Domestically and abroad, Premier League clubs are being ridiculed for the money they are spending.
I have seen it on Twitter every day during this window and, frankly, I think it’s stupid.
Not the money that English clubs are spending on talented players, but the ridicule itself. The value of money is fairly relative, is it not? Relative to your income and your worth. In that regard, English clubs aren’t doing a bad job.
There are a few issues with the perception of foreign imports, and I’m going to use Roberto Firmino to highlight them.
Firmino has signed for Liverpool, who parted with over £28M to bring him in from German side TSG Hoffenheim. The Brazilian is a huge talent. He can score goals but is chiefly a creator, fantastic at dribbling and equally adept at picking out the final pass. Defensively he puts a shift in too, and will prove to be a massive addition if Liverpool use him correctly (centrally) as they look to take the blow of losing Raheem Sterling.
As Bundesliga clubs don’t have as much money as those in the Premier League. Tottenham’s revenue was €215.8M in 2014, the sixth highest in England but more than everyone in Germany made other than Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund brought in. Eight Premier League clubs were in Europe’s top 20 for revenue from the 2013/14 season, 14 Premier League clubs made the top 30. There’s no doubting what is the most lucrative league in Europe.
From the Bundesliga only Bayern Munich have spent more in total this summer than Liverpool spent on Firmino, so his fee is naturally laughed at in Germany, but it’s more than affordable for Liverpool. When Liverpool’s yearly revenue is £255.6M (and rising) why is it odd to spend £28M on a player you expect to improve you greatly?
Roberto Firmino costs more than the average Bundesliga player because most players in the league stay in Germany. When selling to England it’s perfectly obvious that a higher price can be demanded, as English clubs have more money. It doesn’t make it a waste or overspending when, realistically, £28M (€38M) to a club like Liverpool is, for Bundesliga sides, equivalent to the price of four of the best players.
It may look a lot of money to German fans, but it isn’t in the context of what Liverpool have.
Closer to home, the fee is laughed at due to pure ignorance. The fact is the number of people who watch the Premier League regularly and have seen Firmino in action often enough to have a real opinion on him is incredibly limited. (Before you question me on this, I watch German football and appear on a weekly Bundesliga podcast. I’ve seen a hell of a lot of Firmino in recent years and am pretty jealous that Liverpool snapped him up.)
Have you seen Premier League fans laughing with derision at that purchase? They haven’t considered that Liverpool lost a crucial attacking player and bought Firmino for about 60% of the fee they brought in for Raheem Sterling.
Raheem Sterling who, by the way, was a bargain. Manchester City desperately needed homegrown players, and it’s incredibly difficult to find one talented enough and ready to play for a team that aspires to win the Champions League.
To find a 20 year-old already prepared to play regular football at the very highest level? Wow. The homegrown premium is one thing but Manchester City have signed a world class talent who will only get better and could be an asset for the next decade.
Either Sterling – who would cost £50M regardless of nationality – will stay at City for that long or they will more than make their money back on him anyway when he leaves for one of the Spanish giants.
If he does stay for, say, eight years, the outlay is just £6.25M a year for a player who can make the difference against any opponent – that’s how good Sterling is. He creates a huge amount and he has shown the ability to score. He’s a fantastic dribbler and incredibly aware, all that packaged nicely in a tiny player who has lightning acceleration.
How much do you think Eden Hazard is worth? Now imagine having the chance to sign him four years ago, when he was Sterling’s age. The Englishman will prove to be a bargain for City.
Those prices will only go up as the television money floods into the Premier League. The commercial money is increasing too, and fees will go up accordingly.
There is simply more money in the Premier League from top to bottom, so why is it seen as peculiar that Swansea City and Aston Villa can blow European sides out of the water to attract talents like André Ayew and Adama Traoré from top European clubs like Olympique Marseille and Barcelona respectively?
Money in the game goes up, transfer fees and wages go up. That’s not rocket science. The Premier League are simply reaping the rewards after seizing the initiative to market the league well (with some helpful things like the language being spoken worldwide) and can now push on to become by far the most competitive major league in the world.
With our current team there are only incremental improvements that can be made at Arsenal. Unfortunately those small improvements cost a lot.
Let’s say the ‘top tier’ of European strikers contains Luis Suárez, Sergio Agüero, Robert Lewandowski and Karim Benzema (Messi and Ronaldo don’t count as they are freaks and unattainable). A few years ago Robin van Persie and Zlatan Ibrahimović dined at this particular table.
Arsenal arguably have a ‘second tier’ number nine in Olivier Giroud right now. He’s not at the aforementioned elite level but is probably in the next bracket alongside the likes of Pierr Emerick-Aubameyang, Diego Costa, Wayne Rooney and Mario Mandžukić.
There is a clear issue with signing a guy who significantly improves upon what Arsène Wenger has at his disposal already. They already play at huge clubs. That means the club have to be willing to sell and, if they are, you have to pay an incredibly high fee.
If you have Yaya Sanogo up front signing an upgrade won’t be costly. If you want an upgrade on a player who is already very good anyway, you have to spend a hell of a lot.
Would I spend £50M on Benzema if Real Madrid are willing to play ball? Hell yes. Improving an Arsenal squad is difficult and you can only make small gains, so you have to pay a lot to make them. You don’t turn your nose up at Karim Benzema and, though it seems a lot of money for a 28 year-old, any proven world class player who can instantly improve the team will cost that much.
It may seem a lot but he could be the difference between a draw and a loss at Stamford Bridge, and he could make the difference in a Champions League semi-final. Having a world class striker is priceless, regardless of the cost.
There is still room in English football for clubs who act frugally. I’m not urging manic spending sprees.
*Resists the urge to point at Liverpool again, this time to laugh.*
Southampton have shown a model of sorts for other clubs to follow in order to punch above their weight. Develop potential or buy cheap talent from poor leagues, develop and sell, repeat.
It’s not quite that simple and certainly easier when you have a tactically astute manager in charge of the team. Borussia Mönchengladbach have done it excellently in Germany now thanks to the work of Max Eberl and Lucien Favre, but it’s rare to do it so well.
Finding gems for cheap is still possible but the prices are only going to be driven up further by Premier League teams, and I don’t see why that’s such a bad thing.
Let’s keep this purely football related before hoards of Twitter-people demand the interest in Raheem Sterling’s bank account goes to a charity for guide dogs.
There’s a lot of money in football. Deal with it.
Southampton have built a brilliant infrastructure and a bigger squad thanks to the rash behaviour of Liverpool’s transfer committee.
Selling Firmino has allowed TSG Hoffenheim to build a far bigger squad as they look to break into Europe. Raheem Sterling’s transfer has seen Liverpool give £32M to Aston Villa, who have invested well to bring exciting and malleable talents like Jordan Ayew Jordan Amavi, Jordan Veretout and Adama Traoré to the Premier League.
Palermo’s financial worries have been quelled by selling Paulo Dybala to Juventus this summer as they spread their wealth through Serie A.
The wealth in football is being shared by big money transfers, and that big money isn’t as big as it seems. To the clubs spending it you have to see it in relation to what they bring in.
Higher transfer fees are ultimately making clubs all over Europe’s top flights stronger either financially or on the field itself. That can only be a goid thing.