Transfers: Bargain or investment?

Eric Cantona

As the transfer window draws to a close, Manchester United have been relatively active in over the past couple of months. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Paul Pogba, have all arrived to compete for the red shirt. In light of this, Mark Froggatt for the official Manchester United website examined and evaluated some of United’s top purchases from recent years gone by. Froggatt claims that Manchester United’s top five bargain buys are:

  1. Edwin van der Sar from Fulham for £2 million
  2. Cristiano Ronaldo from Sporting Lisbon for £12.24 million
  3. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer from Molde for £1.5 million
  4. Eric Cantona from Leeds United for £1.2 million
  5. Peter Schmeichel from Brondby for £505,000

There’s no doubt that all five of these players were players that were top class players for United. However, it’s possible that Froggatt is looking solely at the cost, as all five of these deals are fairly cheap in footballing terms, even the deal for Ronaldo is reasonable when you consider the price he was sold for, and the extortionate figures that are paid for players nowadays. A raw and talented teenage Ronaldo in today’s climate would probably go in excess of £30 million or more.

However, the other consideration that must be made when discussing ‘bargain’ is the value for money. When United paid £30 million for Luke Shaw back in 2014, many people instantly will have focused on the price tag. However, if you consider the fact that Shaw can be flying down United’s wing as the club’s first choice left back for 10 years or more, in retrospect it could be considered a bargain. Especially, if Shaw goes on to win league titles and other major honours during his tenure at Old Trafford.

Ronaldo’s transfer could be placed into that category when you look at what he achieved. When he left United, he was undoubtedly the best player in the world, he had won numerous major honours including the league and Champions League, and had also several individual accolades including the Ballon d’Or. Considering the fact Ronaldo was sold to Real Madrid for £80 million, that shows how United’s investment paid off. They created a superstar and got the money for it.

A bargain could, therefore, be seen as an investment, not just someone who is bought for next-to-nothing and turns out to be a hidden gem. Other examples include Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand.

Wayne Rooney signed for United in 2004 for £25.6 million and at the time it was the highest fee ever paid for a footballer under 20 years old. Back in 2004 when United paid this sum for Rooney, there’s no doubt that it will have raised a few eyebrows and question marks. But fast-forward 12 years later and Rooney has just had his testimonial with the club after winning five Premier League titles, a Champions League title and an FA Cup amongst others. When you think of the service Rooney has provided, for example playing out of position, especially when Ronaldo was considered the star, it can be seen as fantastic value for money.

Rio Ferdinand joined United in 2002 to become the most expensive British footballer in history at that time and the world’s most expensive defender, at the time. Considering Ferdinand was at the club till 2014 and in a similar vein to Rooney won several league titles, the Champions League, and the FA Cup, he can be considered brilliant value for money too.

Therefore, a ‘bargain’ can be considered more than just the money at face value, it can be an investment which may reap rewards in the future, whether that be financial gain in the case of Ronaldo, or getting the most out of players and their service to the club, like Rooney and Rio. As shown in this transfer window, United aren’t afraid to spend money to sign players. Breaking the world transfer fee for Paul Pogba this summer has highlighted the club’s ability to spend big on a player. Or maybe this is just a sign of the times, and there aren’t any bargains anymore, which is sad because who doesn’t love a bargain.

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