The domestic market is crazy. Liverpool fans know it, Chelsea fans know it, hell, everyone knows it. Inflated prices have been part and parcel of buying from divisional rivals for a hell of a long time. It’s old news, written about at length almost every time another transfer is made for yet another ridiculous fee.
Why bother writing about it then? I’m glad you asked. What has provoked this article, inquisitive reader, is in fact a transfer that hasn’t happened, at least not yet anyway. There’s no easy way to write this without it sounding ridiculous, so I’m just going to go ahead and say it: Wolves have turned down a £12million bid by Sunderland for Steven Fletcher. That’s right, £12milllion, deemed an insufficient amount of money by a Championship club. Apparently they value him closer to £15million. It almost goes without saying that Fletcher, while a decent player, is worth barely half of that. “Well, that’s fair enough I suppose, he’s their player and they don’t have to sell”, you might say, and of course you would be right, there’s no reason why Wolves should be forced to sell their best player for less than they feel he is worth. What makes the mind truly boggle is that Sunderland look like they’re prepared to go ahead and meet the asking price.
Why? The obvious reason is, of course, that Sunderland are a team that are woefully short of options up front. They need a striker, and, with less than one week to go until the start of the season, they need one now. What makes Fletcher so appealing is the fact that he has Premier League experience: the club know what they’re getting with him, there are no worries about settling in or adapting to the English game. A fair consideration when handing over so much money, but is it really enough to justify paying such an inflated fee? Is his Premier League experience really that valuable? Surely there are other options that could do a similar job for a lower price. Highly rated Venezuelan striker Jose Salomon Rondon recently moved from Malaga to Rubin for €13million, or about £10million. PSG will be looking to get rid of a number of players as a result of their recent attacking purchases, including Guillaume Hoarau, who was favoured over Kevin Gameiro towards the end of last season. He currently has a market value of €7million. He would, in my opinion, do just as good a job as Fletcher. Besides, the fact that you know what you’re getting with Fletcher can in fact be used as an argument against his signing. He has experience in the Premier League, but experience of what? Two relegations either side of a 17th place finish. Yes, it would be more of a risk to spend the money on someone untested in the league, but with greater risk comes greater reward should it pay off – with Fletcher you know you’re getting a man who’ll score you 10-15 goals a season, but a player untested in the league could potentially bag you even more. What recent seasons seem to demonstrate, moreover, is that Premier League experience does not even mean the move would be successful. It would make sense paying over the odds for a player if it meant a guarantee of success, but the likes of Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and even Fernando Torres show that simply is not the case.
Look, I’ll be honest. I’m a Newcastle fan. Nothing would give me greater satisfaction than seeing a rival club pay way over the odds for a player who has done little to justify the fee, to be able to mock friends, classmates at uni, and even certain family members who support them. But, honestly, I hope they don’t sign him. It would take the already crazy domestic market and remove what little value there was left. If he flopped it would lead to the argument that “if Fletcher’s worth £15million then X is worth £20million”, and if he succeeded it would add weight to the notion that Premier League experience should make a player twice as expensive as they ordinarily would be. Perhaps I’m biased: the last high profile foreign signing my club made was Papiss Cisse, maybe I’d see the point of paying £6million more for a striker of less ability if my club had recently signed, for example, Asamoah Gyan. But honestly, I really can’t see the logic.