was heralded by the Sporting Area Vice President Josep Maria Bartomeu.

In the case of Andy Carroll and his much maligned move to Liverpool; the crux of the matter is the timing. With just three days left in the transfer window, Chelsea made a very big and a very public move for Fernando Torres. The London club bid £50 million for the Spaniard and Liverpool were in no position to refuse. The money was exceptional, the player wanted to leave and the deal could happen quickly. However, they needed their own replacement for their leading man. After Carroll had been identified as that target, Newcastle United were able to use the dwindling time remaining in the transfer period to drive up the price. With just hours left for Liverpool to register new players and no time at all to fully scout alternatives, the Magpies could hold out for as long as they needed to before relenting to an excessive sum of money.

Timing can also go in the opposite direction. An offer early in the summer is more likely to be rejected as the selling club know there is plenty of time to wait on a better deal. That is, of course, unless the buying team go big early on to ensure they get their business finished. That allows the manager plenty of preparation time with his new charges. Jordan Henderson moved to Liverpool for between £16-20 million. The deal was signed, sealed and delivered by June 9th during the summer of 2011. Liverpool went in early, made a handsome offer for Henderson and ensured they didn’t miss out on an exciting English prospect. Additionally, Liverpool had been chasing Phil Jones during the same summer and were beaten to his signature by Manchester United. Another reason to spend slightly more on Henderson and be sure of their man.

Transfers and their fees are too complex to be simply placed alongside each other in their rawest format and scoffed at. Adam Lallana departed Southampton mere hours after Luke Shaw had signed for Manchester United. It’d be foolish to think that Saints didn’t use Liverpool and United’s interest in their two players to drive the other price up. If one left for more £20 million then what interest would the club have in selling the other, except for the player’s own ambitions? As such, both clubs had to make generous offers for their players and Southampton were rewarded handsomely for developing both men into members of England’s World Cup squad. In total, they bagged a reported £57 million.

The behaviour of the player, their form, the happiness of their family, their lack of family, their playing time, their international playing time, the terms and remaining length of their current contract and even a major competition like the World Cup just around the corner are all factors in determining the fees paid. It’s time to stop comparing the reported transfer values with each other as if it is something of a definitive scale.

Transfers happen; enjoy that part when your team makes a new signing and the price appears a little cheap. Just stop getting worked up over 29 year-old Carlos Tevez, a player with a known history of disciplinary problems and huge wage demands being allowed to leave Manchester City for £3 million less than West Ham United signed Andy Carroll, a likely England international for the next seven years and a player they had on loan the season before.

Transfers are too complex to be compared; so let’s try to stop doing it.

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