Do Young Players Get Made Or Broken By Huge Transfer Fees?
When Manchester United signed Anthony Martial from AS Monaco, the football world was shocked.
Not because of the player himself, but because of the sheer amount of money United paid for the teenager.
The fee, that could well rise to £58 million, is completely unjustifiable at the moment given what Martial has displayed in his career.
That being said, the move for Martial is not the only time teenagers who are essentially unproven at the highest level have gone for mega money to clubs across Europe.
United fans won’t be worrying too much yet though as Wayne Rooney, who joined as a 18 year-old back in 2004 for £20 million, has gone on to great things with the Red Devils.
With a hat-trick on his debut for the club in the Champions League, the former Everton man has never really looked back.
All things considered, £20 million seems like a drop in the ocean for this man, who now skippers both his club and country.
United are no strangers to paying huge cash for young starlets, with Luke Shaw one of the most recent examples, joining for a reported £30 million a year ago.
Questions were asked about the fee at the time, and linger now, but for a player who was allegedly wanted by some of England and Europe’s elite clubs at the time, you’re going to have to put a pretty considerable offer down.
It’s difficult to say whether the fee has hindered or helped him so far, but it cannot be forgotten that he was out injured for most of last season, and had fitness issues, with reports of him being overweight and banned from the burger van outside Carrington by Louis van Gaal.
He’s started every game for Van Gaal’s men this season, and has impressed in their back line. Now is the time for him to begin to justify the fee his club paid for him.
United have had one or two less impressive teenagers brought in for a hefty fee though – Anderson signing for £20 million as teenager from Porto is case in point.
Despite winning back-to-back titles at FC Porto, he never really got going at United, and certainly didn’t deserve the same transfer fee as Rooney did.
In fact, Anderson made Shaw’s weight and fitness issues look like a drop in the ocean in comparison.
It is not just in England where young players are bought and sold for huge sums.
Back in 2006, Spanish side Atletico Madrid took a gamble on 17 year-old Sergio Aguero, as he signed from Argentine club Independiente, where he was a regular on the scoresheet despite his age.
The reported fee of around €21.7 million broke Atletico’s transfer record, and the forward paid for that tenfold. He netted 74 times in 175 games for the Spaniards, before joining Manchester City for a reported £38 million five years later.
For every success story however, there is a failure, and fellow South American, Alexander Pato, never really lived up to early hopes.
He joined AC Milan back in 2007 for a reported fee of €22 million, and was widely regarded as the next big talent to come from Brazil.
After spending a disappointing six years in Italy, he was shipped back to his native Brazil with his tail between his legs.
Another man who seemingly crumbled under such a high transfer fee as a teenager was Javier Saviola, who signed for Barcelona from River Plate as a 19 year-old, for a fee of around €36 million.
Scoring around 20 goals per season at that price back in 2001 was deemed not good enough by Barcelona, and he was loaned out for the remainder of his contract, before signing for Real Madrid on a free in 2007.
It’s fair to say Antonio Cassano also struggled to live up to the expectations of his price tag, when back in 2001, AS Roma paid £24 million for the then 19 year-old forward.
After scoring just five goals in his opening season, and publicly clashing with manager Fabio Capello, it was never going to end well. Real Madrid picked up the pieces and signed Cassano for €5 million five years later.
Sergio Ramos meanwhile showed that not all players fade under the weight of expectation when being sold not only for a huge fee, but to the biggest club in the world, when Sevilla sold the defender for a fee equal to £22 million back in 2005 at the age of 19.
The now Real Madrid player has won literally everything there is to win in the game, both domestically and internationally, and it’s fair to say he’s justified such a price tag for a defender.
When you’re paying such a high price for a teenager, or any player for that matter, it is a massive gamble.
But, with the Martial transfer breaking all sorts of records, United will be hoping he continues that trend on the pitch.
There have been plenty of names out there who have succeeded following such a large cost as a youngster, but plenty more haven’t quite made it, meaning it’s certainly a gamble.
Arguably, it’s one that needs to be taken nowadays with the money that’s being thrown around in the sport, and while it might not be a welcome progression, it is a natural one nonetheless.