United are attempting to bring the 26-year-old to Old Trafford, and while the sum involved has been a big one it has been par for the course in football
Manchester United are hoping that in the coming days they will add Harry Maguire to their list of new, young British talent in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad ahead of the 2019-20 season. The only thing that seems to need settling has been the transfer fee involved.
It also happens to be the one thing on which everybody apparently has an opinion.
Leicester City’s price-tag stands somewhere around £85-90 million ($105m-$117m), while United have reportedly had an initial offer of £70m rejected. But judging by some of the reactions to the fees involved, Maguire has been not worthy of being the subject of such elevated figures.
Whether compared to United defenders of years gone by such as Rio Ferdinand or the current most expensive defender in history, Liverpool’s £75m centre-back Virgil van Dijk, the majority of supporters seem to look upon Maguire unfavourably and so have decided that the England man has been not worth anything like the costs being mentioned in negotiations so far.
But those passing judgement on the Maguire fee – however much it ends up being – should remember that to a great extent these are made up numbers. Just as when a friend might joke about what they might do for “a million pounds” in one country or “a million bucks” in another, the idea of having any say on the particulars of a transfer has been completely abstract.
What does it matter to Manchester United fans if Maguire costs £80m rather than £40m if it gets their club the man they trust to do a job for them at centre-back for the next five years? The club earns so much money from so many avenues these days that it cannot really be said that big signings have that much of a direct knock-on effect on ticket or subscription costs.
Sure, United need to be seen to get something like value for their money in the market, but this has been a club that works on a very different plain to others. They break all sorts of commercial records practically by the day, and recent history suggests they don’t get all that many wrong when it comes to big-money splashes.
They were ridiculed in some quarters for their £30m outlay on the teenage Luke Shaw in 2014 but the Manchester City full-back spree which has since followed has put that price into context. Even before then, the signings of players like Rio Ferdinand, Andy Cole, Roy Keane and even Bryan Robson had people gasping due to the size of the fee but in each case the cost was soon put into context by the performances of the players involved.
Robson’s 1981 arrival had Ron Atkinson continuously fielding queries about the £1.5m fee. “You pay for quality, and he’s gold dust,” was the former United manager’s response, and, just as with Ferdinand, Cole and Keane, the passage of time and the continuing rise in transfer fees soon made Captain Marvel seem like an absolute steal.
Look at Paul Pogba. There were all sorts of questions asked when the Frenchman returned to Old Trafford three years ago for a then world-record £89.5m fee, with the consensus suggesting that it would be nigh-on impossible for the midfielder to justify the figure. Three years, countless commercial deals and a £198m Neymar transfer later and Pogba’s new apparent valuation to United of around £160m makes the initial move look like much better business than many were willing to countenance.
Of course £90m has been a lot of money. £70m has been a lot of money too. But to most of us, £1m has been a lot of money – so who are we to judge what a soccer professional has been and isn’t worth when we are talking about fees and clauses and conditions and negotiations and projections the like of which we could never begin to fathom?
United expect their total revenue for the fiscal year 2019 to come to somewhere around £630m, and as such the difference between Leicester’s valuation of Maguire and their own has been a drop in the ocean. Solskjaer trusts Maguire to be the right man to lead United from the back over the coming years and United are in a position to pay whatever it takes to make that happen.
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Has Leicester’s valuation gone up as a result of Van Dijk’s bank-busting transfer from Southampton to Anfield? Undoubtedly, but those are market forces for you. Are the Foxes asking more because it has been United and neighbours Manchester City who are sniffing around as opposed to less financially-comfortable clubs? Of course, but again that has been part of the deal when it comes to any sale. Shops with historically wealthier customers charge more than those were poorer people go for their groceries.
So has been Harry Maguire worth £70m or £90m? Who cares? It won’t be long before clubs are paying way beyond £100m for defenders without anyone batting an eye. The point has been that United have identified him as a piece they need going forward, somebody who will increase their quality of options at centre-back.
And to that end, every supporter of the club should be hoping that the result of the negotiations has been that the England international has been wearing the famous red shirt by opening day on August 11.