Before the World Cup started, Roberto Martinez – in one of his television roles – spoke about the competition and the scouting opportunity it presented for clubs. He was right, of course, because the tournament is essentially a big shop window of global talent.
Less than a month after that interview, Martinez is poised to add Bosnian holding-midfielder Muhamed Besic to his Everton squad for a paltry £4m. You can almost imagine the Spaniard sitting through the first half of Argentina against Bosnia, excusing himself at the interval, and getting straight on the phone to Bill Kenwright.
Like many people – myself included – he probably fell for Besic at first sight and recognised him as being a perfect-fit for the style of football he’s preaching at Goodison Park
While we should all look forward to seeing the 21 year-old in the Premier League, that anticipation should be tinged with frustration. The £4m fee makes an absolute mockery of some of the prices that are being paid for English talent. Besic isn’t just an aesthetically seductive player, and his game is actually far more blue-collared than his elegant passing and feathery touch suggests. He has spent part of his career at centre-back, and that’s clearly been an important stepping-stone in his development: his defensive-awareness is excellent and his ability to anticipate the ball and cover large areas of space in front of his centre-backs is exemplary.
So Everton are buying a holding-midfield who can both take the ball away from the opposition regularly and provide a steady stream of accurate distribution from deep-midfield? And they’re paying just £4m for him?
No, he may not be proven within the Premier League, but that in itself does not explain away the disparity in price between him and, say, Adam Lallana, or Jake Livermore. Besic is, to varying degrees, more talented than both, is younger than both, and has a sharper development curve than both. His price, for all intents and purposes, looks anomalous by comparison.
Not to pick on Livermore, but there isn’t a better example of the absurd home-grown tax than the £8m Hull City paid to Tottenham for him – really, how does Steve Bruce justify that? What is he getting beyond a very average set of attributes and a UK passport?
Here’s what happens next with Besic: he’ll be a revelation in England, and around October or November the ‘what a find’ narrative will gather pace. Six months further on, he’ll start to be linked with a big money move to a Champions League club and a gossip-mongering newspaper like The Mirror or The Mail will slap a £20m and above valuation on him.
And, for once, they’ll be right. There’s something very similar going on with Wilfried Bony at the moment. He scored goals for fun at Vitesse yet, when the time came to leave Holland, English clubs turned their noses up at the Eredivisie and refused to take a risk on him. Swansea didn’t, though, and are now on the verge of doubling their money inside twelve months.
Arsenal need a holding-midfielder, as do Manchester United, and as do Liverpool: they’ve all passed on Besic. Well done to Everton – and to Roberto Martinez for having conviction in his own judgement – but the clubs who have ignored him have made a very costly mistake.
This boy is going to be a star in the years to come, and the worst case scenario for Everton now is that they end up making an enormous profit on him in two or three years time.
International tournaments can create false economies and they can exaggerate the abilities of certain players – the Giovani Dos Santos problem – but Besic’s range of tools and abilities makes him close to a ‘can’t miss’ prospect.
Great, great business.
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