Transfers – Cost v Worth

Transfers – Cost v Worth
June 30, 2014 Chris Rowland

By TTT Subscriber Ben Feltham.

It all started with an innocuous line on a forum thread: “I’d take Lallana for 15m, but no way 25m”.

There it was, writ large in less than ten words, everything that depresses me about this new notion of football support. As much as one can lose it on an internet forum, I lost it, (it was the no way that did it) and thus I began a ten-page cyberwar with a group of posters, me in a frenzied need to remove the scales from their eyes, they, ‘not even knowing what I was on about’. What they didn’t know, couldn’t know, was that this was maybe ten years in the making, a decade in which the very notion of what being a fan is has to my mind inexplicably changed; from a world where we (the fans) are primarily concerned with the quality of the player coming in to another where we are irrationally burdened with weird notions of not being made to look like mugs. From a world where we are eager to smash transfer records to another where our verbiage seems a closer fit with football accountancy then football support.

I understand the what of this very well, it’s the why I can’t be definitive about; the Internet? Abramovich? 24hr Sport media and tabloid Britain? Football Manager? The democratisation of football support? Hicks & Gillett? Maybe a bit of all of the above? Regardless, this seemingly reasonable one-liner appeared to me as a neat and nimble exemplar of how a new generation of fans see the natural way of supporting their club in this post Twitter world of planet football.

See, the understandable answer to ‘Why would you want him for 15million but not 25, either he is a player you want us to get or he’s not?’ would be: ‘We have a set amount to spend, and by overpaying on Lallana, we won’t have enough left for other purchasers I feel we need’.

Almost flawless logic; almost, as the only real evidence we have of FSG’s transfer strategy (for evidence read  players we were definitely in for) seems to suggest we don’t so much work to a budget as to a set of values (I mean values in the economic sense, not ethical 😉 ) i.e. we pursue and fail to recruit Mkhitaryan, Costa and Willian for £22, £21 and £30 million respectively in the same window, or Salah for £8 million and then Konoplyanka for £16m. As if it’s the worth we place on the player that is paramount, not a set amount overall. The other issue with this argument is that even if we did have a set budget, we couldn’t possible know what that budget was – obviously, a budget needs to be kept quiet for good reason – so to direct such focus on, for example, this £10 million difference on Lallana’s value is illogical if you’ve no idea of the size of the pie to start with. Doesn’t that then make all this excessive chatter about price from us fans really just a big waste of time?

The thing is though, this isn’t usually what people say. Instead they base their argument on a pretty admirable notion of what they believe the player is worth. Not much to rail at there Ben, you might be thinking. However this seems to occupy about 90% of transfer discussion. Surely these are questions for the CFO or MD or the finance people? I would rather we were preoccupied with whether he is ‘the missing link’ / ‘will offer more than we have’ / ‘is better than X in the hole’ – you know, things to do with football, not finance. Surely as fans, this is where our passions should lie?

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