Home > Football > Inflated Transfer Fees? Look in the Mirror, Sir Alex

Inflated Transfer Fees? Look in the Mirror, Sir Alex

“Many of us believe that wrongs aren’t wrong if they are done by nice people like ourselves”

Every now and again, Sir Alex Ferguson will come out with a piece of pure hypocrisy which surprises me. Usually it will involve the F.A. or referees. This time, it involves transfer fees, wages and the new lofty heights they continue to reach:

“The enormous amounts of money that are paid, not just the transfer fees, but for salaries; I don’t think it rests easy with supporters.”

Ferguson spent big to get Berbatov back in 2008

This truthful titbit comes from the Manchester United boss who has smashed the British transfer fee for Gary Pallister, Roy Keane, Andy Cole, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Juan Sebastian Veron and Rio Ferdinand. Add in Wayne Rooney, the world’s most expensive teenager at the time and Dimitar Berbatov, who would be Britain’s most expensive player were it not for Robinho. Last January, Ferguson agreed to pay Fulham £10 million for Chris Smalling who had only made three Premier League appearances at the time of the transfer. Moreover, the biggest winners of inflated prices were the club who profited from the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s most expensive player. That club and the beneficiaries of £80 million were Manchester United.

Ferguson isn’t in a position to complain about escalating fees. More than any other manager in the Premier League era, he has raised the bar for transfer fees and wages. But now with Manchester City, Chelsea and Real Madrid all able to freely spend, Ferguson claims he has been “hamstrung” by the competitive market. What the Scot is experiencing now is a taste of his own brutal medicine. The rest of the Premier League have been continually frustrated when United have ramped up the prices. Roles haven’t entirely reversed but Ferguson certainly feels belittled by City in particular.

Even after a World Cup, bargains can be found this summer

Even in a World Cup year, there is a good value to be found in this transfer market. Joe Cole, held in high regard by Ferguson as a teenager, was available on a free. Germany’s young World Cup stars Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira were available on the cheap as both had only one year left on their deals. Khedira may well have rebuffed any approaches from England as soon as Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid threw their hat into the ring. But Özil’s name continues to be linked with a plethora of European giants and the playmaker, who tormented England at the World Cup, is reportedly available at somewhere between £10-£15 million. United need a goal-scoring, creative midfielder along with a dominant holding player and all three of these players would fill voids in Ferguson’s team without breaking the bank. Wesley Sneijder has been linked with a move to Old Trafford but he was superb value 12 months ago and Ferguson missed out. There is a real danger that in a year’s time, Özil could be the next one that got away.

If you can’t keep up with the market, you have to be happy with what you’ve got. This is where Ferguson, an expert at handling the media, comes into his own. He claims he is very happy with his young charges. It would be wrong to question Ferguson’s faith in youth. Nobody has dared attempt to do so since Alan Hansen scoffed humble pie back in 1996. If nothing else, we know these players will have a winning mentality drummed into them. But will this next batch of youngsters reach the same heights as the class of 1992? There have been flashes of brilliance from Danny Welbeck, Gabriel Obertan, Fabio et al, but replacing club legends like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville is a tall order.

Perhaps Ferguson has been stung by his last acquisition to carry a large price tag. I remain a big fan of Dimitar Berbatov but he was grossly over-priced at £30 million particularly considering his age. Perhaps, as most fans believe, Ferguson’s hands are tied by the heavy debts that the Glazer family have burdened the club with. Perhaps Ferguson hides behind the ‘no value in the market’ line to protect his employers. It is a theory which Ferguson frequently rejects much to the fans’ dismay.

Whatever the case, Ferguson’s criticism of inflated transfer fees is hypocritical. He is right to insist that fans are dismayed at transfer fees and wages but this phoney empathy has never stopped him breaking the bank beforehand.

  1. whitsport
    July 30, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Agreed, SAF has certainly been a big player in the transfer fee boom. Real Madrid, Man City and Abramovich also seem to be main contributors. The Berbatov deal still makes sense to me, as Berba can act as a facilitator behind Rooney, but the fact remains: United overpaid for him. It appears as though this season has been quiet, but with a month left in the window, I wouldn’t be surprised to see names like Adebayor, Torres, Fabregas, and Balotelli still floating around in a few weeks. Nice blog, Cheers!


  2. July 30, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Thanks for commenting. Berbatov’s very much in a make-or-break year. I still think at times he slows United’s counter-attacking football down. I look back at the game against Arsenal and the way United tore Bayern apart for the first 45 minutes at OT and that was when, without Berbaov, they looked at their best . He offers something different but he needs to be more consistent and less sporadic if he’s to keep his spot in the team. I think he feels the burden of playing for a big club, particularly when the fans are so negative towards him. He needs to develop some thicker skin.

    Out of those four I only see Balotelli leaving. Chelsea won’t spend as much as Liverpool want for Torres due to his injury problems and Cesc will stay for one more year at Arsenal (similar situation to Ronaldo with United). As for Adebayor, City don’t have as much depth as they have elsewhere. If Hughes moves to take one or both of Bellamy and Santa Cruz to Fulham I think Adebayor will stay.

    I do think the rest of the Premier League is going to benefit if City and Spurs start throwing money around. Those two teams are littered with good Premier League players (Ireland, Onuoha, Jenas, Keane) should they decide to trim their squads. There is good value out there at all levels.

    • Callum O'Toole
      July 31, 2010 at 12:16 am

      Lam you said last year was make or break for Berba. How many more chances? Sick article though. Don’t often hear a massive Red like yourself slating Fergie. Fact is that squad will struggle to 3rd next year with the impetus Cole has provided Liverpool (another reason why not taking him was foolish). Rio, Berbatov, Owen, Neville and Scholes will start to fade. Carrick and Valencia need some form and who knows when Hargreaves will play again? Green and Gold seems to finally be making some difference though with the season tickets – good to see some more direct action. Hernandez has impressed though so not all is lost.

      • July 31, 2010 at 1:55 pm

        Had Ferguson purchased a big name striker (Fabiano, Benzema) or an attacking midfielder to play behind Rooney this summer I think he may well have been cast aside but I think he’s been granted another year.
        Rumous are that Hargreaves may not even make the 25! Not worried too much about Rio now Vidic has signed on again, Evans is solid enough. Not getting caught up in the Hernandez hype just yet, we’ll see how he performs when the actual season starts! Encouraging, though.
        Think Arsenal will be more of a threat than people think this year, especially if Van Persie can stay fit. Not sure about Liverpool, think they’re another year away from being the force they were especially if Mascherano leaves but Hodgson was a good appointment and they’re moving in the right direction. City and Spurs should be better again. Good title race again I think, still have to fancy Chelsea., particularly with Essien back.

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