Why Britain’s Appraisal of Young Talent is Bordering on the Ridiculous


As I type this, Sunderland and England under-21 international midfielder, Jordan Henderson , is about to join Liverpool subject to a medical assessment and agreeing personal terms with the club for a fee of around £20 million, with Liverpool striker David N’Gog heading the other way in a player-swap plus money deal. This has roused debates around the football blogosphere and indeed around dinner tables everywhere about how over-inflated the transfer market has become, and, in particular, how English players valuation has been inflated in recent times.

Think about it. Jordan Henderson is coming off the back of a decent season for The Black Cats and was being lauded for his performances by media, coaches and players alike. He capped this off by receiving his first senior England cap in November and 3 goals and 5 assists during the 2010-11 season. It makes for a decent season for a 20 year old midfielder, but surely not one that warrants the £20 million valuation that has been asked for him plus another squad player? To quote pundit and former player Robbie Savage from his Twitter account, “So 20 million gets a young English talent who is an athlete yes ,scores goals not really , decent passer , decent tackler , ok in air , ???” and you’ll  see where I’m headed at.

Then there’s the curious case of Andy Carroll, who went for about the same fee as world class David Villa who had just helped his national side win their first ever World Cup last year. Of course, Villa was bought before the global showpiece began, but the point I’m trying to convey is that there’s no reason why Carroll would go for that much. He is a great talent and young, but his fee beggars belief.

It makes one think that if Carroll is to go for 35 million, how much would, say, Gareth Bale go for, considering his two performances against the defending European champions at the time and against the much lauded Maicon, widely considered to be the best fullback in the world?
What about young Jack Wilshere, who’s already a full England international, an integral part of Arsenal’s set-up, a touted future captain of the aforementioned teams,  and who more than held his own against arguably one of the best midfield pairing of recent times – FC Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.
The only “British young star” transfer that was worthy of the hype in the last decade was perhaps Wayne Rooney’s, seeing as he came off the back of a successful Euro 2004 with four goals before his injury against Portugal in the Quarter’s and that he immediately repaid that fee with a stunning hat-trick on debut for his new club against Fenerbahce in the Champion’s League, no less.

There’s a central theme of Liverpool here, but in fairness, they did great business in January selling a disillusioned striker for the amount he went for and bringing in the likes of Luis Suarez, who’s been top-notch thus far in his time at Merseyside. The Fenway Sports Group that owns the club are keen to get the club back on their perch, but with over-the-top spending like this, they will surely be staring into the barrel of bankruptcy sooner or later, which is the same position they were in not too long ago.
In the past five years, The Reds have had a net spend of £67.96m. They have dropped out of the Champions League, won nothing and built no stadium while, in comparison Arsenal’s net equals a £28.7m profit. The Gunners may have not won anything either, but the point is there to be made.
While the rest of the Premier League cry foul at the overspending antics of Chelsea and Manchester City, Liverpool may be slowly joining that pile. The transfer market is becoming somewhat of a circus now and one must further yearn for FIFA’s transfer regulations even more so. And it seems that clubs not in the top four will struggle to retain their young talent who will be in search of European football and perhaps guaranteed silverware and higher wages with Phil Jones also likely to make the switch to Manchester United from Blackburn Rovers.

Britain’s young talent, while good, by no means justify the market’s sky high inflation for them. The way Barcelona made Manchester United look ordinary and Spain’s World Cup triumph further highlights the deficiencies of British football in terms of technical proficiency – the model of football where the game is indefinitely headed towards now. The FA is looking to address this issue, but it remains to be seen whether the hype around young British will subside.

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  • Stevie G says:

    If it wasn’t for the home grown policy we would not have those inflated prices for british based players!! blame whoever brought those rules… and England still plays crap!

  • Pierre says:

    Perhaps you’re a little awry with your appraisal of LFC finances. Total estimated income for outgoing transfers (Babel, Torres and Ngog) in the region of £67m. Total estimated expenditure on incoming transfers (Carrol, Suarez and Henderson) £79m.
    A net cost of something like £12m for three young current international players doesn’t seem like an headlong rush into bankruptcy in my view.

  • Jack says:

    “but with over-the-top spending like this, they will surely be staring into the barrel of bankruptcy sooner or later,which is the same position they were in not too long ago.

    Carroll was bought with the some of the money we received from Torres.
    When we were heading for Bankcruptcy we were paying nearly £40 million just in interest payments. Thats 2 Hendersons every year but not actually getting them. Paying too much for players? Maybe. Bankcruptcy? No way.

