Make no mistake about it, £30million is a lot of money. But in a division that surpassed the £1billion collective spend barrier for the first time last summer, it’s an affordable – if somewhat uncomfortable and perhaps short-sighted sum – for every side in the Premier League.
Everton and West Ham both look set for expensive rebuilds this summer. The Hammers spent freely during the last off-season but the consequence of their over-ambition as they welcomed European football to the London Stadium was an unbalanced squad with inherent weak links at the back and up front. Slaven Bilic is now also tasked with finding a replacement for Dimitri Payet.
Likewise, Ronald Koeman didn’t truly get the chance to take advantage of Farhad Moshiri’s investment last summer and although some additions arrived in January – namely Morgan Schneiderlin and Ademola Lookman – the current Toffees set-up is still a few quality players short of truly challenging for a Champions League spot. That mission could be made even harder if star striker Romelu Lukaku walks out the Goodison exit door this summer.
Inevitably, both clubs will be drawn towards exotic and likely cheaper talent from abroad due to the transfer trap English sides get themselves caught up in practically every summer. Premier League proven players admittedly aren’t cheap these days, but if there’s one who’s done more than enough to justify a lofty price-tag, it’s Swansea City’s £30million-rated Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Once again, £30million is a lot of money – but Sigurdsson’s quality has never been in doubt throughout his Premier League career, even during a difficult spell at Tottenham Hotspur that saw him shoehorned in on the left wing.
Now hitting his peak at the age of 27, the Icelander is producing arguably his best football yet; according to data courtesy of EA Sports, Sigurdsson has scored or assisted 53% of Swansea’s league goals this season, more than double that of Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne, Everton’s Ross Barkley and Liverpool’s Adam Lallana and an even greater contribution than Arsenal’s winger-forward extraordinaire Alexis Sanchez.
He’s also top of the Premier League’s assist charts with eleven, after setting up Alfie Mawson’s consolation strike against Hull City last weekend, ranks seventh throughout the division for created chances per match with 2.2, and top for distance covered.
But not everything can be accurately represented in the statistics, and those who have watched Sigurdsson closely in recent weeks will have noted the sheer quality of the 48-cap international’s play; a stunningly executed, expertly timed and weighted backheel that lead to a Fernando Llorente goal against Burnley epitomised how fluid he’s been in the final third since Paul Clement’s arrival instigated an uplift in Swansea’s form. Champions League quality stuff that will undoubtedly have caught the attention of foreign clubs involved in Europe’s top competition, if not those in England.
Here's a stat for you…
— Swansea City AFC (@SwansOfficial) March 14, 2017
Of course, scoring goals often precedes creating them when it comes to price-tags, but once again, Sigurdsson holds his own. He finished last season with eleven in the Premier League and is on course for a similar tally this year, netting eight times already despite his side languishing near the foot of the table. As much as his creative qualities, hitting the onion bag from midfield has been a recurring trend throughout Sigurdsson’s career, starting with a 16-goal campaign for Reading in the Championship, and it remains a key part of his game – not to mention a key selling point for his potential suitors.
If there’s one drawback to Sigurdsson, it’s his questionable versatility. He’s played in a variety of midfield roles throughout his career, but lacking the pace to be truly effective out wide and the defensive nous for box-to-box duties at the heart of the engine room, the No.10 position, especially when working behind a powerful striker, gets the best out of him by some distance.
Admittedly, that might put off rumoured suitors Everton depending on Ronald Koeman’s long-term plans for Ross Barkley, who is back to his best after an underwhelming start to the season. Likewise, although West Ham will be looking to replace Payet’s quality this summer, Manuel Lanzini is already attempting to make the central attacking role his own, although the Argentine lacks Sigurdsson’s proficiency from long-range and in dead ball situations.
Nonetheless, both clubs would inevitably benefit from signing Premier League proven quality this summer and although Swansea may be at the less flattering end of the table, it’s really not a question of whether Sigurdsson can make the step up. In truth, the Welsh outfit have been lucky to hold onto such an obvious talent for so long.
It may form a club-record price-tag for both Everton and West Ham, but £30million spent on Sigurdsson could be the safest piece of business they pull off this summer.
Data Courtesy of EA SPORTS, the Lead Partner of the Premier League.