The Fees Are Too Damn High

It is officially Nonsense Season! The time of year where we are all inundated with ludicrous rumors and stories at all times of the day and night. You know, when your favorite club is linked to a big name player and then you spend every waking minute of the next few days refreshing your browser shouting ANNOUNCE HIM ALREADY! Everyone knows what I’m talking about.

But this summer seems a bit different. The market as we know has become a shambles. Basically if you can kick a ball and are fit you can command a fee of over £40m. The difference this go round is that quite a few teams can afford you! Of course with all the television revenue and sponsorship funds, Premier League teams can essentially outbid almost every other club in Europe. I say “almost” because there’s still the super-rich likes of PSG, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona. But you’re also seeing some other names this summer dig deep and try and keep up like Atlético Madrid, who are planning a €120m (~£107m) raid of Benfica for Portuguese wunderkind João Félix. That’s an astonishing fee which I am sure will include an even more absurd release clause.

With more teams being able to pony up for these gargantuan fees, the deciding factor ends up being wages. Take once in a generation defender Matthijs de Ligt of Ajax who has Barcelona, PSG and Juventus foaming at the mouth: all three of those clubs can stump up the relatively low fee of €70m-€80m, but Juventus are prepared to pay him an enormous €450,000 per week. Those types of numbers make the decision easy for de Ligt and his monstrosity of an agent Mino Raiola. This is a deeper conversation for another time, but shying away from de Ligt for that low of a transfer fee should be unforgivable. He is worth at least €30m more than that and 1) Ajax should be holding out for a much bigger slice of the cake and 2) every single top club should be willing to pay that.

Extremely high wages get clubs in serious trouble. Manchester United opened the vault for Alexis Sánchez to keep him away from Manchester City. They pay him close to £400,000 a week (this amount includes image rights) as well as a £1.1m loyalty (hilarious term in this day and age) bonus per year. Those are wildly irresponsible numbers. To put that in perspective, Paul Pogba makes half that albeit with a loyalty bonus three times the size of Sánchez’s. Why is that a problem if the club can easily afford it? Because if you try and re-sign players they all are seeing what you’re paying someone (Sánchez) who contributes almost nothing (3 Premier League goals in 18 months) to the team. Players like David de Gea, a GOALKEEPER, angling for more money than Sánchez. Players like Marcus Rashford, an incredible but still inconsistent goalscorer, angling for wages 1.5x the amount Pogba gets. Players like Ander Herrera, a role player at best, getting their terms knocked back and agreeing to sign for PSG for £200,000 per week. And anybody negotiating with United is now casually asking for Sánchez money knowing the club has it and is willing to splash cash on the names they want. It doesn’t even matter that Sánchez has been abysmal. Even if he was in free scoring form, everyone knows his wage structure and knows that this club can deliver the biggest of funds.

All clubs need to be wary of this. Juventus are paying Cristiano Ronaldo around £515,000 per week. They are safe with that amount because Ronaldo is the best footballer on the planet so players cannot complain. But they know it’s there. So, Juve sign Aaron Ramsey for free from Arsenal and he is amenable to the move as they are about to dip into their accounts and pay him over £400,000 a week! I am a fan of Ramsey but he is about to earn some of the highest wages in football, which is so acutely laughable. And now Juventus are on the verge of paying de Ligt a similar sort of wage setting the standard for any of their new transfers (or current stars seeking a new contract) asking for biblical amounts per week. And if players’ new demands are rebuffed, they sour (see de Gea, Herrera and everyone else).

With all that said, the main drama of Nonsense Season is about to occur. We’ve already seen major happenings like Eden Hazard to Real Madrid and Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona. Bayern Munich have already paid an astounding £68m for full back Lucas Hernandez (that answers your question as to how Atleti can afford Félix). But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Barcelona are ramping things up and trying to keep pace with Real (who have been extremely busy buying Hazard as well as left back Ferland Mendy, defender Éder Militão and striker Luka Jović…not to mention Japanese prodigy Takefusa Kubo) by potentially adding Antoine Griezmann and now even Neymar as well. Those moves may trigger Philippe Coutinho’s ouster from Camp Nou where he would command a massive fee and personal payday (with Griezmann and Neymar, Barcelona would still have upstart Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembélé and Luis Suárez amongst others to choose from). Manchester City are on the hunt for a Fernandinho replacement as they are about to ship over £62m to Atleti for the services of Rodri. And just because City get bored when they aren’t spending money, they are also looking to send Juventus £50m for João Cancelo (City want to spend less cash and add Danilo to the deal instead but Juventus have no interest in Danilo, which is intelligent on their part).

