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Why EPL Clubs Should Buy English Not Foreign Players

By John Nicholson

Here’s a mantra you’ll all be familiar with: English born players are over-priced. That’s why clubs buy so many overseas players. You get good players for much less money.

That’s the received wisdom. We can all point to examples to prove this. Everton paid just a couple of million quid for Arteta who was one of the best, most creative midfielders last season; an absolute steal for that money.

And initially, when you see Darren Bent’s transfer for the thick end of £16million, you’d think it was undeniable that Englishmen are vastly over-priced. But I’ve just realized that it’s not true. Let’s stop defaulting to the usual stand point and look at the situation a bit closer.

The first thing we need say is that the majority of transfers of players so far this summer have been on a free or for minimal money. Indeed, it’s a sign of the times that relatively high profile players as diverse as Claudio Pizarro, Steve Sidwell, Tal Ben Haim, Sylvain Distin, Sanli Tuncay, Mark Viduka, Antoine Sibierski all come to new clubs for nothing except their massive wages. Hosts of transfers have been made for anything from nothing to a couple of million.

Transfers that involve serious money are few and far between. And while it may have been true in the past that English players are over-priced, we’re starting to see a change. The over-valuation of foreign imports to the Premiership has always gone without enough comment. There is a school of thought that seems to think a non English player is always good value. But it’s time to question that.

Liverpool has just paid £27 million for Torres (pictured). Torres is 23, so he’s not really, really young, he’s just coming into his prime. But how good is he? 14 goals in 42 games for Spain is good but not brilliant. 82 goals in 212 for Atletico Madrid is steady but not world beating. For £27 million you want a lot more than a goal every third game. That kind of record nets you about 13 goals in the Premiership season which won’t good enough to win Liverpool the league. So Benitez is gambling on Torres improving substantially.

There are no reasons to think he won’t improve but there are equally none to suggest he will. Many players come to the Premiership and fail to perform, regardless of their previous qualities. Shevchenko is just the most recent in a long line of players who just can’t adapt to the Premiership. So be under no doubts, the Torres deal is a big and expensive gamble.

Now when it come to Bent who is costing 10 million less – which is a lot less – he has already proven to be able to score regularly in the Premiership, even at a poorly performing club. You can argue that Bent isn’t as good a player as Torres and not a proven international and you’d be right, but that might be irrelevant. Veron proved that being a big money, established international doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be able to perform in this league.

Spurs are gambling far less than Liverpool are and it’s that safer bet that drives English Premiership transfers up. You want a player to come to the club, fit in right away and perform right away. No club wants to wait a season for a player to adjust……there’s no reason why they should. Hell, its still football, it’s the same game, why should it take a year to learn to run a bit faster?

Being a proven Premiership player is worth a lot financially and rightly so. Newcastle are paying about one and a half million less for Joey Barton than Portsmouth are for Muntari. Muntari might be brilliant, but he might not be. We don’t know yet. Big Sam already knows what he’s going to get from Barton. Again, its less of a gamble and by paying a couple of million less he’s got some cash in reserve to bail Joey out of jail after he’s eaten someone during a mid-season break in Spain.

Manchester United’s purchase of Nani and Anderson for over 31 million collectively is another huge gamble and one which would have raised eyebrows if it had been done for a couple of promising English players. Clearly they have huge potential and are already internationals but so were Djemba Djemba and Kleberson and they were utter, utter shite for Manchester United.

It’s time to revise our opinion of the worth of English players. Suspicion remains that the idea that they are over-priced is just all part of the anti-English snobbery that some in England like to indulge in; self flagellation being one of the countries’ favourite pastimes.

John Nicholson writes each week for Football 365 and EPL Talk. You can listen to John’s wonderful stories on episode 30 and 45 of the EPL Talk Podcast, as well as purchase his excellent Footy Rocks book and order one of his unique rock’n roll T-shirts.

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  1. Soccer Guru

    July 2, 2007 at 9:52 am

    Without the budding foreign talent in the EPL, the premiership wouldn’t be making the dent it is in the sports landscape in Asia and Africa. Perhaps buying young English talent is a better on the pitch investment, but it is not a better marketing investment.

  2. OZ

    July 1, 2007 at 10:12 am

    Leave out the nationalities and look at it as a business proposition, which it is. If you can replace an employee with an equally competent but cheaper employee you would do it in a flash.

    Developing your own talent is less risky and cheaper but it takes time and fans want to win now. Benitez needs to win the Premiership next year or he is out and Capello is in(unless England get him first). Big money means win now.

    Bringing in older established stars, unless they are Pele, Maradona or of that class (very unlikely) is always a gamble(see Real Madrid).

    The key is the ability to evaluate and utilize talent. Fergie and Wenger are great at it. Ferguson’s failure came with older players (harder to judge) and Wenger by and large stays way from them. I think United are counting on the presence of Ronaldo and Quieroz to help ease the new player’s transition.

    If there is a bias against English talent, I doubt that it is nationality driven. Wenger, for example is not going to turn down a great English player just because he was English.

    Underlying all this is the notion that a club has an obligation to develop players for the national team and that is simply absurd. Once clubs went public they belonged to the shareholders and as such are open to the highest bidder, whether they are from Thailand, the US or Mars. Everything now comes with a price.

  3. PremierLeagueGoals

    June 30, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    I think that Torres has an enviable goalscoring record for someone so young – and with a great team around him it could get even better (just like van Nistelrooy’s strike record went up immediately when he moved to PSV…)
    If you want to compare look how many goals these players scored with the same age like Torres:

    Rooney – 132 league apps in first 4 seasons

    van Nistelrooy – almost 100 league apps in 4 seasons – in the easiest goalscoring division in the world (Eredivisie) 😀

    Ibrahimovic – 113 league appearances in 5 seasons

    Henry – 113 league apps in 4 seasons

    Torres – 134 league apps in 4 seasons

    Plus I think that Torres can bring alot more to Liverpool, not just goals.He has strong character, first touch, he is fast also.

    Little overrated player, but he can really be excellent, now he is not… When Henry came to Arsenal, who would thought that he is going to be the best EPL player by many…

  4. tyduffy

    June 30, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    I think that with high profile massive buys you may have a point. But, on aggregate, it is cheaper to bring in young foreign talent, much cheaper. Arsenal paid 1m GBP for Fabregas, splurged a bit on Denilson at 3.5m GBP, but have had to pay 12m GBP for Walcott. Look how much money it cost for Spurs to pry Bale from Southampton. Wenger isn’t on a maniacal bent to destroy English football, he’s doing what makes sense.

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