1. the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
1. estimate the monetary worth of (something).
Value is a fun notion to contemplate. I like to think of it as two cars that passed through my possession. One was a big ol’ red sedan that looked really cool, but had … erm … mechanical complexities. It stranded me once, and I drove from the mechanic’s about a half-mile to the local Subaru dealer to trade that thing the hell in. Didn’t get max value, but part of that value was in having that thing GONE.
The other car, a hotted-up Subaru, I sold for something around 2k over its value, a price I could demand and hold out for because really, I didn’t want to sell it. It was one of those, “If you want to give me this much for it, okay.” And someone did.
Which brings us to players, transfers and in particular, Cesc Fabregas.
If we have a transfer window, there has to be a never-ending Fabregas story. It is the rule. Youth player, Arsenal player, now Barça player. And there is much outrage now as then, in l’Affaire Fabregas. He was “stolen” from us as a youth player. Outrage! We bought him for a bunch of dosh from Arsenal, a base fee of 29m. Outrage! Rumor is that he will be sold to Chelsea for 33m. Outrage!
The first two are done and gone, but let’s have a gander at this latest, in the value context, and try to break it down.
Chelsea sold Juan Mata for 45m, and David Luis for 50m. Fabregas should be worth 60!
Of course, many of these are the same culers who spent the past seasons slagging off Fabregas, which would make his value roughly that of my red sedan, something they should be happy to see the back of. Slow, loses the ball too much, doesn’t score enough, a terrible False 9, can’t defend, doesn’t play enough through balls, etc, etc. And he only plays half a season, taking the second half of the season off every year.
If supporters can see that, what do you reckon scouts, who are professional evaluators of horseflesh, are seeing? So what’s the value of Fabregas in that equation?
Mata and Luiz are interesting, because of the possibilities. Mata came into the market when a team, United, was flush with cash and looking to spend it. He was surplus to requirements, and met the exact need that United had. With some stern negotiation, Chelsea was able to get a price that must have surprised them. With Luiz, the global CB market is rather like the gold market: expensive. When a world-class one comes available, he will be expensive. So again, the 50m for Luiz, once you exclude the animus that people seem to have for the player, makes sense.
But it doesn’t really go to follow that those players prices would have any bearing whatsoever on the value of Fabregas. It isn’t as simple as “That dude sucks, and they sold him for X!”
Clubs and economics
As you ascend the transfer fee scale, you enter the realm of the big clubs. For 30m and up, there just aren’t that many clubs that a top player would want to go to (it should be added) that can pony up that fee. Let’s break them down, and how likely they are to want Fabregas:
PSG: Have the money, but they are set in midfield, and with the FFP sanction they are ignoring, are theoretically out of that ballgame.
Manchester City: Stacked, and facing FFP sanctions that they are actually paying attention to.
United: They just bought Mata. Sure, they would have paid that much for Fabregas, but he wasn’t on the market then.
Arsenal: Homecoming, right? They aren’t interested any longer, because they have Wilshere and Ozil. And they have even said as much.
RM: No way in hell, not that Fabregas would go there.
Bayern: They are almost as busy as we are in the midfield.
Chelsea: They can use a playmaking midfielder to feed Costa, and as they play a more traditional defense, pace not as necessary.
So out of the array of clubs that can play in that big-money stratosphere (we shouldn’t kid ourselves, 30m+ is indeed big money), Chelsea would appear to be the only suitor with any viability. That will, of necessity, affect the value of Fabregas in a way that culers will ultimately find vexing. But value isn’t just selling something, but WHEN you sell that thing. Put Fabregas out there when Arsenal was looking at a dude like Ozil or United was looking at Mata and wondering, and you get different numbers.
Another component of the value equation is wages. While Barça salaries are usually held close to the vest, most of the stuff that I can find has Fabregas in the 6m per season range, which isn’t crazy high, but still a very substantial number. Again, not many clubs are wanting to pay a player that much, again limiting the field. From a Barcelona worldview, having that 6m off the books, particularly if you can get a player who would be knocked out by 3 or 4m per season, is a pretty cool thing.
All of that affects market value.
Buying high and selling low
There is a general worldview expressed by many culers that Barça undervalues its players, overpaying for them at the outset and then dumping them for peanuts when the club is done with them. Someone gave me a laundry list of players from Marquez to Villa that seemed to point to this, but the reality of life at a club that ours, that isn’t a selling club is that when a player leaves, it is usually because he is of zero use to us. In some cases such as Keita, he is allowed to leave on a free as a favor. Henry and Marquez went to MLS on a free, the main value there being added by the salary dump, as with Villa.
The only player that is a separate issue is Victor Valdes. Clearly there was something going on there that I don’t know, so I won’t speculate on.
Thiago was sold for “peanuts” is the common perception, but that is defined by a player such as Isco or Illarramendi, both of whom went to RM for fees in the low 30m range. But the contract situations were dramatically different, and the biggest difference was that in the case of Thiago, the player wanted to go. In fact, 24m for a midfielder that wanted to leave and wasn’t going to renew actually wasn’t a bad bit of business, and one of those transfers where both parties can feel like they got something from the transaction.
Toure Yaya has been the only recent incidence of the club buying low and selling high, but even then it wasn’t high enough for many, even though we bought him from Monaco for 10m and almost tripled that when we sold him to City.
But that is rare for a big club, because big clubs usually aren’t selling clubs. People point to Roma, who made out like a fat cat in the sale of Marquinhos to PSG, and look to do so again with the sale of Benatia, and say “Why can’t we do that?” But we don’t hear about the failures, the low-cost buys that don’t pan out. There is all the talk of scouting, and what are they looking for, but as near as I can tell they are looking for two things: players fit to make our B team for grooming in the system, and players suitable to bring into the first team. That first list is a lot larger than the second one, right? And because we have La Masia, our scouts aren’t too worried about low-cost first team quality players, in part because those players are exceptionally rare.
People craving those low-cost transfers should ask themselves whether they are willing to deal with the failures while the club tries out a bunch of options. More often than not an 8m CB plays like one, and a diamond in the rough will require patience that doesn’t exist in a “win now” situation. Folks didn’t even have any patience with Txigrinski, who was better than legend has it.
In the here and now
“Value” is a phrase that is often thrown about in the transfer market. In looking at recent purchases, B team players Denis Suarez and Alen Halilovic were each signed for a fee that belies their immense talent and potential. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen was signed for 12m and just today, Ivan Rakitic was signed from Sevilla for 15m+incentives.
In the cases of Ter Stegen and Rakitic, the muttering has started about paying anything at all for a player that is going to leave on a free the next season, a notion that makes me chuckle a little bit. Because again, is there “value” in getting a 30m+ player for 15m is one of the pertinent questions. In the market, the fees of both Ter Stegen and Rakitic, were they under contract for a longer duration, would have been significantly higher. So what is the value in that equation?
Clearly, it’s how you define it. For many culers, Ter Stegen and Rakitic were bad business, because “Next season, they would have left on a free.” As if it was going to get to that point. If we didn’t buy them, someone else was going to, and if that someone was a big club, then would come the question, “Why can’t our board do business like that, copping a highly valued player for a relative pittance?”
As this silly season rolls on, it’s always worth thinking about value and how it relates to the fantasy world of 50 million for a center back, or 57 million for a willowy Brazilian in the last year of his contract as well. The Rakitic deal is as sure a sign as anything that Fabregas is leaving the club. Where he goes and for how much, remain to be seen, as well as the value to the club. But fun times await when it happens.