Martial's Transfer Ripple

Manchester United’s player transfer team, led by executive vice chairman Ed Woodward, will be cringing at the site of the International Centre for Sports Studies’ new report which finds that the club overpaid for Anthony Martial by a whopping $31 million—more than any other player during the recently closed transfer window.

According to the report, United’s transfer day deadline signing from AS Monaco cost $56 million, not including bonuses, while his estimated value according to the CIES formula was just $25 million. Kevin de Bruyne was second on the overpaid list, costing Manchester City $29.8 million more than his estimated market price. 

The CIES methodology is interesting: the Swiss sports research firm starts with each player’s market value at the end of the 2014-15 season, and then adds 23 percent for inflation, as players with similar characteristics have tended to sell for 23 percent more with each passing season over the last five seasons according to the firm’s data.

Now, Anthony Martial is unquestionably a promising young player, but there’s a lot wrong with United paying $56 million for him. For starters, he is just 19. As with many breakout teenage soccer stars, his temperament has been questioned. His scoring record, though not bad for someone so young, isn’t stellar, either: 11 goals in 49 total appearances for AS Monaco in two full seasons. He cost $22 million more than Pedro, a World Cup winner with Spain in 2010 and a three-time UEFA Champions League winner with Barcelona. Monaco bought Martial for just $5.4 million from Lyon in June 2013, which means his transfer mark-up over two seasons is ten-fold.

If he turns out to be the next Thierry Henry, as some pundits think, then it will be well worth the $56 million -- but the thing is, Martial is actually going to cost a lot more than that if he meets his bonus requirements, which bring the total price tag to $90.5 million. That is truly astonishing money for a player whom Wayne Rooney came out and said he had never heard of.

Naturally, now that the deal is done, Monaco is gloating. In an interview The Sun, vice president Vadim Vasilyev noted that with add-ons the Martial deal approaches the incredible transfer fees Barcelona paid for Neymar in 2013 and Luis Suarez in 2014.   

"It's true that the price for Martial is 58 million [pounds] but take into account this sum includes bonuses which are very realistic. It's absolutely unique. It's the price of Luis Suarez or Neymar -- the best players in the world.”

Vasilyev noted that the deal came together quickly once United made clear that it wanted the player at any cost: “On Sunday the player got such an offer that he couldn't have declined. He asked us to find a solution and on Monday morning Manchester United made an offer to Monaco which the club couldn't refuse. Right now English football is on a different financial level and if Manchester United decides to buy somebody, it's very hard to stop them."

Indeed, as it turns out, spending some $56-$90 million on an unproven 19-year-old is just fine if you’re the Manchester clubs and you either have limitless Middle Eastern backing or an unending line of commercial partners, but you have to wonder what happens to the rest of the ecosystem when a couple of outliers can drive up prices at such a rapid rate? How does this affect the next transfer market?


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