Wilfried Zaha: The Latest in a Long Line of Expensive English Acquisitions

In today’s modern football world, we are all programmed to lap up anything mentioning minimum fee release clauses or grandiose match-highest earner contracts. Therefore the recent trend of young English footballers being involved in huge mega money transfers has been something that we’ve all been largely exposed to; watching on partly in excitement and partly in bemusement.

Wilfried Zaha recently hit the headlines following the announcement of his proposed deal to Manchester United, joining up with the Red Devils from summer 2013 for a fee of up to £15m. The reasoning for why English players go for such extortionate prices mainly boils down to the ever-impending ‘homegrown’ rules looming over the EPL, whereby each club must have so many homegrown players within their 25 man squad. Meanwhile a shift in supporter ideology has also played a significant part. After the boom of foreign imports in the 1990’s, fans have recently been found adopting a ‘back to basics’ approach. The sexiness and style of signing a playmaker from Southern Europe or a speedy South American winger has somewhat lost a little of its glossiness since the turn of the decade, with fans appreciating local talent more and more.

Wilfried Zaha, whilst born in the Ivory Coast and spending most of his childhood in South London, has been capped at international level for England and played all of his professional footballing career in England. While he may not be a local Manchester lad like the Danny Welbecks and Paul Scholes’ of the team, I guess that’s close enough to constitute a local talent. Zaha, who can play both in an attacking left-wing or striker role, put in an incredible display in Palace’s equally impressive 2-1 win against Man Utd in the 2011 Carling Cup quarter final and has since gone from strength-to-strength notching up a handful of big name clubs vying for his signature. The jury is still out on whether Zaha will be a success under the authoritarian management of Sir Alex Ferguson and the weight of a £15m price tag. Although he has undoubtedly shown ability in abundance since his debut for Crystal Palace in March 2010, history has proven big money English youngsters don’t always proceed in living up to the potential they clearly had at some spell during their career.

The English Premier League has been in no shortage of clubs relinquishing their favoured homegrown youngsters over the past few seasons in exchange for often unfathomable price tags. Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson cost Liverpool a total sum of £36m in summer 2011, not forgetting Andy Carroll’s infamous £35m switch to Merseyside that same year. Connor Wickham similarly made a £13m switch to the Premier League with Sunderland, scoring once in his 22 appearances in his one and a half seasons as a Black Cats player so far. Even as recent as Summer 2012, Manchester City splashed out £20m for the services of bit-part squad players Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair. To say the pairing have been marginal at best would be doing them justice. It is undeniable that a lot of the risks taken on these homegrown British players have backfired over the years. Whether this be down to the player not being able to carry the pressure of an astronomical price tag or whether it’s more a casualty of not having the ability to play at the top level of English football, it cannot be argued these risks don’t always pay off.

However, as long as it is attractive for English teams to field English players, and as long as the FA continue to push for a football league sourced from grassroots level, these transfers will continue to roll in. To suggest that this is a problem would be misguided and the passion sparked on from local talent being pitted against each other in traditional English derbies is something even the most passé football fan could not turn his/her nose up at. Nevertheless it is a scary prospect to think that players can be sold on for in excess of £10-20m without even stepping foot onto a Premier League ground and furthermore begs the question of how much Jack Wilshere or Raheem Sterling would be ‘worth’ should they be made available on the transfer market.

10 thoughts on “Wilfried Zaha: The Latest in a Long Line of Expensive English Acquisitions”

  1. I agree….it does seem like English players get a little overvalued. Are they perhaps worth a little more in increased attention or additional shirt sales? I don’t know the answer to that question…..I’m just asking if there are ancillary benefits to fielding a bunch of England nationals…..

    As a United fan, I like that they have so many English players. It isn’t that I dislike the non-English players, but I kinda ended up with England as my “second team” for national rooting interests just because I want to see how Rooney, Welbeck, Scholes, Smalling, Jones, Rio, Carrick, etc. are doing during the Euros. I already know how they play and it’s fun to see them playing in slightly odd positions at the international level.

    That’s a lot easier than supporting the Ecuadorian National Team because I like Tony V while having no familiarity with the rest of the Ecuadorian team.

