As Chelsea and Liverpool battle it out for fourteen-year-old MK Dons midfielder Seyi Ojo many are left bewildered at the price tag for such a young and unproven player. Yes, Ojo is playing years above his age group for both England and MK Dons but at what point did the desperation to uncover the next young starlet become so great that top clubs were willing to pay two million pounds for a boy with an unbroken voice?
Seyi Ojo may have potential to be a star but ultimately clubs aim to buy youngsters so they don’t have to pay big, risky transfer fees in the future; isn’t paying two million for a boy that young a risk? Only about half of all the supposed young stars fulfil their potential, and it is particularly hard to judge whether or not they will when they are quite as young as Ojo is. So why has this happened? When did we arrive at this point and is it worth it?
Precedent and market inflation
Obviously the two major factors are that market prices have been inflated as a result of City, Chelsea and others and also the precedent for large fees for young players set by teams like Arsenal. Obviously with so much foreign money in English football, prices across the board have been inflated meaning that not only the price of youngsters will rise accordingly but also that the demand for younger players will increase as top stars become unaffordable. Secondly as soon as clubs like Arsenal or Tottenham pay huge fees for players such as Bale, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain then every other small club will raise the prices for their academy graduates.
So the scene has been set for the rise in prices but that still doesn’t explain why Liverpool and Chelsea are willing to pay that much for such a young footballer? However Liverpool’s recent transfer tactics do suggest the route that they intend on taking in the market.
Liverpool’s director of football has a brilliant record of identifying young talent for whatever club he has worked for, and in the past has unearthed talent such as Kolo Toure, Eboue, Clichy, Taarabt, Bale, Modric, Assou-Ekotto and others. Whilst at Liverpool there seems to have been a particular focus on not just young talent but young English talent such as Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing and he added these players to Liverpool’s then recent additions of Jonjo Shelvey (Charlton) and Raheem Sterling (QPR) who is supposed to be one of the brightest talents in English football. In fact they paid just under two million for Sterling when he was just fifteen. So, what all this tells us is that Liverpool are so desperate to build a base of young English talent that they are willing to pay large amounts of money for young players, even if they are a risk.
FIFA’s financial fair play rules
Another deciding factor in clubs’ recent attraction to younger and younger players is a result of FIFA’s financial fair play regulations that will soon be coming in to effect and so the appeal of younger cheaper players is much greater even if the prices are inflated, for the clubs it is far less of a risk.
Is this the right way to go?
Well, how can we be sure? Is it any more risky for Liverpool or Chelsea to pay two million pounds for a fourteen year old than it was for Chelsea to pay fifty million for Torres or Liverpool to pay thirty five million for Carroll? Some may see people paying millions for boys who haven’t even take their GCSEs as ridiculous but frankly I would rather have Ojo for his price tag than Carroll for his.
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