This summer’s transfer window has taken football to a new commercial level.
From Paris Saint-Germain’s £198 million world-record signing of Neymar, doubling the previous global record, to Liverpool rejecting a £119 million offer from Barcelona for Philippe Coutinho as a replacement, the figures involved at the highest level of football have become eye-watering.
However, to get a real indicator on just how inflated the transfer market has become, Tottenham Hotspur are a real case in point.
Last season’s Premier League runners-up have been chastised for a ‘lack of ambition’ this summer by pundits and fans alike, simply for not signing any new players before the new season started.
Mauricio Pochettino has been saying all-summer long that he wants reinforcements in his Spurs squad and as such it is no lack of application that has seen the North London side find the going tough.
Tottenham fans are finally able to breathe a sigh of relief after Friday’s announcement that a deal with Ajax for Davinson Sanchez had been completed, barring any hiccups with a medical or work permit.
But, comparing frugal Spurs chairman Daniel Levy’s spending this summer to five years ago is a telling indication into just how crazy the transfer market has become.
The Guardian today announced Sanchez’s fee as one that could rise to £42 million with add-ons – comfortably a new club record for Tottenham.
The same newspaper revealed Spurs’ fee to sign Jan Vertonghen from Ajax five years ago in 2012 was £9.5 million.
Tottenham’s business was with the same club, for a player in the same position – yet the difference in fee was £32.5 million.
While the contrast in the price of the respective players may well be sizeable, the fact that Vertonghen was at a much more-advanced level then than Sanchez currently is reiterates the point.
The Belgium international had spent five full seasons in the Ajax first team before joining Tottenham, winning the Dutch top flight twice in the process.
The campaign before moving to Spurs, Vertonghen was awarded the Eredivisie’s Player of the Year accolade, following in the footsteps of world-class players such as Luis Suarez, Ruud Gullit and Johan Cruyff in claiming the award.
Sanchez on the other hand has had only one solitary season in European football after joining Ajax from Atletico Nacional 12 months ago.
The 21-year-old was certainly an impressive performer as the Amsterdam outfit made the Europa League final last term – but £42 million??
In his career to date in Colombia and at Ajax, Sanchez has played in 58 competitive league games – his value has seemingly increased by £750,000 every time he has taken to the pitch.
By the time that Vertonghen was joining Tottenham, the versatile defender had already made close to 40 international appearances for Belgium.
Sanchez by comparison has only represented Colombia’s senior team twice ahead of his move to North London.
The comparison is certainly no disrespect to Sanchez, who looks to have all the attributes to be a success at Tottenham – and the fans are delighted to welcome him to the club.
It is rather a clear assessment of a marketplace that has spiralled out of control, signalling the required tightening of Financial Fair Play rulings to bring it back to a situation of some sense.
I wrote elsewhere earlier this summer that £30 million had become the new £10 million; with Tottenham quoted the staggering price for modest reported Premier League targets Alfie Mawson and Josh King back in July.
The sheer amount of money in the elite levels of the sport is simply not sustainable and makes a mockery of the lower league clubs across Europe struggling to stay afloat.
The injection of television money in the English Premier League and the prize money available to teams competing in the Champions League has created an unfair playing field – to the game’s detriment.
Brendan Rodgers recently bemoaned that the budgets of the teams Celtic would face in Europe’s top tournament created a skewed balance against his side, who make considerably less.
But the Glasgow powerhouses making it to the top table again this season, to be awarded riches that other Scottish clubs can only dream of, adds to the problem.
While Celtic will obviously lap up all the money from Uefa they can from Champions League participation, what chance to Kilmarnock have of upsetting the status quo and competing with Rodgers’ men today at Rugby Park?
To put it into perspective, the East Ayrshire club’s record transfer fee is shelling out £340,000 to sign Paul Wright from St Johnstone….. back in 1995.
Kilmarnock’s wage bill is a fraction of that Celtic pay their players, while they can boast a total of 33 international caps in their first-team squad, spread between 34-year-old Kris Boyd (18), Gordon Greer (11) and Kirk Broadfoot (4).
Celtic by comparison have 301 international caps across 13 players.
Football is certainly big business and it is only natural that transfer fees increase as sponsorship and television revenue continues to be injected into the game.
However, the inequality in the game, from Neymar scoring his first PSG goal against a shell-shocked Guingamp, to £42m Sanchez and cash-strapped Killie taking on the the might of Champions League money, cannot be a positive thing for the sport in the long term.