Man City transfer pursuit exposes one of the Premier League’s biggest problems – opinion

Harry Maguire appears set to move to Manchester City this summer, per The Mirror.

The Leicester City defender, now an England cult hero, has been the subject of a tug-of-war between City and bitter rivals Manchester United and it is not difficult to see why. This is a no-nonsense centre-back with excellent positional sense, ball playing prowess and a genuinely brilliant heading ability. He is a solid tackler, too.

And yet, recent reports suggest that he could leave for £80m. That’s not a typo. The number is real and, were City to match it, he would complete a transfer for the same price that Real Madrid once paid to secure Cristiano Ronaldo, then the best footballer in the world.

This is not a one-off, either. City have been here before with English talent.

John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Kyle Walker are all among the most expensive transfers of all time.

And this speaks to a greater issue. English talent has for too long been overpriced but now it appears that we are reaching the peak of the fad. Maguire is a fine defender and his stock rose considerably after the 2018 World Cup, when he was a marvel in Gareth Southgate’s England team, but the price is, quite simply, insane.

Take Matthijs De Ligt as the counterpoint. The Netherlands international emerged as one of the most coveted defenders in the world during Ajax’s run to the Champions League semi-finals, a player of impeccable timing and with a ceiling higher than many of his contemporaries. He could yet be the best defender in the world. He would cost around £62m.

Who’s doing these sums?

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Now, of course, an English player has not been the most expensive in the world since 1996, when Newcastle United, in more stable times, paid £15m for Alan Shearer. Prior to that, it was Jackie Sewell, in 1951, moving from Notts County to Sheffield Wednesday for £34,500. In today’s money, that’s £1m.

Since then, prices have mushroomed and we’re at the point where a £100m transfer barely raises an eyebrow.

But the inflation at the top has trickled down and led to the misguided belief that non-elite players can be worth it too.

Maguire is a prime example, and it affects other deals too.

Look at City’s move to sign Walker from Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs knew what they had. This was an elite full-back who was being courted by the richest club in the land. After months of negotiations with Daniel Levy City paid an initial £45m that could rise to over £50m. As a result, Monaco, when negotiating the sale of Benjamin Mendy to the Etihad Stadium, demanded the same figure. They got it because City could afford it.

But, really, it doesn’t make sense. Of course, buying British talent can lead to favourable views from fans. Instead of going out and buying the best talent on the continent, keeping it on these shores – as City have strived to do where possible – can lead to more engagement from supporters who are watching their countrymen do their team proud.

Yet to get them, now, one has to pay through the nose. Compare and contrast. Declan Rice at West Ham would cost around £100m to buy this summer, Football FanCast understands.

Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele, a player further along in his development, could move to Spurs for £66.6m.

Jack Grealish, a player who has never played for the England senior team and played in the Championship last season, has a £60m release clause in his contract.

Hakim Ziyech, the attacking midfielder who was integral as Ajax reached the Champions League semis, is reportedly available for £25m.

Remember too, that Jordan Pickford, at Everton, became the most expensive British goalkeeper of all time when he moved from Sunderland for a deal that could be worth £30m. Sunderland had just been relegated.

Maguire, then, is not the cause of this sickness. One actually feels that it is deals by foreign clubs that have inflated the market to the point of farce – Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Gareth Bale are perhaps the chief instigators – but Premier League clubs are now clawing each other’s eyes out as they look to take advantage.

If Maguire is now worth £80m, one has to wonder the price for the very best attacking English players, the likes of Harry Kane, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford.

To City, of course, he may well be worth it. Maguire could come in, sign a five-year contract, and win five Premier League titles, helping the club to countless clean sheets. Perhaps he’d be able to repay the investment on the pitch.

Or maybe, just maybe, this is a sign that the Premier League has lost its grip on reality, and on its calculator.

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