On that fateful day where mayhem ensued at the end of the January transfer window in January 2011; football changed quite drastically, as the transfer market was turned upside down by Chelsea’s English record £50 million transfer of Spanish striker Fernando Torres. What followed on from this included Liverpool’s reinvestment of that money in £35 million pounds going to Newcastle for their new heroic number 9 – Andy Carroll – and over £20 million going to Dutch Giants Ajax for the ever-controversial Luis Suarez.
This massive injection of cash was one thing to cause some viscous inflation to the world transfer market, but the following careers of Torres and Carroll were all the more damaging to prices and asking rates of clubs around the world. The torrid time that Torres has had has been under significant scrutiny and even Chelsea hiring managers and players to get their struggling number 9 firing; whereas Carroll was signed as an already injury struggling forward who didn’t seem to fit the way Liverpool wanted to play, perhaps a signing from Dalglish of a player that suited top teams in another era.
The partnership of Suarez and Carroll seemed like the classic target man and finisher partnership – but the intricacies of Suarez’s game means that he never really looked comfortable alongside target men and he instead wants the ball to his feet, to dribble and shoot himself. The revelation of Luis Suarez has clearly compensated Liverpool for the slip up in the signing of Andy Carroll, but financially they have been lucky to recoup such a high percentage of his fee from West Ham; and really made a big mistake in signing the big Geordie for that fee in the first place after just four months in the Premier League.
Having done extremely well to get the £50 million for Torres, Liverpool could rightly feel that they may not have been as productive with the money as they could have been but the Suarez deal has shown how the money could have been spent with the Carroll deal providing disappointment to fans before he was deemed to be inappropriate by Brendon Rodgers. This is where the deals – initially the Torres transfer to fund Carroll’s move – have damaged the world of football immeasurably with all transfer dealings. With a decade having passed since Zinedine Zidane’s move to Real Madrid at the time of Torres’ transfer prices had been rising consistently with various other big money deals (most notably £80 million for Cristiano Ronaldo) it shows how the game had not only progressed but that Fernando Torres – an out of form striker who had struggled with injuries – had cost more than one of the best players of all time.
This obviously includes the inflation and natural increase in the price of players, but January 31st 2011 really did change the path of football transfers; Torres at his Liverpool peak was probably the best striker in the world, but at the time Chelsea chose to break all sorts of records for him he was far from that player, and this overpaying clearly funded the same mistakes from Liverpool to sign Carroll that then funded nearly an entire rebuild of the Magpies squad and some sensational bargains like Yohan Cabaye.
These absurdly high prices could have been minimised in their damage if Carroll and Torres had shown their best form and qualities at Liverpool and Chelsea, rather than the exaggerated effect that has been experienced by each of their struggles to find consistent goal scoring form or produce regularly for their clubs. Where the deals we have seen since have been influenced by the fact ‘if Torres is worth £50 million’ clubs have been more open with their demands as Atletico and Napoli showed with Falcao and Cavani respectively this summer to sell at top value and expect the richest clubs in Europe to cough up that kind of money that would have previously bought some of the best players ever; how much would Luis Figo be worth in this market?
The position these two deals – specifically – put other clubs in and other fans to use as a reference point have been greater examples than any others for increasing the going rate for players, and perhaps explains Levy’s stance on the current asking price of Gareth Bale to justify demanding such a price; or try to.
Obviously the increase in prices now is not entirely down to overpaying from Chelsea and Liverpool or the failures to produce from Torres and Carroll, but the issue was amplified by these two extraordinary transfers that have definitely made some clubs and fans considerably more wary about big money deals in the years since 2011.
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