    • athedley says:

      The Carroll deal has been explained to me as simple economics. You wanted a big striker you had a huge amount of profit from a sale and either the Revenue got a windfall and you did not get a player,? or Newcastle got the benefit of money that would have gone anyway in tax and you did get a player.

      It sure as hell was not a case of Carroll being worth what you paid for him.

      I think you will be pleased with Henderson as he continues his improvement which may be more than you feel about Carroll and his baggage.

      Why did we sell? We have a youth team replacement for Henderson already and we need money to strengthen our squad where we need defenders wingers and another striker despite Ngog we finished 1oth with most of our first team crocked for the second half of the season. With a fitter and deeper depth in the Squad we might have finished two or tree places higher.

  • steve says:

    i got made when i heard that we bought him for 20 million but that aint correct.we paid 11 million plus Ngog(who’s rated at 8 million) which is good business.Carroll was a panic buy but still i have faith that he could develop into a good player.and Arsenal can keep the net spend but 0=0 and i mean the trophies Arsenal-Liverpool had this season.we were on a s**ty season from the start of it while i was hearing you were going to win 4 trophies and ended with 0!!yeah well done for finding Jack Wilshere who i rate greatly,but what happens with a center back??what happens with a goalkeeper??if you paid 20 million (which is a hell of a money for keeper) for Lloris,would you be happy or sad??if you paid 18 million for Gary Cahill,would you be happy or sad??it’s easy criticising Man City for their over-the-top transfers they made,but they finished inside top 4 and they have players like Tevez,Silva,Yaya Toure,…etc..who’s happier this season,a City fan or an Arsenal fan??YNWA

    • Mr K says:

      @steve Not as happy city but DEFINATELY happier than LFC, but yes its time to spend. Don’t want to end up walking alone without an invitation to Europe like yourself.

  • D Galbraith says:

    I quote: “The Fenway Sports Group that owns the club are keen to get the club back on their perch, but with over-the-top spending like this, they will surely be staring into the barrel of bankruptcy sooner or later, which is the same position they were in not too long ago.”

    Really? I’d respectfully suggest that this is errant nonsense. LFC is now being managed properly, consistant with FIFA’s financial rules, and in a manner which is poles apart from the Hicks Gillett methodology of leverage, debt and lies. What you have singularly failed to take account of is revenue streams (LFC’s is one of the largest in the EPL) which are now available to the club instead of being frittered away in interest payments for the earlier regime’s leveraged buyout.

    LFC posted a loss in the last financial year of some £20m but this included the final period of the H&G interest payments period. You’ll see a very different picture when the accounts are posted for the first year of Fenway’s ownership. In addition, LFC’s net spend on transfers in January was only some £3m after the sales of Babbel and Torres – hardly a recipe for bankruptcy. I also believe that the £35m for Carroll is a bit of a red-herring. My understanding is that LFC informed Chelsea that Torres could go for whatever NUFC quoted them for Carroll plus £15m and that Torres would not sold any other way.

    If NUFC had quoted a price of £20m for Carroll then Chelsea would have only had to pay £35m for Torres. That’s a well thought out strategem for good business practice – and it’s not LFCs fault that NUFC wanted £35m. It made absolutely no difference to LFC what NUFC stated was Carroll’s price because LFC knew they’d get that amount plus £15m for Torres. That’s my understanding of the deal’s mechanisms and while I’ve not heard of a deal being arranged in that manner before I firmly believe, and have been informed by reliable sources (I’m a journalist) that that IS what happened.

    Henderson’s deal at £20m might seem a little over the top but in reality it’s now reported that the fee is in fact only £13m plus N’gog. If you believe that N’gog is worth £7m then it’s a £20m deal. Personally I don’t think he’s worth much more than £2m or £3m tops.

    Not everything at LFC is perfect at the moment, the legacy of the H&G years will take a little while to sort out but Fenway have come in with a new business model, innovative ideas in the transfer market and a completely new methodology.

    It will clearly take a season or two for things to come to fruition but it’s idiocy to suggest that LFC are heading towards bankruptcy; rather, I would suggets, they’re heading back towards their much vaunted perch, slow step by slow step perhaps but with inexorable progress nevertheless.

  • daboy says:

    I you want quality you must pay Henderson is a great signing there is no point getting players on the cheap unless they are academy age.
    None of our cheapies have set the world on fire of recent and few rarely do.

