Home > General > Culture of the Premier League inflating transfer values, not clubs

Culture of the Premier League inflating transfer values, not clubs

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Liverpool were this morning reported to have bid £15m for Stuart Downing, and have in the last six months shed north of £50m for Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson. Foreigners looking in on our league probably scoff at those kind of transfers, just as we did when hearing about Gianluigi Lentini’s move to Milan in the 90s.

Who? How much?

The over-valuing of British talent doesn’t just extend to players either, the hyperbole around British managers is just as unrealistic. Currently, three of the managers incumbent at the Premier League’s top-four clubs are foreign – so why the clamour for the next England manager to be English?

Our need for the national manager to be English fluctuates, depending on who’s in the role at the time. If it’s a foreigner, his inability to give Churchillian speeches at half-time is stopping us winning the World Cup – and the press will hate and hound him for being unable to communicate with them properly. Once we actually get an English manager, they’ll be so underwhelming – McClaren, Keegan – that we find ourselves believing that a tactically astute Italian is the way forward. The managerial boom-and-bust cycle.

In international and continental competition, the prominent attributes that are associated with British players are rendered almost obsolete. Graft, determination, and bravery all pale in comparison to the flair, technique, and vision that they’re juxtaposed with. John Terry is one of the best examples – a player lauded and highly valued in the Premier League, but brutally exposed as one-dimensional when taken out of that environment. In this country, we produce single-context players that don’t have an adaptable enough skill set to exist anywhere else but the Premier League. This is why there are so few English players playing at a high-level abroad.

When Franz Beckenbauer dismissed England’s style of play at the last World Cup as being ‘kick and rush’, we all recoiled in anger – mainly because the words came with a German accent – but it was a fair assessment. The Premier League is a competition predicated on pace, power, and moving the ball quickly – there’s a ‘lost in translation’ aspect to Beckenbauer’s description, but he’s not wrong. If you’re looking for a part explanation as to why our players are so overvalued, a good starting point is to appreciate how much of a microcosm the Premier League actually is. Its style of play is unique, and a foreign player that has the transferable abilities to succeed in all other global leagues may still fail to adapt in England. But, whereas the foreign player retains his value across all leagues, an English player doesn’t – their set of attributes is so tailored to domestic football that they’re completely unsuitable to any other playing culture.

Who’s worth more – the Wayne Rooney that plays for Manchester United, or the one that plays for England? How about Steven Gerrard? Frank Lampard? If you watched England against Spain in the European U21 Championship, which of Javi Martinez and Jordan Henderson would you have said was worth twice the other? If you take British players out of their natural habitat, their value diminishes – or at least the their value in ‘Premier League terms’ gets made to look all the more exaggerated.

Combine this with affluence of the Premier League in comparison to its European peers, and you have a set of clubs willing and able to trade British players at above market prices – irrespective of how that price really correlates to their abilities. Mix that in with the consistently hysterical reaction of the press to any halfway-decent young player with a UK passport, and you arrive at where we are now.

…just hearing that Liverpool have agreed a £9m fee for Charlie Adam.

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