Michelle Owen Column: Should we be amused or bemused by big spending?

Michelle Owen discusses the potential for big spending in the summer transfer window and the lure of big pay cheques from the Chinese Super League.

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Summer in the UK and like many other football fans I am ticking off the days as we count down to the new season. At least we have the transfer market to keep us amused… or should that be bemused? And how big an impact is the Chinese Super League having on European Leagues?

I was in the gym this morning and an older gentleman I often chat to about football scurried over to me as I plonked along on the treadmill. “Lukaku!” He exclaimed, “£100 million?!” He was referring to something he had heard on the radio earlier that day about Romelu Lukaku who could allegedly be joining Chelsea for £100 million. I am not sure which station he heard that on but I almost fell off the treadmill!

The amount of money being splashed around by clubs is astonishing, and looks set to increase as China move into the European market. A few months ago the CIES Football Observatory estimated what the world’s most expensive footballers are deemed to be worth. A bit like having your house valued, except your house would never be worth some of these figures…

They consider a few variables including performance of the player and club, length of contract and age. If I asked you who do you think is worth the most in the world right now, most people may initially say Lionel Messi – in fact he is fourth on the list.

The most valuable footballer right now is considered to be Neymar Jr, and second on the list is an Englishman – Dele Alli is thought to be worth €155.1 million. Harry Kane is just behind at €153.6 million. Surely no amount of shirt sales can pay off those sorts of transfer fees, in fact the kit suppliers take the majority of that anyway.

If a club has a wealthy owner, it’s obvious they will be able to afford the bigger fees. In China the Super League clubs are bankrolled by billionaires and while they’re happy and able to pay such big fees and wages, this will only push fees in Europe up. This shows no signs of stopping as the Chinese government are set on hosting a World Cup and boosting the profile of football in the country. The wages the Chinese Super League pay are enough to turn many players’ heads – Oscar left Chelsea at the age of 25 to earn reportedly £400,000 a week at Shanghai SIPG. The transfer fee was £60 million – for a squad player – insane!

Oscar was hardly hard done by in England earning £85,000 a week at Chelsea, but he had the chance to almost quadruple his wage in return for not playing in the Champions League and relocating to the other side of the world. When he was growing up did Oscar dream of lifting Champions League trophies, or playing in a league no one has heard of? My guess is the first. It is only his greed that led him to China, we mere mortals can only dream of earning £85,000 a week.

So what can the Premier League do about this rather sizeable monetary problem presented by China where money seems to be no object? They can try and rely on players’ ambitions. For example Diego Costa is reportedly refusing to leave Chelsea for China, he only wants a move back to Atletico Madrid. But for every Costa you have an Oscar…

There is some form of comfort though. At present, China is restricted to three foreign players per club. Before players have only left their clubs in their twilight years for a big pay cheque, perhaps in America like David Beckham and Steven Gerrard, but it has to be a real concern that players in the peak of their career will ditch the highest level of football for a big fat pay cheque. Transfer fees have been on the rise to ridiculous amounts for years. It looks like the Chinese Super League could help turn ridiculous into absurd. Not only in transfer fees (£60 million for a squad player!) but also leagues above in terms of wages. I just hope we have more players like Costa than Oscar to keep the best footballers in Europe, and the Premier League.

You can follow Michelle on Twitter at @MichelleOwen7

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