I’ve been incredibly blessed as a football supporter over many years to enjoy a host of world-class talents such as Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Eric Cantona, Gianfranco Zola, Diego Maradona, Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Johan Cruyff, and George Best, all of whom were exceptional players. If they were available for transfer, I probably wouldn’t blink at a suggested £150m price tag, but these days the price of a player doesn’t seem to reflect the talent.
In a world where the term genius is applied to anyone who can kick a ball in a straight line over 10 yards or a person that has one or two exceptional seasons, I begin to think that the game and those within it have lost any sense of perspective. Neymar, for instance, was deemed to be worth €222m in 2017, but I got one can’t see any value for money or return for his limited talents and theatrical performances.
From an Arsenal point of view, Henry and Bergkamp were purchased for a combined total of £18.5m, which you’d happily pay for just one. George Best is thought to have been worth £157m at the age of 27 according to About Manchester. Johan Cruyff would be worth £242m according to Planet Football and Pele would be worth a staggering £351m today.
Those valuations and prices tend to add some perspective on the probable transfer of Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund to any one of three Premier League clubs. Having established the track records and talent of the giants of the game, is the £150m price tag really accurate for Haaland?
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Of course not, but football is now the sporting equivalent of a fashion accessory, where the few elite clubs compete to own the latest talents to sell shirts, put bums in seats, and hopefully win trophies. It’s probably time for a ceiling to be introduced for transfer fees and wages because the game seems about to implode under an avalanche of debt which simply isn’t sustainable.
I have maintained for some time that a high-profile club will eventually go into receivership. This will happen, especially when you realise that Barcelona are in nearly £1.1b in debt and they have few ways to make up those kinds of losses without major sales and a complete rethink to their expenditure approach.
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