If mobile phone use and sitting too close to the microwave hasn't totally eroded your memory, cast your mind back to 2007. Somewhere in the haze of the grand opening of the new Gordon Brown, and Wembley Stadium succeeding Tony Blair as Prime Minister (or something), Sven-Goran Eriksson was at the reigns of Manchester City and had just made an enquiry about the availability of Kieran Richardson. He was quoted a price, laughed at it, and turned his attentions toward Martin Petrov instead.
Petrov was a player who had outstanding seasons in both Spain and Germany, and over 50 caps for his country. Meanwhile, Kieran Richardson had a year on loan with Bryan Robson and a few months deputising, out of position, for Gabriel Heinze under his belt. Yet they both moved that summer for the same fee.
Cast your mind back yet further to 2004, and the transfer of Wayne Rooney. David Moyes had just been asked by the assembled media if a £25million was a little on the obscene side for a 19 year old and he sat back, shrugged his shoulders with the sort of conscientious abandon usually reserved for maniacal war generals and said “well, if you want to buy British, you've got to pay a higher premium.”
He's right. Nowadays a promising but unproven youngster from Barnet will cost you about the same as a rampaging adonis from Bilbao, allegedly because domestic players present less of a risk than their foreign counterparts. But have we ever actually stopped to think about why?
Is it because they already understand how to play in the Premier League? Arguably, but the likes of Cabaye, Cisse, Ba, and Ben Arfa arrived on our shores for 1/5th the cost of Carroll, Adam, Henderson and Downing, and we all saw how well that worked out for Liverpool. Is it Brits’ noble spirit of fair play that both offends and confounds Johnny Foreigner? Maybe, but out of all the bookings for simulation last season, over half went to players hailing from the British Isles, and that's without even factoring in Ashley Young. Is it because there's no language barrier? Possibly, but Englishman Jamie Carragher sounded like a dial-up modem being kicked to death on ITV this summer.
We're not all still living in some bubble where we assume that lads who've had a proper British upbringing are better role models are we? Go through the entire England squad and tell me how many of them you'd happily watch your daughter leaving a nightclub with. The adulterer? The thug? The man who said that horrible thing to that other man? Thought not.
But I digress. The latest chapter in this baffling facet of the modern game is the news that Sunderland are inching ever closer to Wolves' £15million valuation of Steven Fletcher. He's a good player, and I'd be stunned if he didn't surpass the 10 goal mark, but his career to date has consisted of catching the eye in the SPL, then failing to keep both Burnley and Wolves in the English top flight. The footballing equivalent of deciding your high-school girlfriend isn't good enough for you, and leaving her for two Argos models who get chucked out of their flat.
But if you go shopping abroad for a player who'll give you a steady if unspectacular goal tally and a few assists here and there, you'd only pay a fraction of that. Peter Odemwingie cost West Brom £1million, and he was Fletcher's closest statistical equivalent last season.
Ultimately, a footballer is only worth what someone is willing to pay for him but Andy Carroll, Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, Adam Johnson, Darren Bent, Theo Walcott, Peter Crouch, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Fletcher's potential new team-mate Connor Wickham have beeped through the footballing checkouts for something just shy of £200million. With that kind of mark up, surely it's “our” players who now represent the greatest risk in purchase.
Read more of Adam Clery's musings HERE.