The fallout from Arsenal’s messy end to the transfer window continues today. Arsene Wenger spoke about the cost of keeping Alexis, and, as we all knew, it’s big.
“You take a Sánchez into the final year of his contract, you sacrifice £60-70 million income and at the end of the season you will have to buy somebody for that amount of money,” Wenger told beIN Sports. “It has a huge price so at some stage you have to make a decision, you have to sacrifice one or two.”
I mean, that’s basically just common sense - even if there’s no like-for-like replacement, you’d need to replace Alexis with a similar level of quality from one or more players, which will probably cost you at least as much as the player you’re losing. So why not sell him for money? That’s where this whole story gets interesting.
As we all hopefully know by now, Arsene Wenger has a background in economics, which means that he tends to look at things a little differently than the average football manager would. And when drawn out a bit about the transfer window and its workings, he brought up a really interesting point:
The amount of money is completely disconnected to reality and the truth. “One example – no matter how well you work as a football coach, [Ousmane] Dembélé last year was €15m, this year €150m. No matter how well you work on the football pitch, you cannot make a player go from €15m to €150m.
Which is 100% true. There’s no linear progression that takes a player from his worth to 10x his worth in a single season. This is just another illustration of the sports truism that players are worth what teams are willing to pay, they’re not worth a realistic amount based on their abilities.
And this next nugget should delight all of you who, like me, detest the use of net spend as a barometer of a team’s transfer season dealings:
“The calculation between investment and what you can get back, that has gone. It’s just: ‘Can you afford to buy or not?’”
That, now, is the key to understanding soccer’s transfer market. Sports teams aren’t worried about balancing their transfer books - they don’t have to be, because it’s not a zero-sum game from season to season. If you have the money, you buy. Simple as that. And there’s always more money, at least in England anyway.
Whether “always” means “perpetually” remains to be seen, but at least for now, don’t worry yourself about any team’s net spend. Worry about whether they spend at all, and worry about whether they spend enough relative to their performance target.