With many news agencies reporting that Manchester City are planning to sign John Stones from Everton for whopping £53 million, fans of the Premier League have been given a clear indication of just how ridiculous money in football – and particularly England – has become.
A record £5.1 billion will be paid for Premier League TV rights in the new cycle, meaning clubs will earn a minimum of £81 million each every year, a figure that is expected to rise.
Although it is estimated that 70% of this money will go towards paying wage bills, it also favours big clubs with rich owners and their ability to work within the Uefa Financial Fair Play Rules.
As TV rights have become increasingly lucrative, inflation in the transfer market has been prevalent; however, it is only since this new deal kicked in that Premier League clubs have been able to close to financial gap that once separated the likes of Manchester United or Arsenal from big spenders such as Real Madrid.
Recent reports suggest Real Madrid cannot afford the £100 million price tag that Juventus have set for Paul Pogba but United seemingly can because of the additional funds being received via the broadcasting agreement.
The level of inflation is out of control though. When Sheikh Mansour bought Manchester City all those years ago, he caused a stir by breaking the British transfer record of £32.5 million for Robinho. Since then no less than 11 players have moved to English clubs and eclipsed that fee but that was always the way English football was going to go. The real problem lies in the extortionate price tags clubs can now put on their players, in particular English-born youngsters.
Back in 2010 the Premier League introduced a rule that clubs must have eight home grown players in their squad of 25. The figure would not have seemed too difficult at the time but there has been an exponential influx of foreign players since.
So, while there is a problem with rising prices for foreign players, an additional and more significant one is seen with the reports of Stones’ potentially extraordinary transfer fee. Due to the need to have eight home grown players on your books, there are only a handful of professionals that the bigger clubs would deem good enough to be in their squad.
If you look at the last pair of English players that City have signed, you can see plain and clear the ridiculous prices they have paid with Raheem Sterling costing £50 million and, more interestingly, Patrick Roberts joining from Fulham for £12 million. Roberts has been in fine form since joining Celtic on loan but his signing for Manchester City would seem a case of filling up their English quota.
The 19-year-old hadn’t scored for Fulham in his 22 appearances for the club and although he has bags of potential, the £12m price tag would seem a case of City spending over the odds on a young English player just because they have the money.
A young English player with any sort of potential seems to be the most expensive player on the market, with the exception of world-class talents, and the mooted free for Stones emphasises that.
The defender was impressive last season – of that there is no doubt – but to say that he is more valuable than someone like Leonardo Bonucci is insulting. Yes, he does have age on his side but it is hard to call him the 7th most expensive player of all time at this stage in his career.
Nor was Raheem Sterling worthy of his price tag or Andy Carroll of his. However, with no end in sight, the overpaying for young English talents is a trend that will continue in the Premier League for many years to come.
Darragh Culhane, Pundit Arena