I’m still shocked at Glen Johnson’s £17.5m price tag. Bumping up Liverpool’s record defensive transfer fee by some £10m is a lot to take. It’s only a year since they paid around £7m for Andreas Dossena. It’s only 18 months since they paid £6m for Martin Skrtel, the Liverpool defensive record before Dossena’s move. More than doubling the record for a defender in a year’s time seems insane.
But I can’t blame Liverpool.
There is no denying Johnson’s quality. The young, skillful, attacking right-back could be the perfect weapon for helping the Reds in their eternal struggle to break down the regressive ten-men-behind-the-ball sides. Johnson tearing down the wing, creating danger, sending in balls for Torres and Gerrard to devour. It’s going to be beautiful.
But the £17.5m move not only brings a talented attacking full-back to a side that was, last season, only one or two players away from being title winners. It also gives them another Englishman in the ranks to meet the Champions League quota of “home grown” players.
Last fall, Liverpool’s initial European roster had no room for Sami Hyypia. The experienced Finn was left out to make room for the eight home grown players required for the 25-man squad. Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Jay Spearing, Stephen Darby, Robbie Keane, Jermaine Pennant, Steven Irwin and Martin Kelly made up the list of players who filled the quota. Four unseasoned youngsters and one Jermaine Pennant. Liverpool might have sold the latter the previous summer for a decent return if it wasn’t for this rule.
So in Johnson they have a first-choice English starter to add to the ranks. And if FIFA ever implement the 6+5 rule, which they continued to push at the June FIFA Congress in Nassau, Johnson’s place in the side could be absolutely essential. The 6+5 Rule’s fate may be hinging on the outcome of the Treaty of Lisbon which has a section on sport that may help FIFA get this rule moving in Europe and beyond.
The rule is a ridiculous premise, eventually forcing a team to field 6 home grown players in their starting line-ups.
Meant to ensure youth development and national identities are preserved, the 6+5 rule will push the price of domestic players up even higher. With the demand for 6 English starters, top clubs will spend untold amounts to ensure they have English quality in their starting XI. The limited market could cause huge bidding wars between top sides who don’t often have the patience to wait for their youth academies bear fruit.
If the 6+5 rule goes through, £17.5m for Johnson may soon seem like pocket change.
For now, Johnson coming in helps Liverpool with the 8-man rule in Europe, but unless they buy more English players, they’ll still need to bring youngsters to the continent. Expect a plenty of kids on the bench. Although, if the likes of Spearing and Derby can show their quality, as they did in first-team glimpses last season, Liverpool’s fears of wrestling with the 6+5 rule in the future may not be as dire as expected.