The curious case of expensive British footballers

In 2009 Real Madrid broke the world transfer record when they signed Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United for £80m. The deal was the biggest in the history of football in terms of both the money that changed hands as well as the publicity it attracted throughout the world. Ronaldo’s fee was surprising in that it was so high; it surpassed the previous record transfer fee by a whopping £34m (Zinedine Zidane’s £46m move from Juventus to Real Madrid in 2001). Yet it was (at least somewhat) justified. Ronaldo moved to Madrid as a three-time Premier League winner, European champion, that year’s Ballon d’Or holder and Manchester United’s talisman for the previous three seasons.

This season has seen another lucrative transfer in Radamel Falcao’s move from Atletico Madrid to Monaco for around £55m. Although Falcao’s trophy cabinet is not as full as Ronaldo’s, the Colombian has certainly impressed over the last few seasons: evidently enough to catch the eye of Dmitry Rybolovlev, Monaco’s billionaire majority shareholder. With Atletico Falcao won the Copa del Rey and Europa League, as well as netting 70 goals in 90 games for the Spanish side. He was also part of the league-winning River Plate and Porto sides in 2008 and 2011 respectively, so perhaps his reputation along with Monaco’s owner’s willingness to spend his billions partly excuses Falcao’s £55m price tag.

Players’ valuations are all well and good if they can be justified. No one could dispute that Ronaldo, along with Lionel Messi, is one of the two best players in the world. Considering Messi is extremely unlikely to ever leave Barcelona, Ronaldo’s transfer fee, despite coming as a shock at the time, seems vindicated as it makes sense that the best players in the world cost the highest amounts of money. Going with Ronaldo’s valuation, Falcao’s is similarly warranted. However, over the past few seasons the Premier League has witnessed some of the most bewilderingly unjustified transfer fees for, on a fair few occasions, some decidedly average British players.

Take Andy Carroll, for instance. The England striker admittedly performed at Newcastle United in the Magpies’ short-lived stint in the Championship; Carroll’s 17 goals in 39 appearances helped Newcastle back into the Premier League. The striker impressed Kenny Dalglish and the Liverpool board who, after a bid of £30m was rejected by Newcastle on the last day of the season, made a £35m bid for Carroll. That’s right: thirty-five million English pounds. United ‘reluctantly accepted’ the deal, and Carroll signed for Liverpool. This was a relatively unproven 22 year-old for a bottom half Premier League team who had spent a year in the Championship and had just signed for Liverpool for a British record transfer fee of £35m.

You could say that this was an anomaly and that Liverpool, who had just got £50m for Fernando Torres, had extra cash to spend and didn’t care where the money went. The funny thing, and my whole point here really, is that in the same transfer window (the same day in fact), Liverpool bought controversial Uruguayan striker Luis Su

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