“Gonzalo Higuain has just signed for Juventus from Napoli for £75.3 million”. I am sitting at my laptop sifting through the day’s football news on the BBC website. I read the headline and shrug with almost nonchalant disinterest. In my head I picture a Serie A league table with Juventus streaks ahead of the rest and heading to yet another consecutive Scudetto. The transfer fee makes Higuain the third most expensive player in football history and I just don’t care, big transfer fees of this nature are becoming so ridiculous that they sail so far above my head that by the time they float down they are covered in snow, ice and just a little bit of moon dust.
Over course this was just paving the way for a certain Paul Pogba to join Manchester United for a reported £89 million! These astronomical sums become meaningless when they are at these kind of values. We should not forget, however, that there is a sinister side to all this. This money is being generated by the new TV deal that is worth £5.1 billion and this money is being generated by the paying fan, regular guys like me and you. Well, not me, I am probably the only man who takes a peeler with him to the supermarket to shave the carrots down a bit before putting them on the weighing scales and so I have been priced out of the pay TV market for a long while now but the gap of its affordability is now wider and further out of reach than ever before.
It wasn’t always like this. If we look back into our football past, into the memories that defined our own love for the game when many of us were younger, I bet we can all still remember a time when a large transfer fee made us sit up and take note. For many it might be the deal that made Trevor Francis England’s first £1 million player or for those fans that grew up in the 1950’s it may have been the £50,000 that Juventus paid for John Charles. The transfer that sticks out in my childhood, that sent ripples around the playground the day after it was announced, was when Andy Cole moved from Newcastle to Manchester United for £6 million plus Keith Gillespie in 1995! This was surpassed in excitement and disbelief a year later when Alan Shearer join Newcastle from Blackburn for £15 million! After this it stops, at least for me. My shock and awe at transfer fees went no further and as the Premier League era really took hold money became just another humdrum of the modern game much like plastic seating, mascots, Mexican waves and Jeff Stelling.
I still profess to enjoy transfer deadline day because there is always that moment of amusement when a middle of the range Premier League club panics and spends a small fortune on a striker from an Eastern European league with all the credentials of a head chef at a motorway café. The reality is that Championship clubs and those in the leagues below still struggle to bring in quality players for a reasonable fee as the price inflation from these ridiculous deals ripples downwards.
Many of us are waiting for the bubble to burst and, unless you’re a Portsmouth fan, it still hasn’t. No doubt the next TV deal will be even more valuable and spur yet more Championship clubs on a risk all spending spree to get their slice of the Premier League pie.
With Pogba taking over the “most expensive player in history” mantle there will likely be ex-playing pundits lining up to tell us why they think he is worth the money and what a shrewd bit of business this will turn out to be (yeah right). I fully expect the first £100 million player to be around the corner and then I very much doubt it will be long before this record too is consigned to the history books.
word James Richards