In 1984 one of the greatest players to have played the game, Diego Maradona moved from Barcelona to Napoli for a then world record transfer fee of £6.9m and the world pondered how even he could be worth so much money to a football club.
Today that figure would not even buy you Lionel Messi’s baby toe, with a release clause of a quarter of a billion euros built into his contract it is unlikely that he will ever change clubs.
Some of the more recent fee’s paid for the likes of Gareth Bale,(€100m) Neymar (€90m), Raheem Sterling (€68m) and now Paul Pogba (€89m) have got me wondering if UEFA and other governing bodies come together and like the concept of a salary cap, introduce a Transfer Cap, where the ceiling valuation of a player is €100m for example, to try and curb the excessive costs which clubs are being forced to spend on players.
Let’s face it anyone will tell you that no footballer is worth €100m simply for playing purposes. I understand there is an economic and global side to the modern game and that players are worth as much off the pitch as they are on it but something has to be done to bring about a sensible valuation of the modern player.
These outrageous valuations force smaller clubs like Bournemouth etc to stump up £15m for Jordan Ibe who is completely untested at the highest level. This in turn forces them to live above their means which is killing football clubs in the long term. You only have to look at the likes of Leeds United, Portsmouth, Blackpool, Rangers and Parma for clubs who have nearly gone and have gone to the wall for this reason.
A CDES study shows us a developing trend in the transfer market as illustrated in the following table of transfers taken over a period of 15 years in the top 53 leagues in UEFA:
|YEARS||NUMBER OF TRANSFERS||VALUE|
2011 saw over €3bn spent on player transfers. That’s more than double the payment that the entire nation of Greece couldn’t pay to the IMF last week and has caused serious market instability across the globe, just to put the figures were talking about into some perspective.
How would a redeveloped transfer market work? of course it would take some time to adjust and the figures would have to be decided upon but here is a basic template of how such a structure might work:
- Lionel Messi is the benchmark valuation which is reassessed each summer and no player can be transferred for more than the top players valuation.
- Following this you then have transfer bands, done by age group where by there is a maximum payment set for each band. ie -> 35+ = £5m, 30-35 = £10m etc this would give clubs a benchmark for negotiations and would make it easier to negotiate a deal based on precedent and in turn make better players more realistic targets for smaller clubs.
- All negotiations of transfers of players under the age of 19 are to be done by appointed officials to ensure the selling club gets a fair deal for their player.
- There is a mandatory 20% sell on fee clause inserted in the transfer of any player in this age bracket who has been at that club for more than 2 years.
- No player can have an agent until they enter the first transfer band at 20.
The final point illustrates the other major problem with the modern transfer market is that the players along with the larger clubs hold too much power, which allows them to bully smaller clubs into selling for paltry fees because the player says he will not turn out for the club again if they don’t grant his request to leave.
This puts smaller clubs in a desperately weak negotiating position and allows the larger club to grab a player for next to nothing who could turn out to be a superstar in 3 or 4 years time.
Seamus Coleman’s transfer to Everton is an example of where a club has clearly underpaid for a player. Everton paid Sligo Rovers €60,000 for him in 2009 in a deal which included no add ons or sell on fee. Some may just call this bad dealing on the part of the Irish club but in truth it is down to the way the market has adapted over the years to the point where the bigger club has an extreme advantage in the negotiations.
In contrast QPR took a cool £8m from the sale of Sterling because they did have a 20% sell on clause inserted in his deal.
This has to change so that the clubs who originally took a chance on a player or developed them through their early career are compensated sufficiently for their efforts.
This is playing devil’s advocate and figures would have to be adjusted but it is a simple way in how we can both curb both the ridiculous spending of the bigger clubs in today’s climate, help smaller clubs become more competitive by allowing them to be able to buy better players and also sell their own for a more realistic fee and finally help cut the mountainous debt which a lot of community clubs are piling upon themselves in order to stay or improve on their place in the footballing pyramid.
The way football is going at the minute we are seeing a lot of very ordinary players move for very extra ordinary sums of money and where do clubs try and make some of this back? With ticket price increases and through targeted merchandise at kids and adults turning the financial strain back on their fans.
It is about time that clubs and the governing bodies woke up to the fact that the current transfer model is unsustainable for clubs in the current market and took steps to try and ease the burden and change the culture of it. Otherwise it is only a matter of time before one of Europe’s major European clubs become extinct once again.