Van Persie deal shows strikers still top manager shopping lists
Arsenal’s Robin van Persie is set to be unveiled as a £25m Manchester United player, Steven Fletcher looks like he will become a Sunderland player (taking the total transfer fees spent on him to about £25m) and David Sullivan claims he is prepared to pay Liverpool’s Andy Carroll a six-figure weekly salary to come to West Ham, doubling the wages of their highest-paid players.
It all goes to show that the most important, and therefore expensive, asset managers look for in the transfer market is a goalscorer. Sir Alex Ferguson will be hoping the acquisition of the Gunners’ goal machine Van Persie will prevent Man Utd from losing the Premier League title on goal difference again.
Us agents spend the majority of our time on the phone to managers, executives and recruitment staff making sure we know who is looking for what. At the start of the summer, most clubs were looking to fill a variety of positions, but I have noticed a trend in which goalkeepers and defensive players get sorted earlier in the summer than other positions. It is hard to tell if this is because managers prefer to get these deals done first, or simply that these deals are easier to do because there are more of these players available, they are cheaper and have arguably less impact on a team’s ability to win football matches.
It has been a slow window so far, which sets up an interesting final two weeks when clubs realise the season is here and they need players – quick. The big deals to get done from here on in will be goalscorers and goal creators, as Man Utd’s capture of Van Persie illustrates. These players command the biggest transfer fees and get paid the highest salaries. Why? The traditional reason is that the better players have more competition for their signature and they sell more shirts.
A more realistic theory might go something like this. Having not done enough research to find value in the market, buying clubs get impatient and offer inflated sums for players. Potential selling clubs panic and offer their in-demand stars huge wage increases to stay where they are. A buying club that manages to agree a fee may then get bullied by the player’s agent when it comes to salary, because getting the player becomes more important than making a sound business decision (the agent is just doing his job here by the way – nothing wrong with that).
As the transfer window deadline gets closer the tension increases, with clubs setting prohibitive prices for their in-demand players because they don’t have enough time to replace them. The more desperate buying clubs pay these massive prices because there either isn’t enough time left for a plan B, or, in some cases, the manager doesn’t want a plan B.
You will notice a trend here, whereby a player’s value and salary are driven by bad business decisions and desperation, rather than his ability and what he is worth.
You have to feel a bit for football club executives. In the normal business world, a company can walk away from a deal because it has become too expensive. Their executives don’t have to deal with Sky Sports reporters doorstepping them in the car park, national newspapers critiquing their every decision, messageboards filled with abusive fans or thousands of paying customers booing them on a Saturday afternoon.
Roll on September and the first holiday of the year.
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