As the SkySports Transfer Totaliser spins into overdrive, the 2017 summer transfer window looks set to become the highest spending window of all time. Despite all the talk of the ‘obscene’ and ‘ridiculous’ money involved, in reality it is little more than a reflection of the enormous amount finance that Premier League clubs take from sponsorship and television deals.
What is rarely discussed, however, is what clubs should do when handed a gargantuan amount of cash for their prized asset.
Big money transfers can be replaced in two ways, either with another superstar, or with a series of smaller purchases, to improve the squad as a whole. Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur did the latter when trying to replace Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale, respectively, with what could, generously, be called ‘mixed results’.
Both were replaced with a series of signings, but only Adam Lallana and Christian Eriksen have proved successful investments for either club, and neither has really hit the level of their goal-scoring predecessors.
In fact, other than these two bright spots, what really replaced Suarez and Bale was a flood of mediocrity which would see both Liverpool and Spurs go backwards in the following season. Memories of Roberto Soldado, Paulinho and Lazar Markovic will bring a painful shudder to fans of either club.
An attempted overhaul of the playing staff turned into a scatter-gun approach which saw both clubs lose money, add to their wage bill and weaken their team. Not the shrewd business that Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, is noted for.
However, while Liverpool and Tottenham were left with egg on their face trying to replace a star player, Juventus put all their proverbials in one basket after losing Paul Pogba to Manchester United for a world-record transfer fee. They went big and spent the vast majority of their new-found wealth on Gonzalo Higuaín, fresh from a goal-laden three years with Napoli.
Although €90 million was an awful lot for a 28-year-old, this was a player who had just plundered 36 league goals, and Juventus’ faith was repaid as Higuaín top-scored in the club’s domestic double-winning campaign. The Old Lady also reached the Champions League final that season. The creative Pogba had been replaced with the clinical Higuaín.
With such stark examples, Everton fans may wish to temper their close-season optimism as their approach to replacing Romelu Lukaku seems to follow Liverpool and Tottenham’s model, rather than Juventus’.
The Lukaku money has, thus far, been spent on Jordan Pickford, Michael Keane, Davy Klaassen and Sandro Ramirez, amongst others, and, while they all have potential, none have shown Lukaku’s quality in their careers so far. Koeman’s success at Everton last season shows he knows how to bring the best out of players and his Goodison revamp will look to build a new spine of promising young players.
Replacing a star is difficult for any manager, regardless of the money involved, and clubs can often find themselves crashing down to earth. After the progress of the last year an important season follows for Everton, and Koeman must hope he has unearthed a few Eriksens, and not been sold a Soldado.