  • normann says:

    without a doubt i understand your frustrations with the inflated prices. but i really think the policy of getting quality english youth will be good for the club. no doubt we have a few excellent prospects coming up from the academy, but we have to supplement other areas which the academy does not have to offer currently.
    from it stands, it looks we will have a decent squad next season, but it will onlty be in 3-4 years where we will have all these blooded youngsters fully developed. and by then, you will have a squad full brimming with a mix of young and hungry talent. imagine a lineup of carroll, henderson, suso, spearing, suarez and etc to fill up the squad. and no doubt, they will be sought after as well in the coming years.
    yes we are buying potential, and it might fail. but hell, we have bought recognised players and it has backfired on us countless times. the cisses, kewells, etc.
    i think this is a very gd step in the right direction.

  • Kenneth Ssekimpi says:

    Hmmm, please guys, it’s just an opinion. No hate directed towards your club, I promise 🙂

  • arif says:

    jordan henderson, another alberto aquailani maybe, hope i’m wrong though

  • Fat Frank says:

    BTW, the fact that the article has 100+ likes goes to show how many more people agree with the writer! While “bankrupcy” is extreme and not really likely, I agree 100% on all the other points mentioned. England has endured 45 years of underachievement, bar perhaps World Cup 1990 and Euro 96, oherwise, they’ve been poor. So such valuations for their players is bollocks. Liverpool fans, look beyond your club and admit he’s got some solid points!!

  • Rachid MRabty says:

    I herd they offered £20M plus N’Gog but Sunderland are holding out for a straight £18M cash! lol

  • Matthew says:

    I am a Liverpool fan and I have been for many years… the thought of bankruptcy is definitely out of the question. Fenway have proven themselves with what they have achieved at the Red Sox in America. What everyone needs to understand is, that when a football club becomes financially strong, other clubs take advantage of that. Im pretty sure that even Damien Comolli would admit that under normal circumstances, Carroll and Henderson are both a few million overpriced. Where are the comments about United paying 15mill for Jones?? United are in heaps of debt, but yet everyone is moaning about LFC’s purchases. Clubs like Man City, Chelsea and Real Madrid are all victims of simply being a financially strong football club. When it comes to transfers, financially weaker clubs would try and get as much as possible from clubs like this, simply because they know those clubs have the financial backing. And is that a bad thing? Sunderland have made some very promising bids since the Henderson deal went through. Yes Carroll and Henderson are overpriced, but that IS NOT Liverpools fault. KD is an excellent manager and he will turn all of these youngsters into great footballers. LFC need quality players who are young and that meet the England quota. Price aside, LFC have and will be making great purchases.

  • deleon says:

    Suarez cost less than Carroll but has been more successful. Sure they are different types of players, but I bet there are players out who can do exactly what Carroll does and cost nothing near 35 million pound. It takes no genius to figure out that English players are over-priced.

    Smaller clubs will always force bigger clubs to pay over the odds, that is their game. And if the bigger clubs don’t look at their alternatives, they will always play sucker.

    • D Galbraith says:

      Read my post above. The £35m for Carroll was and is completely immaterial.

      • deleon says:

        Irrelevant. The fact is Chelsea was willing to pay £50m for Torres regardless of the Carroll situation. So Liverpool could have just asked for that much (and maybe even more)upfront and spend it elsewhere. They’d have ended up with more than £15m on the bank, which they’ve now all spend on Henderson.

  • Matthew says:

    Yes it is obvious that England players are overpriced. That is the core principle of this article. It just upsets me when people accuse LFC of making stupid purchases at exorbitant costs.. Maybe Kenny and Fergie are looking toward future stricter quotas that might be imposed in the EPL. Young went to United for 20mill. he is an England player and I think that was a reasonable price. Clearly the youth chaps are being overpriced. I honestly think that Jones going to United for 16mill is also crazy. Carroll is 21 years old this year and has been regarded by many as a star on the rise and clearly gifted with tremendous aerial abilities. He hasn’t impacted LFC YET because of his obvious injuries he suffered. KD has mentioned numerous times that Carroll is at LFC for 5 years, not 1 season. Judge him when he is fit and injury free. This whole Carroll saga has overshadowed the fact that LFC got 50mill for Torres. As Galbraith mentioned, the price of Carroll is immaterial as LFC covered their costs with Torres.the real suckers here are Chelsea. Anyway, I trust Kenny Dalglish as well as Damien Comolli, and if they see talent that they feel would be perfectly suited at LFC they should get it regardless of the price.

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