Posted by Richard Whittall under The Story So Far on May 22, 2013
Andy Carroll is a good striker. I repeat: Andy Carroll is a good striker. He’s still scoring at a good rate, his career-average goals per game is 0.33, he’s would be a valuable addition to any decent, mid-level football club. He could even be an asset at a bigger team with the right coaching in the right system.
The one enormous blemish on his career, oddly, is that £35 million transfer fee Liverpool FC paid Newcastle United on the 31st of January, 2011. This fee, which was double transfermarkt’s estimated top end value at £17.5, had all the hallmarks of a last-minute, inflated deal. Liverpool wanted to buy, Newcastle were reluctant to sell, a deadline was fast approaching, LFC needed to replace Fernando Torres.
Now Carroll may have had a strong hand in this, but likely this was an arrangement strictly between clubs. By the standards of the loss of value, it was a terrible deal for Liverpool, and in some ways just as bad for Carroll, who, despite the evidence he’s still a very good player, must wear the “flop” albatross for the rest of his career.
Particularly as he now has another ignoble number stapled to his career: £20 million. That’s the total decline in value on Carroll’s transfer fee in the past two and a half years, as Liverpool are reportedly working to sell Carroll to his loanee club West Ham for 15 million.
It’s hard to believe football people would be dull enough to spend that kind of money on appearances alone, and to some extent the situation isn’t as simple as it seems. Liverpool’s former director of football Damian Comolli defended the Carroll deal this way:
“The way we looked at it, we were selling two players – Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel – and we were bringing two in – Suarez and Carroll – and we were making a profit and the wage bill was coming down considerably as well. It was a four-player deal.
“Chelsea kept bidding higher and higher for Torres. The difference between their first and final bid is double.
“They [FSG] asked me what the risks were and I said if things don’t go well you’ll lose something on Andy, but it is difficult to measure whether you will make money if things go well because Liverpool aren’t a selling club and he could be here for the next 10 years.”
So at least in relative terms, the deal came off well. And in picking up Suarez for substantially less money, a player whose personality issues haven’t affected his ability to score, LFC’s gamble worked at least in part.
But it’s hard to believe that, despite humming and hawing about hidden “key performance indicators” that made Carroll worth that pile of cash, Liverpool wasn’t fooled by something as simple as means regression. That the season-and-a-half of goals Carroll enjoyed at Newcastle before his move may have been boosted a bit by luck, that it was from a relatively small sample, 2/3rds of which came while Newcastle was playing out of the Championship, an ostensibly easier league in which to score goals.
That misread wasn’t Carroll’s fault, and yet the 24 year-old will pay for it the rest of his career.