Sunday 18 August 2019

John Aldridge: 'Football went mad a long time ago and we are all going to get a graphic snapshot of that insanity'

Leicester City want £90million for Harry Maguire
Leicester City want £90million for Harry Maguire

John Aldridge

WELCOME to the summer when football will go absolutely bonkers.

Neymar's €222m move to Paris Saint-Germain a couple of years back is the transfer that turned the market on its head and now we will see that the obscene has become the norm in this game.

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When you see Leicester City demanding £90m for Harry Maguire, you know the world has gone mad.

No disrespect to Maguire because he's a decent centre-back, but the inflation we are seeing on transfers now has moved the game into the realms of fantasy football.

There were plenty of people questioning Liverpool's decision to pay £75m to sign Virgil van Dijk in January 2018 and I have to admit that price tag looked a little high at the time, but we have all seen what that one player has done for Jurgen Klopp's team and the rest are now trying to follow that lead.

If Maguire goes to Manchester United for £90m, Van Dijk must be worth £180m as he is twice the player in my opinion and this is how transfer fees are being made up now.

How much would Mohamed Salah be worth if Liverpool decided to sell him? Probably close to £200m, and you could say the same for Sadio Mane, who would be worth well in excess of £150m if Barcelona, Real Madrid or Paris Saint-German came in.

The scary thing is that even if we struggle to get our heads around the cash being paid out in transfer fees and wages, the clubs are earning enough to splash out £50m on a promising young left-back and think nothing of it.

Is there any end to this madness? The answer to that question is clearly 'no' because the money flowing into the game now is such that these ridiculous transfer fees are affordable for all the big clubs.

Liverpool collected around £250m in prize money and TV revenue last season and that's a massive number before you start adding in ticket sales at Anfield, corporate hospitality boxes on match day and merchandise sales around the world.

I don't like the idea that an average player is collecting £100,000-a-week playing for Crystal Palace or Bournemouth – when you consider the wages I was on in my career, you could feel envious.

Yet, unlike a lot of the players in the modern game, I don't base the success of my life around how many followers I have on social media, how many fast cars I own and whether I am more famous than a movie star.

Guys like Neymar and Paul Pogba seem more interested in raising their profile and trying to get more money out of the game, but will they be remembered as great players?

I'm sure they don't care what anyone thinks about them as they fly on their private jet to spend the summer on a giant yacht, but that was never my motivation.

My dream was to play for Liverpool, win the league and win the FA Cup with the club I loved.

I achieved all that and also had the incredible honour of pulling on an Ireland jersey, so who cares whether my house has bigger gates on it than the fella next door? It's irrelevant to me, but clearly not to the egomaniacs at the top of football in 2019.

One of the reasons why Man United are in the mess they are right now is down to their policy of signing big-name players who want the story to be all about them and not the team.

Pogba, Alexis Sanchez and their like in that dressing room are not interested in developing team spirit and are only focused on themselves.

That's why both of them seem to be keen to get out of United this summer and cash in once more with another big transfer and a pay rise.

They are the kind of players who end up in China trying to drain every last penny out of their celebrity and it must be a nightmare for modern managers to deal with that brand of footballing mercenary.

This is why Man City manager Pep Guardiola, Klopp and Tottenham's Mauricio Pochettino deserve so much credit for getting their teams to play with real passion.

Salah is every inch the superstar Pogba is, but his effort in a Liverpool shirt is at a different level to the French international at United and that is why signing the right personalities is just as important as signing good quality players in the modern game.

Getting the right characters in a dressing room is a challenge all clubs face in the next month because even if you feel a player is good enough, he has to fit in to the ethos of a club.

The truth is the teams in the best positions heading into the new season are probably going to be the ones that did well last year because the way the transfer market is right now, it is hard to see clubs like United, Arsenal, Everton and the rest of the chasing pack signing enough players to make a real difference to their teams this summer.

Football went mad a long time ago and we are all going to get a graphic snapshot of that insanity over the next few weeks.

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