The importance of Robin van Persie’s £24 million move last summer was not only that it helped to determine the outcome of the Premier League but that it altered the transfer policies of the ‘big’ English clubs.
A precedent had been set and this summer we are seeing the emergence of this new trend – the big clubs are buying or at least attempting to buy from each other.
With both Rooney and Suarez heavily linked with moves away to Stamford Bridge and the Emirates, there appears to be an insistence that if a club must buy big, it is imperative that they should buy big domestically. Either there is a greater faith in the ‘tried and tested’ Premier League players or world class players do not want to play in England.
Whilst United’s ‘gamble’ of splashing out such cash for a 29-year-old Van Persie has paid dividends, repeating such a transfer must be considered cautiously. For instance, would splashing out £30+ for a past-his-peak Rooney really be good business for Arsenal when they could have matched Napoli’s Higuain bid for around the same price?
The other side to the Arsenal/Higuain saga represents an argument pointing to the changing attitudes in the transfer market – could it be that world class players no longer want to play in the Premier League?
With no English club making the UEFA Champions League quarter-final stage last year and England now being economically usurped by the French mercenaries PSG and Monaco, the lure of the English league may have been lessened.
Manchester City for example ruled themselves out of Cavani as they were not willing to pay the asking price that ultimately PSG paid and you are left to question whether City would have paid £55 million should Cavani have been proven in England.
The result of this is the creation of a “Premier League cocoon” – a hope that the very best home-grown players and the most successful exports will want to stay in the division. Whilst this appears implausible regarding Suarez due to his comments about wanting to escape the English media, apparent interest in the Arsenal move suggest otherwise.
United’s pursuit of Cesc Fabregas is also a prime example of the new mindset of big-clubs as Andy Mitten, respected editor for United We Stand, is of the opinion that Fabregas is an Anglophile.
It is clear that for Cesc, one of the factors why he is interested in signing for the champions is the draw of the Premier League from his spell at Arsenal. Indeed this works both ways as the main justifications for spending up to £35 million on the Spaniard is that he is proven in the division.
This changing policy is recent. A transfer of Arsenal’s best player to United during the late 1990s/ early 2000s would not have been conceivable. It is reflective of the diminishing competitiveness between United and Arsenal in recent years but is it also reflective of the petering fierceness of Premier League rivalries in general?
It appears that the old English etiquette of player loyalty is a thing of the past. The big clubs are becoming more and more single-minded on becoming successful and purchases of already proven English players are very much en vogue.
In some ways the Premier League is beginning to mirror the Serie A where players have swapped seamlessly from big club to big club for years. Examples include Baggio signed for Milan from Juventus in 1995 and Andrea Pirlo, whose career headed in the opposite direction with him leaving San Siro for the black and white of Juventus.
Footballers have not hesitated to play for both clubs in Milan such as Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo and Seedorf. It would be absurd to explain that the emergence of such inter-nation transfers is due to a lack of competitiveness.
Indeed, this makes for a more fascinating division and is a positive for the footballing neutrals. If the likes of Cavani and Thiago are choosing to avoid England, the fact that ultimately the very best players we have (for now at least) are staying put can only be good – even if bridges may be burned in the process.