When Manchester City opened the Raheem Sterling bidding a month ago at £25 million, two predictions were made on Betting.Betfair: the Citizens would get their man, but for a sum closer to Liverpool’s valuation of £50 million than their initial offer.
Confirmation that an agreement has now been reached appears to vindicate both forecasts, yet it is somewhat of a shock that the Reds have been able to push the price all the way up to £49 million.
Are Manchester City overpaying for the 20-year-old? Almost certainly – after all, this is a record fee for an English footballer, and it is being used to recruit one who has made less than 100 career club starts and never won any silverware.
However, the [3.9] Premier League title contenders can afford to spend over the odds. They are one of the richest teams on the planet, Financial Fair Play rules have been relaxed, they have raised close to £40 million in funds this window and have only invested around £2 million of that.
As neutrals rush to either laud Liverpool for negotiating such a weighty package or laugh at Man City for being suckered into splurging so much on a player who isn’t the finished article, the middle ground is entirely unoccupied: it is possible to buy beyond the market value and still get a good deal.
Take Manchester United and Robin van Persie for example. £24 million was a hefty amount for an injury-prone 29-year-old who had exceeded 11 league goals in a season just twice in his career, as verified by the fact that they are about to sell him for less than £5 million a mere three years on.
However, most pundits will consider him a success despite the financial figures not backing such a verdict up because he was exceptional when they most needed him to be in his debut campaign, with his 26 Premier League goals firing them to their sole title of the past four years.
Another instance of a side overspending resulted in one of their greatest ever transfers. The £32.6 million that Juventus paid for Gianluigi Buffon in 2001 was a high for a goalkeeper, with the proof of how above the average it was being that not only does the mark remain, but in the 14 years of transfer-record-shattering since, no shot-stopper has moved for £20 million, let alone £32.6 million.
Buffon has stuck around for that whole 14-year period and been arguably the best in the world in his position for the majority of it. The 37-year-old wears their armband and is as influential as ever, as four Serie A scudetti in a row and a recent Champions League final appearance emphasised.
Juventus invested too much in Buffon by every available measure – and it was clearly wonderful business for the selling club, Parma – yet there is no question that the Old Lady got the better end of the bargain regardless. It is perfectly plausible that Man City ultimately find the same with Sterling.