Jul 31, 2013, 6:22 PM EDT
If Gareth Bale moves to Real Madrid, and that’s still a huge if, he’ll crush the world transfer record. But that doesn’t mean he’s the best player in the world, as some’s confounding of the story has depicted. It doesn’t even necessarily mean he’s among the best players in the world. All it means is there’s a rich club that really wants him, and they want him because they think he’d one of the world’s best.
You would think this discussion is unnecessary, yet amid the slacken jaws that have met rumors of Gareth Bale’s fee extending above $123 million (far above, in some reports), a few people have confused that steep price as being a reflection on his best player in the world credentials. I suppose it’s a reasonable assumption considering the last three record-breaking purchases have been for Zinedine Zidane, Kaká, and Cristiano Ronaldo, all Balon d’ Or winners when their transfers set new standards. Zidane moved to Real Madrid from Juventus for just £53 million in 2001. Kaka moved to the Bernabeu from Milan for £56 million in 2009, and later that summer Cristiano Ronaldo joined Los Blancos from Manchester United for £80 million (roughly $122 million).
But beyond the basic economics (supply, demand, inflation, what have you), two things about those purchases should caution against drawing any “world’s best” conclusions from a transfer fee. First, if Kaká was the world’s best in 2009, why did his record fail to last an entire summer, before another game was played? Did Real Madrid re-evaluate Kaká and Ronaldo mid-summer? Secondly, all of these records are set by Real Madrid. Go back to Luis Figo in 2000, and the Merengues have set the world transfer record the last four times it’s been broken. Maybe this record’s as much about Real Madrid’s purchasing as it is a player’s relative value.
But beyond Real Madrid’s behaviors, this is about the market. There’s been a huge influx of money into European soccer since Ronaldo and Kaká moved four years ago, yet there’ve been few transfer targets that have the combination of elite skill, young age, locked in contract and current team’s wherewithal to drive up the price. Add in the negotiating practices of the notorious Mr. Levy (see Carrick, Keane, Berbatov, Modric) and you have a formula to not only break the transfer record but destroy it.
This entire argument has constructed a bit of a strawman, though, as it does seem like a mere incredulous minority feel the world’s best player is the only one who can garner a record fee. Most people are smart enough to grasp basic economic forces. They’re smart enough to have a picture of the market. Still, there’s still a huge undercurrent in this conversation that logically thinks a players fee should directly reflect his value on the field. To them, Bale is just not a world record-breaking player.
In truth, the record-breaker label is meaningless when you’re trying to assess Bale’s value. Instead of using a four-year old reference to a player who wasn’t game’s best when he set the current standard, instead ask what that standard would be if a player like Lionel Messi were put up for sale. Or better yet, if Cristiano Ronaldo were allowed to move. Would the old record be relevant to their prices, given the state of the European market? If you most look a Bale in terms of relative value (instead of the various economic and competitive benefits he’d bring to Real Madrid), you have to develop a hypothesis about Messi and Ronaldo’s corresponding value.
The world transfer record is no more relevant to Bale’s current price than it would be Ronaldo’s. All of these records are set because one team, independent of where some antiquated standard sits, is willing to pay a price for a player. Real Madrid would pay more for Messi, if they had a chance, and they’d probably pay more to acquire Ronaldo, were he playing elsewhere. But just because Bale’s value comes in under those two’s doesn’t mean it couldn’t also come in above standards set in 2009.
Sep 19, 2014, 12:06 AM EDT
Win U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday. Drop a few bars in New York on Thursday. You know: #JustClintDempseyThings.
Sep 18, 2014, 11:32 PM EDT
Sporting took a big step toward getting out of Group 2 thanks to its Spanish winger.
Sep 18, 2014, 10:50 PM EDT
Awkward bounces made a disorganized El Tri look awful and the high-powered USWNT look pedestrian in a 4-0 decision on Thursday night.
Sep 18, 2014, 9:22 PM EDT
Users decided to make the new art’s white space into a plus, ditching the high brow concept in favor of more appealing products.
Sep 18, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT
NBCSN’s first of three weekend broadcasts takes place tomorrow night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Sep 18, 2014, 7:41 PM EDT
It’s 14 years off, but The FA is still planning to make a push.
Sep 18, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
Roberto Martinez makes an impressive European debut, while Mauricio Pochettino sees him team go without a shot on target.
Sep 18, 2014, 4:25 PM EDT
MLS has admitted failure before. Today’s new art may prove to be another idea the league should cast off.
Sep 18, 2014, 3:09 PM EDT
With Week four in the books, here’s how the PL teams stack up in our rankings of power.
Sep 18, 2014, 2:27 PM EDT
What are people saying about Major League Soccer’s new look?
Sep 18, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
Wenger: “I was so close to signing Cristiano Ronaldo.”
Sep 18, 2014, 1:09 PM EDT
After just four wins from 20 games, Fulham’s owner has seen enough from Magath.
Sep 18, 2014, 12:37 PM EDT
Rodgers’ side have had an up and down start to the season. Is it the sign of things to come?
Sep 18, 2014, 11:33 AM EDT
Here’s what lies in store for Everton and Tottenham as Thursday night soccer begins.
Sep 18, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Parmigiani watches worth over $25,000 dished out by Brazilian federation to FIFA’s exec. members must be returned.
Sep 18, 2014, 10:18 AM EDT
Gunners need reinforcements in defense, so who are they making a move for?
Sep 18, 2014, 9:35 AM EDT
Norwegian boss let go after just 9 wins in 30 games in charge of the Bluebirds.
Sep 18, 2014, 8:56 AM EDT
Star striker struggling with persistent hamstring problem ahead of Manchester City clash.
Sep 18, 2014, 8:19 AM EDT
What do you guys think of the brand new MLS logo?
Sep 18, 2014, 7:40 AM EDT
Klinsmann’s men move up after Czech Republic win. See where they’re ranked in the top 20.
- Sloppy USWNT 4-0 win over Mexico adds fuel to turf conversation fire 0
- Europe League roundup: Everton big winners at home; Spurs left with draw on the road 0
- It’s not too late for Major League Soccer to turn away from its new logo 18
- Premier League Power Rankings: Red Devils and Villans on the up 1
- PHOTO: MLS unveils new logo. What do you think? 24
- US move up one place in latest FIFA rankings; Wales the big winners 0