As a sport, football has been defined by its number of players and its particular rules. However, football transfers have also become a trademark characteristic of the sport.
If you’re more of a fan of American professional sports, the concept of football transfers is alien. Football teams are free to make transfer offers to players they wish to acquire. Since clubs are usually unwilling to let their best players leave, clubs usually have to pay millions to get their man.
This has become the norm for the world’s biggest clubs nowadays. If a player is good enough, it’s not strange to see football clubs breaking the bank to get their player. After all, a great player will strengthen the team, and a powerful team can help push a club toward the Champions League. Competing in Europe promises millions in club revenue, which offsets the initial player expense.
Over the past two decades, seeing players go for unbelievable amounts has become commonplace. Many of the world’s best footballers have gone for ridiculous amounts. Neymar currently holds the record for the most expensive football transfer, but plenty of players have cost clubs exorbitant price tags over the years.
There’s no better time to talk about football transfers than after the shutdown of the transfer window for the major European leagues. This OKBET piece will examine why these transfers get so expensive and whether they are worth it from a footballing perspective.
Clubs understandably want to keep their best players and will do everything to keep them on their payroll. However, most clubs are willing to let their most influential footballers go for offers beyond their valuation of the player.
This inflation of football transfers was controlled from the seventies until the turn of the century. However, teams became more willing to make outrageous offers as club owners opened their bank accounts.
The best example of the impact of these inflated offers can be seen in PSG’s purchase of Neymar. The Qatar-backed Ligue 1 club gave FC Barcelona an incredible £198 million, which increased the record transfer fee from £89 million.
Since that record-setting transfer, soccer teams have become more willing to spend more to get the best talents in their team. It’s become commonplace to see teams like Manchester City and Real Madrid spending a lot to build their league-conquering squads.
Another factor that drives transfer prices up is the sheer talent of the player. If clubs highly rate a player, the prices naturally spike up. Competition for the player turns the transfer into a bidding process where teams will try to offer as much money as possible to the club that has the rights over the player.
The price can easily escalate beyond €60 million if the competing clubs are willing to pay a premium for the player. The more participants there are for a specific player, the quicker the price tag balloons.
The best example of how player demand affects football transfers is Chelsea. The Premier League giant badly needs reinforcements for their wings, so they shelled out €70 million to steal Mykhaylo Mudryk from Arsenal.
Another Chelsea player whose value was driven up by demand was Kepa Arrizabalaga. The Spaniard shot-stopper was highly sought after by the Blues as they desperately needed a keeper. Kepa’s acquisition from Athletic Bilbao cost the club €80 million, but he’s not even the first-choice keeper at Stamford Bridge.
The Promise of ROI
Sometimes, clubs buy a player for more than just their footballing value. Football clubs will want to acquire a player for their marketability. Certain players work for a soccer team in the commercial sense.
Footballers have become more than just athletes. With the extended reach of social media, they are full-blown celebrities in their own right. They have legions of loyal fans who will follow them wherever they go.
The best example of players impacting a club’s commercial value is Cristiano Ronaldo’s blockbuster move to Juventus. CR7 joined Juventus for €117 million in the summer of 2018, and the Serie A juggernauts saw an increase of six million followers across all social media channels.
Ronaldo’s global popularity was key in helping the Bianconeri secure lucrative deals across multiple regions. While he eventually left the team for Manchester United, the commercial opportunities the Portuguese legend provided them put them in a better financial situation than before.
Do All High-Value Football Transfers Work?
We’ve identified three of the most common reasons why clubs are willing to inflate football transfers to ridiculous amounts. However, there’s more to the Beautiful Game than getting all the most talented players under one roof.
Building a strong football team is one thing. Winning the biggest competitions is another thing entirely.
Powerhouse clubs like Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are struggling to win the Champions League despite creating a ludicrous roster full of world-class players. It takes the right manager and the appropriate tactics to maximize the talents of an expensive transfer.
There are plenty of factors why high-value football transfers flop. Here’s a quick list of the most expensive flops in club football in the last ten years:
- Joao Felix: Arrived at Atletico Madrid from Benfica for €127 million. He was a poor tactical fit in Diego Simeone’s squad and was used rarely.
- Paul Pogba: Manchester United brought their former academy product back for €105 million. His poor chemistry with coaches saw him rejoin Juventus for free.
- Riyad Mahrez: The winger left 2016 Premier League champs Leicester City to join Manchester City for €68.8 million. He’s not a fixture in the team’s starting XI due to the club’s overflowing wealth of attacking talent.
- Nicolas Pepe: Arsenal hoped the Cote d’Ivoire winger would be the much-needed winger they desperately needed for quite a while. However, he didn’t match the standards expected of Premier League attackers and was promptly loaned to OG Nice.
More high-cost flops, such as James Rodriguez, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, and Philippe Coutinho, didn’t make this list. They had different reasons for failing to perform for their new clubs, but all of them cost their new employers a net negative on the pitch.
Expect More High-Value Football Transfers in the Future
Clubs get richer over time, but the pool of world-class players remains the same. As these clubs continuously look to improve their rosters, expect transfer fees to rise significantly over time.
Clubs are already preparing for these transfers by setting ridiculously high buyout clauses. However, it’s not impossible to think that a club will want a player bad enough that they will bite the bullet and pay up to get their man.
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