Yesterday it became apparent Manchester United were to complete a move for Blackburn’s Phil Jones, the reported transfer fee for the 19 year old is thought to be around £16 million.
This figure alone shows the drastic change in transfer fees since the days of 1993 when Sir Alex and Manchester United themselves broke the British record transfer fee to sing Roy Keane for at the time a huge £3.75 million, (I think Sunderland have offered more than that for Darron Gibson). However does Phil Jones’ transfer fee also show a movement in Fergie’s fight against transfer fee inflation?
Last January Chelsea completed the £50million transfer of Fernando Torres who had a disappointing start to life at his new club, achieving just a single goal in the second half of the season he spent there. In large contrast to this Manchester United took a punt last summer. Javier Hernandez was unheard of by most in England (he wasn’t even renowned for being good on Football Manager like most future stars). His reported £6 million transfer seemed a bit of an odd one to fans. However these doubts soon went out the window as the Mexican striker started to impress with his goals. At around £44million less Hernandez made a much bigger impact on Manchester United last season than Torres did on Chelsea.
The seemingly bizarre signing of Hernandez was joined by that of the equally odd arrival of Chris Smalling. The defender has made few appearances for former club Fulham, one of them featured him scoring a decisive own goal in a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea. However SAF and his scouts must have seen something the rest of us missed, or hadn’t been looking for. United completed the transfer with the fee believed to be around £8million.
This seemed like an extraordinary amount for the player. Yet, like Hernandez, Smalling started to show his worth. With Ferdinand regularly being absent from the team with injury Smalling soon found himself as primary cover ahead of Jonny Evans.
Aforementioned Ferdinand cost United yet another British record transfer fee of £30million for his services. I don’t think there are many United fans who would begrudge this transfer though due to Ferdinand’s importance to the club. The probable move of Phil Jones to Old Trafford has already begun the questioning of his role in the team. It is likely he is a long term answer to life after Ferdinand and Vidic.
It looks quite possible he has been signed with a vision of a pairing with Smalling so the two are prepared to step in, and immediately take over when the time comes for Ferdinand and Vidic to vacate their positions. If this is the plan it is a very strategic one as the two are also quite possibly the two most promising young English centre-backs, and so may be teamed for club and country giving them experience of playing together at all levels. However not only may this move be strategic on the pitch it may also be strategic in the transfer market.
As I’ve already covered Ferdinand alone cost the club £30million and to be fair it was a good use of £30million in football. However I cannot imagine how much the pairing of Vidic and Ferdinand would have been valued at in the past few seasons. Whilst the fee of £8million for an unproven Smalling and £16million for only 19 year old Jones may seem a lot, in a few seasons United may well be laughing with these signings. The combined cost of bringing United’s potential future defensive pairing would be around £24million. This is less than the amount United nine years ago for just one of their key centre backs.
The last time United paid the kind of price currently being paid for top players was the signing of Berbatov in 2008. Since then Ferguson has been taking his chances on mainly young players with lower transfer fees such as Obertan, Bebe, Hernandez and Smalling.
The only slightly higher fee he paid was for Valencia who amongst some of the current top transfer fees has justified his own. Whilst Obertan and Bebe have still to prove their prices, and hopefully will get more playing time to do so in the future, Hernandez and Smalling are working towards paying theirs off and more. With another potential transfer coup in Phil Jones has Fergie found a way round the rising fees?
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