And we all know Manchester United will do their bidding. Every window agents attach the United name to their clients in order to increase wages at the current club on a new deal or get another club to overpay a fee. It keeps on happening. And journalists refer to players as a “United target” irrespective of any basis in truth. And that’s because United are always mulling an offer. Fees are enlarged for the club and the prices are over the premium. Crystal Palace are currently holding out for £55m from United for right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Leicester City are hoping United (or City) shoot them £80m for defender Harry Maguire. And when United go after a central midfielder (Bruno Fernandes?), a position they’ve been adequately trying to fill for years, expect prices to be close to nine figures (United are giving clubs a taste of their own medicine by charging Inter Milan £75m for Romelu Lukaku and Real Madrid £150m for Pogba, tags both the Nerazzurri and Los Blancos have balked at).

That’s the market now. The money is there so fees have gone up. But we will certainly reach the point (if we haven’t already) where clubs will pass on players and clubs will lose out on funds (this is essentially how Tottenham Hotspur already operate). Because it comes down to valuation. If Neymar is worth that then Philippe Coutinho is worth this. If Matthijs de Ligt is worth that then Kalidou Koulibaly is worth this. If Real Madrid can pay that for Eden Hazard then surely they can pay even more for Paul Pogba. If João Félix is worth €120m then Nicolò Zaniolo should be worth even more.

You are going to see more players publicly asking for a move (“a new challenge”) as they know that they have to do as much as they can to force the club to sell below the out of control price. And at times that will work. But there are going to be times when it doesn’t and disgruntled players remain on the team. And that’s where sheer discord takes place. Those players can emphatically create cancer and disruption in the changing rooms. It is always a distraction. It always has an effect. And most of the time it is unfair to the club the player is currently under contract with. And the paying clubs will walk away. No one at the top is going to sit around and beg for anybody. Definitely not for a footballer. Which is when we’ll see the prices go up for second choices (i.e., if you can’t afford to buy Giovanni Lo Celso from Real Betis, Club Brugge will swoop in and offer you Marvelous Nakamba for twice his normal value).

It’s a nonsensical cycle that has led us to utter chaos. I mean, at this rate, someone is going to pay £200m for Gremio’s Everton Soares and we are all going to just act like it’s normal.

And maybe it is. PSG changed the game by buying Kylian Mbappé (£166m after add ons) and Neymar (£198m) at fees that almost seem made up. {{for what it’s worth, both players are currently being linked elsewhere already}} Those transfers got us over the hump where nothing can really shock us anymore. Juventus paid £88m for a 33 year old Ronaldo and we didn’t blink an eye. Barcelona paid Borussia Dortmund £97m for Dembélé one summer and the next paid Liverpool £106m (before add ons) for Coutinho! {{neither of whom regularly start}} And we carried on. These are insane bloody numbers! This cannot be normal.

But it is normal now. And the fees will continue to be paid as all the big clubs are in direct competition with each other and just trying to keep up. The game has opened up and there is no one dominant force now. Ronaldo left Real Madrid and consequently created a vacuous hole at the top. So you now have Real Madrid trying to get back onto their perch. With Barcelona making sure that doesn’t happen. You have Liverpool winning the Champions League after setting world record fees for a defender and goalkeeper. Which has led Manchester City into a frenzy to make sure the Reds don’t lift that pot again. Juventus are trying to win right now with Ronaldo so they need to solidify their chances whilst everyone is on their own shopping sprees. And Bayern are desperately trying to resurrect their European glory days by shedding the old guard and buying everyone else available.

Nonsense Season, what else can I say?

 

 

One comment

  1. Absolute Absurd-istan. Will be interesting to see where the ceiling is, though probably not going to hit that for years (decades) to come, if ever. United should spend some of that Alexis money on a time machine and not sign him in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

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