Neil Humphreys says EPL transfer strategy is mad
Despite the sea of cash floating in the EPL, wealthier clubs will just attract wealthier players, not trophies
Jose Mourinho appreciates the value of pre-season friendlies.
The Manchester United manager gets a chance to decide which youngsters he should send out to obscure Belgian clubs on loan.
Old Trafford purists raised on the Class of 92 may soon struggle with the pangs of nostalgia.
Mourinho doesn't do youth development. He cares only about the trophies at stake today, rather than the potential of tomorrow.
But he's not alone. In fact, he's part of an increasing majority, as English Premier League clubs lavish tens of millions on proven products, or even almost-proven products, in a desperate bid to keep up with the Jones'.
To a certain extent, this has always been the case, constantly upgrading to impress the wealthy, noisy neighbours. But everyone's rich now. Everyone's eager to live in the prettiest house.
There's no time to solidify the foundations, just fill the property quickly with overpriced furniture sold by snake-oil salesmen.
Buy now. Think later. Logic and rational thought are left with the secretary outside the boardroom. Inside, it's all about the money and giggling agents doing their grubbiest best for the Beautiful Game.
Last summer's transfer window transfer of £822.5 million ($1.4b) could be broken any time now, with 43 days still to go before the current window slams shut.
If Paul Pogba's mad move to United is rubber-stamped or the farcical attempt by West Ham to sign James Rodriguez goes through, then more than £1 billion would've already changed hands in the EPL transfer market.
BIG MONEY MEN: Paul Pogba could be the big stars heading to the Premier League. PHOTO: REUTERS
Optimists had hoped that the TV revenues flooding English football would act as a socio-economic leveller, with everyone gorging at the same trough for talent.
But recent transfer activity hints at the opposite, reinforcing a winner-takes-all approach whilst scribbling the latest obituary on youth development in England.
The best are still drawn to the best and the rest are battling for the leftovers, frantically bartering at the market of mediocrity. The only difference is everyone is now paying over the odds for essentially the same calibre of player.
Sadio Mane, Granit Xhaka, Eric Bailly, Michy Batshuayi and N'Golo Kante have all joined the £30m-plus club, switching their allegiance for fees in excess of £30m. At this stage, only Kante represents real value for money.
As Euro 2016 painfully demonstrated, the talent pool appears to be shrinking. Conspiracy theories are numerous, but the most plausible must be the blocking of youthful promise at its crucial, formative stage.
With greater cash comes greater responsibility, along with the insatiable demands of an instant gratification culture.
After a stellar campaign, West Ham are under huge pressure to fill the Olympic Stadium. The kids from the famed academy might pull it off. But Rodriguez offers a safer bet.
Only now, the Real Madrid benchwarmer comes with a ridiculous €80m ($120m) price tag. The inconsistent 25-year-old Colombian isn't worth half that amount - based on current form - and both clubs know it.
But the Spaniards are not in a hurry to sell and realise that the desperate Hammers have the funds required to meet their exorbitant demands.
Signing a bit-part Real Madrid star doesn't turn West Ham into Real Madrid. They'll still be West Ham with a bit-part superstar and an €80 million hole in their finances.
But Rodriguez comes with more miles on the clock than a promising teenager in the reserves. In a panic-stricken arena, calculated gambles with the least risk are always the most enticing.
Likewise, Mourinho gave Will Keane and Andreas Pereira a chance to impress in the recent friendly against Wigan, but their goal-scoring cameos felt like auditions for their next clubs.
The Pogba rumours continue. Every day brings another story, another probable deal involving the French midfielder and United's powerbrokers.
It's the Mourinho way. He hasn't got time to nurture and educate kids. He covets made men. Zlatan Ibrahimovic fits the bill, but the bill is long. His salary and add-ons took the Swede's legal team weeks to finalise.
They know how much money is floating around English football, along with every agent and half-decent player, all tracking EPL movements like hangers-on following the Kardashians.
Forget the lack of class. Just think about the cash.
To sum up the situation's idiocy, consider Christian Benteke. Crystal Palace certainly are, along with his £32.5m asking price.
Liverpool executives refuse to entertain a reduced rate - presumably because they're still laughing - and Palace may yet hand over the fee.
When the TV deal was originally announced, the extra cash was trumpeted as a chance for smaller clubs, like Palace, to buy players in the £30-million category.
Last season, that amount bought Alexis Sánchez from Barcelona.
This season, it'll buy Benteke from Liverpool's reserves.
The EPL certainly has more money than sense. What's worse, it'll still have more money than quality.
“He has good technique, fantastic stamina and I like this type of player. If you want to win then a team need this type of player that works hard for the team.”
— Chelsea manager Antonio Conte on the signing of N’Golo Kante
United a step down for Pogba
Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri is confident Paul Pogba will stay put at the club despite talks about the French midfielder leaving for England or Spain.
Pogba, who's contract at Juventus runs until 2019, has been linked with a return to English Premier League club Manchester United and Champions League winners Real Madrid.
The stronger link, though, is with United, and Allegri suggested Pogba would be taking a step back if he did move to Manchester.
The 23-year-old left Old Trafford on a free transfer in 2012 but could be set to return in a world-record deal worth £100 million, with negotiations over a potential deal understood to have begun earlier this month.
However, Allegri believes Juventus are in the European elite and has reminded Pogba that they can offer the France midfielder the chance to win the Champions League this season while United will compete in the Europa League.
"I am calm about the English rumours," Allegri told Gazzetta dello Sport. "Anyone who has the opportunity to leave Juventus has to consider things very carefully, because right now Juve are among the top four European clubs."
Pogba, who was part of the France team that reached the recent Euro 2016 final, played 48 times in all competitions last season to guide Juve to a Serie A and Coppa Italia double.
The Italian champions have also boosted the squad by acquiring midfielder Miralem Pjanic, right back Dani Alves and Morocco defender Medhi Benatia during the close season.
"This is not a selling club that just lets its players go. Pogba belongs to Juve and at the end of the day he too will want to win another Scudetto and hopefully the Champions League," the 48-year-old Allegri added. "We have grown in terms of appeal and awareness of our own capabilities. So far our market this summer has been eight out of 10, bringing in players of international pedigree like Medhi Benatia, Dani Alves and Miralem Pjanic." - Reuters.
I admire Cantona and I heard what he said. But I won’t be King of Manchester. I will be God of Manchester.
— Manchester United’s new signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic (above), who was not happy when Eric Cantona, nicknamed ‘The King’ during his time at Old Trafford, claimed the Swede could become a prince at the club