Much has been made of Manchester United’s decision to spend £36 million on Monaco and France’s young forward Anthony Martial, with many claiming it offers a fair summation of today’s market; too little talent available, and what little there is comes ludicrously overpriced.
Not many have argued, however, that maybe United have paid a fair price - and that the deal simply offers a forewarning of things to come and the direction the transfer market is heading in.
And there may be more to this argument than first appears.
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Inflation in Football
For example, let’s use the world-record transfer progression throughout the years as one method of comparison. Turn the clock back 10 years and the highest transfer fee ever paid was for Zinedine Zidane, who completed a £46.6 million move to Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2001.
Return back to present day and Los Blancos are still in possession of the record, having signed Gareth Bale for a fee of £85 million in 2013; a fee not too far shy of double what they paid for Zidane a decade and a half earlier.
If you venture back 20 years, the progression becomes even more astonishing. Then the record stood at only £13 million, the fee Milan had paid Torino to secure Italian winger Gianluigi Lentini in 1992. The fee paid for Zidane represents a 224% increase on this record in just 10 years, and the fee paid for Bale just two decades late represents an astonishing 554% increase.
This gives an interesting insight into the level of inflation in football over the past two decades, but as the fee paid for Martial was not a world record, let’s use a more relevant example.
A little over 12 years ago, United had again just spent big money on a relatively unknown, but highly promising teenager, signing 18 year old Cristiano Ronaldo from Sporting Lisbon. The fee paid for Ronaldo was £12 million, just under a third of what United have paid for Martial. Now we can begin to compare.
Over the same 12 year period, the world record transfer fee increased from £46.6 million, to £85 million; an 82% increase. The increase between Ronaldo’s fee (£12 million) and Martial’s fee (£36 million) stands at 200%.
Whilst that figure may sound shocking, if you take into account the exponential rate at which the world transfer fee has increased over the last two decades (covered above), then it would appear to make perfect sense that the amount that clubs should have to pay to secure young talent should also rise at a comparable rate.
This seems to indicate that whilst the fee paid for Martial appears astounding at first, with a little research, the figure actually becomes far less shocking. This equation does however, miss out the most important factor in deciding whether or not this deal will be looked back on as a success or a failure.
That factor is of course Martial’s performances and success whilst playing for the club. If Martial is to kick on in the same way that Ronaldo did at United, then this deal could be viewed as one of the best pieces of business conducted by United in years, regardless of cost.