Over-the-Top Football: The new reality on transfers

There’s something I need to get off my chest. Players’ transfer fees should not be used to assess the quality of a soccer player in modern soccer. Here’s why.

As a Manchester United fan, I am happy to say that we are always rumored to sign big players like Lionel Messi, Neymar, Sergio Ramos, etc. I will sadly admit that these rumors remained rumors as they never signed the big players that they were linked to. However, in the summer of 2016, they signed a top player in Paul Pogba from Juventus with a record high transfer fee of 105 million euros. I was quite happy with the signing even though I was taken aback by the size of the price tag. Pogba had won four consecutive Serie A titles with Juventus; however, he was not the main reason for Juventus’ dominance. Regardless, Pogba did possess enormous skill sets that could benefit United, subsiding any of my apprehension towards the signing.

The same could not be said of fans on Twitter, YouTube or pundits on televised stations. If you are an avid soccer fan, you have probably come across a Sky Sports football debate show where pundits give analysis on how teams and players are performing. Unlike some other punditry shows, Sky Sports features former players who give fun and engaging discussion on soccer, so I always tune in to watch recaps on YouTube.

Following the Pogba announcement and debut, United and Pogba underperformed. The club had recently signed a new manager, José Mourinho, who needed some time to change the team around. To compensate for the lack of a deep-lying midfielder, he placed Pogba in that position, although that was not his best position. So, like Tim Tebow playing tight-end, Pogba was lost in his position and made some positional errors, which were scrutinized ridiculously. All punditry following United’s game featured someone blaming Pogba for all United’s problems due to his price tag. If United failed to score, it was Pogba and his price tag’s fault.

If United conceded a goal, it was Pogba’s fault. Pundits simply failed to internalize the conditions embedded within United, and they focused solely on transfer fees when evaluating Pogba’s performances. They forgot to add that Pogba was playing out of position. On top of this, he was also playing for a defensive-minded coach. Thus, the tricks and offensive capabilities of Pogba were diluted since he was put in a system that required him to play differently.

Following Pogba’s arrival to United, there have been numerous players who have moved to another club under hefty transfer fees. Especially in the Premier League, every transfer window features a huge signing for any of the Big Six clubs (sadly, Arsenal is included). Should fans and pundits want these players to play well due to their transfer fees? Yes, absolutely. The expectations for an $80 million or above transfer player to perform well should be massive because they were sought and bought to change an issue on the pitch. However, players do not control the market or how much they were bought for. In addition, they do not decide on what tactics to utilize in games. They also do not control the performances of their teammates. Therefore, it is not fair to utilize transfer fees to assess the quality of a player, especially if they were brought in for a rebuilding project or to add more depth to a team.