    1. I would assume that aside from the player being born in the city/town of the club, shirt sales etc. would be roughly the same as any other player. For example if Steven Gerrard would’ve played the first 10 years of his career for Arsenal before signing for LAiverpool, a sharp inctease in revenue would be recorded as he would’ve been hailed as some form of returning ‘hometown hero’. It’s difficult to grasp what, if any, financial profit the club itself would gain from signing an English player at the expense of a non-English player.

      1. Having homegrown players carries the same commercial weight as having foreign players in the team – if they’re good then they sell shirts – doesn’t matter where the player is from.

        The top and bottom of the homegrown player rule is that the England manager will have options when selecting his squad in the long term. BUT… The rule doesn’t actually mean a player has to be English. So long as they’ve played for an English team for at least 3 years before they turn 21 years of age, and any player under the age of 21 doesn’t count toward the rule.

      2. Okay…..I can buy that there’s no ancillary bonus off-the-field.

        Why the inflated price? I wonder if it is due to the fact that EPL managers have seen young English players play more and better understand them as a player. In theory, people should be willing to pay more for an asset that is better understood, right? It’s like on eBay, if someone puts something up that MIGHT be awesome, but is not very well described…..nobody will bid much. But if the seller makes it 100% crystal clear what exactly the item is, photographs the hell out of the good/bad aspects, then buyers are willing to pay more (assuming the “bad” isn’t horrible).

        Just a thought….

  2. Raheem Sterling wait are you serious jeez, who wrote this article.
    If Raheem Sterling was made available and i was a midtable coach bidding for Sterling, i’ll not even bid £2m for him.
    It pains me when i hear these overhyped and midtable players sold at inflated prices and as a United season ticket holder i am hugely disappointed that United fell for the HYPE MACHINE LIKE LIVERPOOL. Another overhyped SO CALLED HOME GROWN PLAYER moving for an INFLATED PRICE.
    I heard people comparing Sterling to Ryan Giggs, and you wonder why England have not won a major trophy in 5 decades, when you have some HOPELESSLY MEDIOCRE players pulling on THE THREE LIONS SHIRT, Gosh pls get a life.

    I’m Coming.

    1. If you were a midtable coach and bid £2m for Sterling, the fact of the matter is you would not get him. Looking beyond personal opinion or club bias, Sterling in todays market would go for a hell of a lot of money. He’s been a permanent fixture (in his debut season) in a Premier League team who will finish midtable minimum. Add to that his status as an England international, 22 appearances/2 goals this season, his age and his natural position and you’ve got a player who would sell for well in excess of £15m. Whether or not his price tag is accurate is a completely different issue, the fee for which he would be sold is however slightly less uncertain.

  3. The transfer fee for a player is overrated as it does not take into account his wages which is just as important as the transfer fee. There are also sign-on bonuses involved. Not to mention short-term vs long-term contracts.

  4. The transfer window has added to the feeding frenzy. Teams only have 30 days to to their business. Some are desperate e.g. QPR as are the lower league clubs looking to cash in on their prize assets. Throw in a premium for the top teams (everyone knows Man City and Chelsea will overpay for anything with two legs), top up for the scumbag agent’s fees, and its easy to see how prices get inflated. The market for players is not as efficient as the stock market. As long as there are managers clinging to their jobs, or deluded chairman thinking they can buy instant success, a horrible agent will be there to help out.

  5. U know the last time i bought an England Shirt for my 2 sons 2000, i stopped buying English Shirts because i’m fed up with the HOPELESSLY MEDIOCRE TALENTS that pull on the England shirt, instead i’ll buy United kits for them knowing that i’m guaranteed success.
    Regarding the homegrown player rule let me ask these questions
    1)When was last time an English youngster came through and dispose an estabished pro, joe hart. Thats why u have man city buying Rodwel and Sinclair not because they’re that good but because they simply have to, its a no win situation for the FA.

    What would England give up in order to have the current Spanish setup.
    My point exactly is that these English Lads are overhyped from infancy.

    I’m Coming.

  6. LAverpool ? what does that mean ? i hope you mean laa, local scouse term. if you mean LA america ill let you in on something, your owners are amercan too laaa.

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