Transfers are an integral part of football. No doubt. But the outlook this phenomenon has assumed over the years is quite worrying.

Football’s transfer fee figures have gone bonkers in recent years. Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer fee alone( £80M )can be used to buy eleven players to form a team. Who knows, if ever Messi gets to leave Barcelona, his would probably be able to buy a whole club.

Here’s a trend I’ve observed: The common philosophy that has become entrenched amongst especially the top clubs in the world is ”the necessity to buy for the sake of competition”. This is has somehow also become intrinsically linked to spending big, more often than not, for the very sake of it.

The reality is that, buying a player who already has a ‘name’ and ‘reputation'(in other words, ‘big names’) does not guarantee anything. It only comes with a high percentage of possible success/impact, but that percentage is not a 100. Therefore We are all aware of how certain players make high profile moves, and flop tragically, inflicting a loss upon the buying club. Off the top of my head, Ibrahimovic to Barca two seasons ago.

What does this say? For me, the deduction is resounding. Every transfer whatsoever is a fundamental gamble. You can buy an expensive who might either hit the ground running or not, likewise a ‘cheap’ player. So with this known, why do clubs prefer splashing the cash when there is an option which makes financial sense?

Why buy, say a ‘big name striker’ for £25M, when you can have a decent, probably younger goal scorer for about £5M. Why risk wasting money when there is a possibility of saving money/getting value for money? There are exceptional talented players dotted across Europe’s neglected leagues who are hungry for success, hardworking, and eager to learn. Won’t spending less on such players be better than spending on stars who are most probably egotistical and relatively lazy?

Over the years, there have been players who have proved to be immense signings even after being bought at ridiculously low prices. Infact, that is an unfair way to put it, those are bargains. Lets not even travel far back, Take Papisse Cisse for example, or Demba Ba, or, wait, Michu! How much were they bought for? All under £10M. Look at the impact they have had/are having on their clubs. You need not to be told honestly. .

Now, compare it with Andy Caroll, £35M, or Fernando Torress £50M, or Kaka at Madrid €60M. Have they have the full impact that should correspond to their fees? No. Get the picture? No guarantees. Gamble. See it now? I could go on and on.

And I have not even talked about club academies/reserves. Why would a club make such huge expenditures on the youth sides, if they will not give them a chance to ”replace” outgoing signings? Yes, there is the risk of inexperience. Noted. But how would they get the experience if they are not given the chance? What shows they will ”mess up” if given the chance? Is there not a possibility for an expensive in-coming signing to ”mess up” as well? And oh, the academy structure does work. Ever heard of Messi? Iniesta? Xavi? Owen? McManaman? Fowler? Muellar? Schweinsteiger? Raul?

Every club wants to progress, and be competitive. They want to win trophies. They want to be successful. To do that, they need quality in their squads, quality in-depth. And so it is understandable for them, to be driven by their pursuit of success and the pressure of high expectations to buy players, big players. You want to purchase big players? You pay money, a lot of money. But realistically, will you always have the money to sustain such extravagance? In this era of chronic meltdowns and credit crunches? Is it more sensible, both financially and logically, to chose to spend money on something that does not give 100% guarantees in today’s harsh financial atmosphere?

Whatever happened to scouting too? Whatever happened to scouting quality talents, paying less and giving them a platform? Does that not sense anymore? Because, in so doing, You’ll pay less for quality and potential, and take minimal risks. Why? If they do succeed, you know you paid less, and so you get to reap financial profits. Makes perfect sense. Than to waste money on a purchase that could go wrong, thus risking financial loss.

Besides, there is also the part it plays in widening further, the gap between the ‘big clubs’ and the ‘small clubs’, compromising level playing field, etc etc. In that respect, it is unhealthy for football, whichever way you look at it.

Whilst it is true that spending does have it rewards(case in point – Chelsea, Manchester City, Real Madrid etc), it is also important to know that it does not guarantee success. What can guarantee success is a squad characterized by hard work, hunger, desire, determination, perseverance mental strength et al in addition to the required quality across both the playing body and technical body. And oh, look at Barcelona, who have been devastating over the last few years. Did they have to adher to the ‘big club peer pressure’ to spend big?And this is a team that is arguably the greatest of all time.

If Barca, a huge club, engrossed in arguably football most heated political battles with Real Madrid, can achieve this amount of success by being prudent and making use of their academy, does that not say something? And this was a club that had been pressured into buying, buying and buying, just to match the galacticos of the arch rivals. All futile. Since I’ve mentioned Real Madrid, can I ask if he Galactico era lasted? How many years were they able to sustain their success? Were they as ruthless as Barca are now?
Football can exist without utterly ridiculous sums being paid for players in the name of ‘getting at par competitvely with rivals’ . We need to dispel the notion that this is ‘necessary’. Clubs need to harness the potentials of their academies and scouting networks. The lame excuse given that there is no value for money in the transfer market is just that, an excuse, baseless excuse for that matter. Porto got Radamel Falcao Garcia from Riverplate for €3.93M and Lisandro Lopez for €2.3M from Racing Club de Avellaneda. The list is endless. Even more recently, Liverpool spent less than £3M on Morrocan Oussama Assaidi, a top top player in the Eridivise. Immaculate proof.

The short termism that motivates these expenditures must be substituted for long termism. This madness has got to stop somehow..

After all is said and done, football is football, and should remain as
such, despite the increasingly worrying metamorphosis into an
insensitive, illogically sophisticated business jungle.

In as much as this issue is clearly debatable, it is clear which side has more pros than cons.

We need to lay bare the misconception that you need to spend to be successful.

Success can also come through strategic prudence. Big names don’t play football. Quality does, and quality can be acquired without profligacy in player transfer expenditure.

Fiifi Anaman.
@fiifianaman on twitter.

*This post first appeared on as ”Are Big Price tags justified in football?’‘, August 28,2012*