FourFourDrew: Forget About The Price Tag

Drew Heatley 1st August 2018

Money makes the world go around. It certainly greases the wheels of world football – particularly the Premier League. Drew Heatley joins the dots on the Mitrovic fee, the state of the market and all things transfers in his first FourFourDrew column on Fulhamish.

As I write this (and I hope you’ll all forgive me a Jessie J reference on my debut column), Fulham are currently the third highest spenders in the top flight this summer, splashing out a whisker less than £60m. Quite the achievement for a newly-promoted side – and for an owner who supposedly never put his hand in his pocket. (OK, I’m not looking to dent the euphoric feeling around the club. Ignore that.)

The latest multi-million-pound deal orchestrated by the Khans saw Aleksandar Mitrović return to the Cottage this week. And the price tag has caused quite the stir.

“The game’s gone”, squealed @LUFCMike12 on Twitter.

“In that case I must be worth £30m”, @MagnificentMané told his 32 followers.

For the record, the deal is widely reported to be £22m up front, rising to £27m if Mitro hits various targets. But apparently, spending less than £30m all-in for a player who fits perfectly into the system our manager favours, who’s already shown he can score goals for us – and score for a club in the top flight – is the unrivalled epitomé of an over-inflated market.

Now, the market’s over-inflated, you’ll get no argument from me there. But we as fans get far too pent up about transfer fees and our perceptions are often skewed when it comes to a players “value”.

You might have heard me say it before, but (for me at least) it’s quite simple: a player’s true value is based largely on his value to one or both of the clubs involved in his transfer.

In Mitro’s case, he was worth more to us than he was to Newcastle. Sure, Mike Ashley wanted a significant fee for a player who, at 23, is still a valuable commodity. But it was no secret he was out of favour at St. James’ Park. For us, on the other hand, it’s clear Mitro was top of our summer shopping list from the moment he poked in Cyrus Christie’s cross at Ashton Gate back in February.

The striker wanted to join us, and in many ways that made it easier for Ashley to play hardball. And as the clock ticks down to 9th August, Mitro’s (like every other player’s) value – and subsequent transfer fee – was only going to rise. We just stopped the clock before it hit 30 (million).

I don’t want to be accused of comparing apples and oranges, but look at the Schürrle deal. We picked up a World Cup and Premier League winner, who at 27 is technically in his prime, on a two-year loan deal. Now, there’d be a sizeable loan fee no doubt, and he won’t be playing for peanuts, but it still indicates his value – or lack of – to Dortmund. And as the first (and maybe only) club to show interest in an asset the club was keen to offload, we capitalised on that.

Then there’s the reported move for Matt Targett. It’s similar to Mitrović in many ways, except while I never saw a credible report of a plan B in case we didn’t land the striker, it looks like we’ve been eyeing a number of left-backs. This creates a bit more of a stand-off with Southampton, who are reportedly holding out for £15m.

Targett is the potential loser in this situation as he could be priced out of a return to Fulham (assuming he wants to come), but my feeling is we’ll end up meeting the figure. Full-backs are so important to the way we play, Slav won’t want to risk filling in with Odoi or Le Marchand as first-choice until Christmas. And I hope he’ll not want to consign Sess to a more defensive role when we know how much of an upside he provides as an attacking threat. It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out.

It’s been a fantastic transfer window for the club so far, with a few more new faces still to come. No one outside the upper echelons of Fulham knows our budget, but I’d rest assured knowing we’re operating within it. In Mitro we’ve got our man – the latest piece in a puzzle that’s starting to take shape.

So let’s enjoy it – and forget about the price tag.