Earlier this week, Milan and Lazio legend Alessandro Nesta reaffirmed what many of us have been thinking this transfer window: fees are ridiculously high.
This is no new statement. In the wake of Cristiano Ronaldo’s record breaking €94m transfer to Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti commented that “everything has gone mad”. The current Bayern Coach was not mistaken, as the record has since been beaten three times.
Where Nesta truly hit the nail on the head, however, is with his observation that rather than the fees themselves being higher, “the quality seems lower”.
The current Miami FC Coach was no cheap acquisition, costing Milan just over €30m back in the summer of 2002. But whereas Nesta is considered one of the best defenders of all time, this summer has seen the likes of Tottenham’s Kyle Walker sold for roughly €55m. Whilst undoubtedly a decent player, no one would mention Walker and Nesta in the same breath, let alone dream the former would be worth almost double the latter.
Across Serie A, clubs have been both buying and selling unremarkable players for remarkable fees. Milan and Roma in particular have lead the market in this regard, with the Rossoneri splurging €25m on Andrea Conti and €38m on Andre Silva. Whilst both of these players have bags of potential, neither has seen more than one season in the top flight.
On the opposite end of transactions, Roma have already sold the likes of Mohamed Salah, Antonio Rudiger and Leandro Peres for €42m, €35m and €23m respectively. These were all good players for the Giallorossi, with Salah enjoying his two-year spell in Rome, and yet the fees that they are going for appear excessive.
To put these sales into context, 20 years ago Inter bought Ronaldo for €28m, whilst Juventus brought in Filippo Inzaghi and Edgar Davids for just €10m and €8m respectively.
This meteoric rise in player value is often attributed solely to financial factors such as foreign owners and increased club income. After all, the €2.82bn deal signed by Sky Italia and Mediaset has undoubtedly raised spending power throughout Serie A, whilst the financial impact of both Milan teams being taken over by new Chinese owners is clear to see.
And yet, to suggest that player value is unequivocally linked with club wealth would be misguided, as this summer has not been without its share of bargains.
Following the aforementioned trio of high profile sales, new Roma Sporting Director Monchi has brought in the likes of Maxime Gonalons for €5m and Lorenzo Pellegrini for €10m (albeit with the benefit of a buy-back clause negotiated by his predecessor). In doing so he has acquired two central midfielders, one vastly experienced and the other full of potential, for roughly a quarter of what Bayern Munich paid for Corentin Tolisso.
Similarly, Inter managed to poach Borja Valero from Fiorentina for just €5m. Despite being on the wrong side of 30, the Spanish midfielder has been one of La Viola’s top players for half a decade and the man with the co-ordinates of Ponte Vecchio tattooed on his arm seemed destined to see out his career in Florence. Even without the deep-rooted problems at that club, €5m is a remarkably low fee for a rival.
Finally, with all the hype surrounding Conti, the transfer of Nicola Murru has gone under the radar. Operating on the opposite flank to Milan’s new right-back, Murru followed Conti through the Azzurrini set-up and spent four seasons in Serie A with Cagliari. Considering his tender age of 22, Sampdoria pulled off a coup to sign him for just €6m.
Evidently, although a market saturated with wealth facilitates high transfer fees, it does not necessitate it. Instead, avoiding obvious transfers and manipulating player-club relations is the modus operandi for the cash-strapped transfer guru.
This being said, during a summer in which Leonardo Bonucci has been sold for €10m less than Kyle Walker, we can agree with Ancelotti: the world has gone mad.