£40m or £50 – how much is too much? That seems to be the question plaguing Pep Guardiola and the hierarchy at Manchester City in this summer’s second most tedious transfer saga.
It is surely one of the most decadent and carefree transfer windows in recent memory and the value of Stones; a player with undoubted ball-playing ability but who is unproven as a defender who can defend, is a key barometer of the spiralling fees that clubs are prepared while jostling for position in England’s top flight.
Arsene Wenger is chasing after Shkodran Mustafi, who looked solid if not completely dominant for Germany in his couple of appearances at the Euros. Meanwhile Alan Pardew has gotten himself all excited and rushed out, like a child with birthday money burning a hole in his pocket, and spent £10m on James Tomkins.
Where then should clubs turn when seeking LIDL-esque value in footballer shaped form? Those who can be picked up with little fanfare and have greatness ready to be coaxed from within?
Let’s start with Toby Alderweireld and Wes Morgan, who were the picks in the 2015-16 PFA team of the year. Both are leaders, reliable and contribute the odd goal or two; in short they are who you want in front of your keeper. Alderweireld was widely considered a snip at around £11m when Spurs signed him from under the nose of Southampton. Morgan meanwhile was a £1m signing from rivals Forest, but suffice to say Leicester have managed to find exceptional value when assembling their team of premier league champions.
Other bargains include Vincent Kompany for a fee thought to be around £6m and European Champion (!) Jose Fonte who rose through the divisions with Southampton. For those who have more money than sense we return to Manchester City’ Eliaquim Mangala – the much referenced £42m man. This could be both a warning to City, or a sign that they need to up the ante if they want a long term replacement for Vincent Kompany.
All these numbers are liable to make your average fan dizzy, but what does it all mean? A large transfer fee is often described as weighing on a player’s shoulders, but what do fans care really? If a player succeeds then it is just another large number on a newspaper page, sat alongside TV deals, reports of wages and other sums that have no relevance to daily life. Wheeling and dealing (sorry Harry!) is all about little more than looking clever. After all no one wants to spend the equivalent of a Euromillions jackpot on a player with the potential to make Jonathan Woodgate’s debut for Madrid look like the complete defensive performance.
Andrew Grillo, The Sweeper Football Blog