As an avid Arsenal football fan, I was thrilled by the recent transfer of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid. Despite having the highest number of assists in Europe in the last few years, Madrid’s new manager Carlo Ancelotti deemed Ozil surplus to its squad with the arrival of Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspur. Although Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger is known for his frugality in the transfer market and desire to develop players as opposed to spending large sums of money, the acquisition of Ozil was too enticing to pass up. Perhaps this change in attitude from Arsenal signals a larger trend in the need to spend for squad improvement. Player development can no longer make up for purchasing top quality at the club level.
It should not be surprising though that Madrid took the approach of player marketability over footballing ability. When the club purchased David Beckham during Florentino Pérez’s presidency, it sold French defensive midfielder Claude Makélelé to Chelsea. Zinedine Zidane himself lamented the loss of Makélelé stating, “Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?”. In fact, Zidane, the once most expensive transfer in the world from Juventus to Madrid at one point, also recently added that it is incomprehensible that football clubs are willing to pay so much for players. He even went on to say that he was not worth his own transfer fee as he stated in the past.
While Ozil arrives at Arsenal with proven quality at the club and international level with Germany, Bale joined Madrid for over double the transfer value of Ozil. Bale has shown flashes of brilliance in the English Premier League, but it would be difficult to justify that he is worth more as a footballer than Ozil. This begs the question of the recent trend of inflation in transfer values in football spurred on by clubs such as Madrid and Manchester City. What should the value of footballers be in the open market? Can footballers ever justify their expensive transfer fees? These are interesting questions to the latest series of events in the transfer market.