IT’S one of those things you hear so often that you just sort of accept it as truth – in this day and age, English football players cost more.
That, my friends, is how ghost stories, mysterious UFO sightings, Bigfoot and the perception of Taylor Swift as a singer came about.
As illogical and ridiculously far-fetched as the stories are, if you repeat them often enough, there will be people who wouldn’t bother to ask why and just accept it because they’ve heard a similar story from someone else.
And so it is with English players, and the completely and utterly senseless upward trend in their value.
How many times have you heard someone on the telly say in regards to some transfer rumour: “Well, he’s English so he’ll cost more”, or someone in the pub say: “Twenty million quid for Jordan Henderson? That’s alright, y’know, since he’s English”?
Now I’m no economics expert (to be honest, I can barely get my own taxes right)– and I’m just guessing here – but don’t you only pay more for products/services of better quality?
While there’s an abundance of “mini-Xavis” and “mini-Iniestas” to be poached from Barcelona using the new and improved “Arsenal method” (that’s poaching them before they turn 18, because Spanish clubs aren’t allowed to offer professional contracts to under-18s), Manchester United have nevertheless splurged a reported £20mil (RM110mil) on Phil Jones, while Liverpool paid £55mil (RM302.5mil) for Andy Carroll and Henderson.
Admittedly, Carroll’s “Because you’re worth it” pony-tail alone is worth £5mil, but what about Jones, who has played less than a season of first team football? What about their £17mil (RM93.5mil) purchase of Ashley Young, who would cost nothing when his contract expires next season?
And then there’s the recent failure of England’s Young “Lions” at the European Under-21 Championships, where Henderson was to be the source of midfield inspiration to match the likes of Barcelona’s Thiago Alcantara, the new Xavi.
But look how it turned out. Henderson, who has more top-flight experience than Alcantara, played like Joey Barton minus the aggression (what’s left, really?), while Alcantara was showcasing his magical abilities by scoring an outrageous 40-yard free-kick in the final to continue Spain’s domination of world football.
That’s the difference in quality the English clubs have been paying for. The English youngsters slogged and laboured throughout the tournament without producing a single win, and scoring just two goals.
The Spanish on the other hand, played with imagination and freedom, scoring six goals in the group stage alone.
I know it’s unfair to compare them to the Spanish now. After World Cup 1998, we were all saying the English should follow the French model, and look where they are now, and what trouble John Terry and Wayne Bridge got themselves into.
But the numbers don’t lie. Reports on Monday said Arsene Wenger bid £18mil (RM99mil) for Juan Mata, another exquisitely talented young Spaniard who I’m sure has a superb “eye” for a killer pass (Get it? Get it? Mata?), and he also has considerable top-flight experience with Valencia CF.
Worst still, Mata’s teammate Jeffren Suarez, who scored the winner in the U-21 Championships semi-finals, is merely being used as makeweight in Barcelona’s attempts to sign Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez.
The important thing to remember here is I’m not arguing about the merits of signing English players – though it didn’t hurt Arsenal one bit that Wenger had accumulated about half the French squad post-1998.
I think it’s great that Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish see the importance in investing in British players, not just on moral grounds and principle, but also because they know the style of play.
But why the vast difference in value? Why would Liverpool have to pay £35mil (RM192.5mil) for Andy Carroll, who had just half a season of top flight football under him, while World Cup-winner David Villa cost £34mil (RM187mil)? Age difference is one thing, but honestly, Carroll will never be the player Villa is.
And I’ve always been an advocate for English players. My stance has always been that players like Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, heck, even Ashley Cole, could make it in almost any team in the world.
But based on current trends, it’s more likely that if you bought yourself one of these over-priced footballers, they’d be more likely to end up in court over some pub brawl, fail to gel as a team, and be caught up in a seedy sex scandal involving one or more sex workers or, if you consider the wider scope of British players, sisters-in-law.
In the end, the only theory I have for this abberation of economics is that English football is where the money is, and English clubs will always have a moral obligation to sign English players – even if you are Manchester City.
So naturally, with all these clubs (which is in fact only the Big Five) scrambling for so, so few good English players, I guess it makes sense that their prices go up a bit.
So, the next time one of those loud, obnoxious, know-it-all football fans in the pub half-drunkedly yells at you, “Twenty million for Henderson is a’ight – he’s English!” you can challenge him to tell you why, and you’d at least have one (questionable) answer to his nothing.