That Newcastle were able to sign a title winning Ajax captain for less than the fee that took Ross McCormack to Fulham says a lot about the British transfer market. Siem De Jong, who played a key role in Ajax's previous four league winning sides, is a full international for the Netherlands and has been the scourge of Manchester City's defence in the Champions League. McCormack, who is two years older, is yet to play in England's top flight.
Naturally, every transfer is a matter of judgment; and perhaps Fulham's valuation of McCormack will in time be viewed as good business, especially if the Scot fires them back to the Premier League. For £11million to be spent by a recently relegated Championship club, he ought to, but right now it appears at best a gamble. Of course, it is also possible that De Jong will flop, break both his legs or spontaneously combust, but his transfer would still represent less collateral damage.
So, why was McCormack mooted at £11million in the first place? And why were Fulham so readily willing to pay it?
Since football has become the endlessly over-analysed and financially-bloated behemoth that it is, the general belief is that money begets money. It's no great insight that clubs in the Premier League and/or European competitions make more than those outside, so the desperate urge to move up the table is unsurprising.
Still, different clubs have different ideas about how to strategize their clamber. The best resourced teams can afford to spend because they are heavily subsidised by external investment and TV revenue. Meanwhile, others operate a project of self-sustainability - buying sensibly and selling for profit, or reaping the benefits of lucrative advertising deals through kit and stadia. Then there are some that invest according to their season by season targets.
To sign McCormack, Fulham appear to have borrowed from the Liverpool school of economics; which is to meet exorbitant asking prices on the assumption that their signings will necessarily work out well; only they don't have the luxury of a £75 million buffer from the sale of Luis Suarez in case they don't.
Nevertheless, after the departure of Dimitar Berbatov to Monaco last season, plus injuries to Kostas Mitroglou and Hugo Rodallega being shit, Fulham needed a striker. McCormack, off the back of a 29 goal haul, fits the bill. The only matter left to settle was the price, and Leeds were never going to part with their golden goose on the cheap.
Luckily for Fulham, McCormack isn't English, or the deal might have cost £5million more; but his Glaswegian roots are still a precious enough quality against the backdrop of home-grown quotas. Not to mention his chance of resonance with the fans. While he might not hail from Hammersmith or Putney, the Scot is more similar to locals than a Dutchman or a Spaniard. This isn't to say that foreign players are invariably less popular, but it is often the want of fan bases to see more British players in the side. McCormack is a marquee and that could mean shirt sales.
Furthermore, as the Championship's top scorer last season, the striker's record suggests a decent chance of promotion for whomever he plays. Admittedly, at 27, his re-sale value is negligible, but it's doubtful that Fulham will be making any similar signings any time soon.
The grievance is not with Leeds, Southampton or Blackburn who have also sold home-grown players for inflated prices in recent times. Little blame can be placed on clubs wanting to get the best possible deal. But it is jarring just how much nationality can affect the fee.
Where football goes from here can follow three possible paths. One is that buying clubs can choose to shop elsewhere, cheaply on the continent and continue the influx of foreign talent. Another is that they carry on paying a premium for arguably lesser players. Or, they could start to use their academies for what they were actually meant for. Sadly, the latter seems unlikely.
Ultimately, there is an important distinction to be made about the title of this blog. Why Fulham shelled out £11million for Ross McCormack has been explained. Whether he is worth that remains to be seen.Suggest a correction