Graham MacAree has an interesting article up on SB Nation on Manchester City’s “lack of vision” this transfer season. He writes of Man City’s transfer acquisitions:

In has come Spain international Jesus Navas, for the cool sum of €25 million plus wages. Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fernandinho is to follow, for somewhere around €30 million (nobody seems to have made up his mind on just how much he costs quite yet). These are big, expensive purchases, and would upgrade most teams in the league. But they don’t really make very much sense for City.

Neither Navas — who can be not incorrectly described as the Spanish equivalent of Aaron Lennon — nor Fernandinho rank amongst the world’s elite players. They’re in the second tier of very goodness. In lesser sides they’d be (and are) stars. But at City, a team which intends to compete for domestic and European glory, they are, or should be, part of the supporting cast rather than front-liners.

This got the old gears cranking in the old noggin, particularly as I spent much of yesterday mired in Financial Fair Play documents. So I have some things to say on this.

The first is those transfer fees seem slightly high to me. While it’s not the greatest metric in the world, transfermarkt’s market valuation pegs Navas at €20 million. Fernandinho’s is €14.1 million.

There is a possibility that these are indeed good but not “elite” good players, and City could have purchased better players for the same price. Or, this being Manchester City of the owners with limitless resources, they may have paid a Sheikh Mansour Premium.

Or maybe MacAree is wrong and Jesus Navas and Fernandinho have the potential to be elite players. After all, we know about Navas. Many of us have witnessed his potential at Sevilla, and he meets Ted Knutson’s bar for several seasons with ten or more assists per season, a mark of a potential elite attacking midfielder.

Of Fernandinho though, unless you’ve watched a lot of Ukrainian Premier League games (you haven’t), or follow Russian football experts, enough to get a generally okay sample of opinions and caveats (you don’t), we really just don’t know with any certainty how he plays.

We have his appearances in the Champions League this past season, I suppose. All 8 of them. Not a great sample size, but beggars can’t be choosers. Within those matches he’s made 10 “key passes”, a remarkable statistic for a defensive midfielder. And from what we know now of the importance of the defensive or holding midfielder as an engine of creativity (see Wilson), that’s got to be a good thing.

But you can see where I’m going here; those of us who are not experienced football scouts or advanced technical analysts simply don’t have the means to make accurate judgments. But few of us in football want to be the guy who says, “I don’t know.”

You would hope however that City do know. The club, as Swiss Ramble calculated last September, is 142 million pounds in the red with exemptions included. The maximum acceptable aggregate two season loss for permission to play in Europe in FFP is 45 million pounds. City will be adding to that total depending on the number of years on the contract (transfer fees are amortized) based on these two players, when they need to be demonstrating to UEFA they’re also lowering them. Some of that work is clearly being done.

However City’s enormous wage bill means they’ll now have to buy and sell with excellent care if they want to stay on the nice side of UEFA’s finance rules.

The point here is: the transfer season palpably does not follow the popular formula “X club will pay Y money because Z player is rated N in playing ability.” We don’t really know how good some of these players are any more. We don’t know the specific ridiculous market mechanics that go into setting transfer fees. We don’t know how they’ll really impact a club’s books until we get a sense of the length of the contract, and we don’t know what kind of wages will be pasted on to the club books.

It’s silly season in part because it’s rampantly speculative, but it’s also silly season because we really have no real clue what’s going on. My advice is to just duck, wait till it all blows over, and then pop in August to see where the debris has landed.

Comments (10)

  1. Watching the Russian Premier League wouldn’t help since Shaktar are Ukrainian and therefore play in the Ukrainian league.

  2. just a small note, Fernandinho played for Shakhtar Donetsk, in the Ukrainian Premier League, not Russia (insert “Ukraine is game to you!?”/”Ukraine is weak” quote here).

  3. 1. There’s no way that City is getting accurate value for money – some of the transfer fees paid appear, at first glance, to be far above what their actual role is in the squad. It’d be interesting to see whether the extra ‘competition’ induces the other players to perform better, and thus increase the net value.

    2. After this upcoming grace period, when FFP becomes firmly established, will the key metric be net profit (re-examined each season) or is it an expenses to revenue ratio over a specified time period?

    • This is an absurd amount of money for a 28 year old midfielder. They could’ve bought Fernando from Porto for less than half that money and gotten a younger, better player.

      • I agree about the transfer fee, it is absolutely insane. You would think that money would be reserved for a top level midfielder. Now, I haven’t seen much of Fernandinho and he did look pretty good in most of the CL games I have seen him play, but Shakhtar must be very pleased with the amount of money they got out of the transfer.

  4. “The club, as Swiss Ramble calculated last September, is 142 million pounds.”

    What mean this?

  5. Who exactly is picking these players? City is manager-less at the moment (at least officially) so is the new guy expected to make all the players happy? Maybe things work differently at a “project” than at a football club, but shouldn’t the manager give his two cents?

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