Liverpool and Crystal Palace have been busy proving the assumption that the Premier League’s monster new TV deal would lead to a summer of ridiculous transfer fees correct over the course of the past week or so.
The Anfield side have splashed £34m to buy Sadio Mane from Southampton, while the Eagles have already brought in Andros Townsend (£13m) and James Tomkins (£12.5m) for fees in excess of their previous transfer record, as well as reportedly tabling a £25m bid for the Reds’ Christian Benteke.
Given the startling money involved in said manoeuvres, it is reasonable to ask whether the sterling may have been better spent, with the answer unavoidably yes.
It’s almost as if the players in question were selected to prove the point that shrewdest way to invest in the commodity that is registration of a professional footballer is by funnelling funds into the improvement of scouting networks and youth development.
Southampton snapped up Mane from Red Bull Salzburg for £11.8m, some £22.2m less than they sold him for two seasons later, while Benteke was acquired out of the Belgian Pro League for £7m, eventually garnering the second-city side a £25.5m profit after keeping them in the Premier League for three campaigns.
Tompkins and Townsend, meanwhile, were products of the West Ham and Tottenham youth teams.
The Saints, in particular, must marvel at Liverpool’s repeated inclination to line their pockets rather than concentrate greater efforts in sourcing or developing talents such as Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne, Mane and even Rickie Lambert (who cost his boyhood club at least £4m).
Back in 2013/14, the Eagles’ first season back in the Premier League after eight away, during which time the club also disappeared into nonexistence for financial reasons, the parochial, insular nature of scouting at Selhurst Park suffered a similarly-damning indictment.
Ian Holloway oversaw 16 summer arrivals, leaving the Eagles with a squad found to be the biggest of any club in Europe by BBC-reported study later that season, which commented at the time that the mass purchasing “reflects poor strategic planning, as many established professionals do not even have the right to participate in league games.”
One of the signings, Florian Marange, was among those left out of the 25-man Premier League, with Holloway illuminating the farcical nature of the recruitment process in explaining the decision:
“With Florian he isn’t the player we thought he was. We need some pace in that backline and he hasn’t got it. I looked at his record and we brought him in pre season, but after two games he wasn’t up to it.”
Given such tomfoolery, it’s difficult to think signings-proved-shrewd, such as the acquisition of Mile Jedinak from Turkey, were down to much more than good fortune.
To return to the present, where both clubs continue to pay top dollar for finished products rather than seek similar talent from beyond the limelight or within their catchment areas, it seems Liverpool and Palace remain keener to line the pockets of their Premier League rivals than ape those competitors means of procuring players