The modern-day football manager has to be more than a strict disciplinarian and a shrewd tactician – they also need to be able to play the transfer market. A manager’s capability to wheel and deal in a can transform a club’s fortunes – and perhaps even turn a profit in the process.
A prime example of good business at the highest level is Manchester United’s acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo for £12.4million in 2003, with the Red Devils’ earning £67million when the player moved to Real Madrid for a then-world record fee six years later.
Other memorably shrewd signings include Arsenal snapping up Nicolas Anelka for £500,000 and selling him for more than £22million, Liverpool luring talismanic defender Sami Hyppiä to Anfield for £2.6million and Leicester City capturing N’Golo Kanté, who played a key role in their stunning Premier League win, for just £5.6million. The club then netted almost £30million in profit when he moved to Chelsea last summer.
However, for every example of fine recruitment, there has been a mishap, where a manager pays over the odds and gets little in return. Paul Pogba signed for Manchester United for a world record £89million, but has struggled to justify his eye-watering transfer fee this season, much like Ángel Di María, who was signed for a then-British record £59.7million, only to leave after one underwhelming term.
Fernando Torres never replicated his Liverpool form after moving to Stamford Bridge for £50million in 2011, whilst Andriy Shevchenko, Roberto Soldado and Radamel Falcao all arrived in England for big fees and big wages, only to leave under ever bigger clouds.
England defender Jonathan Woodgate was the subject of huge media attention when Real Madrid surprisingly swept him off to Spain for £13.4million in 2004. His stint at the Bernabéu began with an own goal and red card on his debut and never really recovered.
The pressure of a hefty price tag can undoubtedly affect players, yet some of the most expensive transfers have paid dividends. Take Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. Real Madrid snatched up both from English clubs for world record fees, and both have more than lived up to the huge sums spent on them. Ronaldo has since picked up the Ballon d’Or four times, and Bale is regularly ranked right alongside him as one of the greatest footballers on the planet by sports experts like 888sport.
As the current season moves into the home stretch, we are beginning to hear the first rumblings of discontent from players looking to move in the summer. Everton striker Romelu Lukaku has rejected a new deal at Goodison Park and may seek pastures new come the end of the season. Losing his goals would be a considerable blow to Ronald Koeman’s side.
The Old Trafford faithful will be eager for Zlatan Ibrahimović to stay for at least one more season, while Arsenal fans will be hoping the club can convince Alexis Sànchez to remain at the Emirates. Reigning champions Leicester may see Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez move on after a turbulent campaign, while even champions elect Chelsea could see main men Diego Costa and Eden Hazard move on.