Michael Carrick, Owen Hargreaves, James Milner and Gareth Barry. All reasonable English, middle level Premier League players, never fail to deliver but never really excel. Steven Pienaar, Rafael Van Der Vaart, Mikel Arteta and Nemanja Vidic. Arguably the stars of their respective teams. Coveted by teams ranging from Inter Milan, Real Madrid and the big boys in the Barclays Premier League.
The former’s accumulated transfer value? £72 million. £18 million respectively for Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves, an extortionate £24 million for the workmanlike James Milner and £12 million for Gareth Barry, even with a mere twelve months left on his contract. The latter’s? £18 million. Everton spent £2 million each on Mikel Arteta and Steven Pienaar, Van Der Vaart went to Tottenham Hotspur for £7 million and Manchester United picked up the colossus that is Nemanja Vidic for the same price from Spartak Moscow in 2007. The reason for the huge difference in fees? The simple fact that Carrick, Hargreaves et al all hold an English Passport.
This ‘English Tax’ has again reared its head in the winter transfer window, with Darren Bent allegedly the subject of an initial £18 million bid from Gerard Houiller’s Aston Villa. Whilst Newcastle United’s Andy Carroll is interesting Tottenham, but another extortionate English fee seems to be getting in the way. Harry Redknapp explained, “[Tottenham Hotspur] are nowhere near getting Andy Carroll. How much is he? You are talking £30million to 40million.” For £33 million you could invest in an internationally recognized striker, who has scored twenty goals or more in each of his last five seasons. Or you could get yourself an international newcomer, who has had one good season at the highest level. Ask yourself who would you rather spend your money on; David Villa or Andy Carroll?
The same logic applies to Darren Bent, who is a very competent striker with a good goal scoring record in the Premier League. But is he really worth £18 million? Tottenham saw fit to pay £16.5 million for the Englishman but Bent failed to cut it at White Hart Lane and was swiftly dispatched to Sunderland. Another comparison again demonstrates the apparent lunacy of such money being spent, when the Uruguayan Luis Suarez is being touted across Europe for the same fee. Suarez is like David Villa, a prolific goal scorer at international and club level, with 80 goals in 108 games for Ajax, both in the Eredivisie and the Champions League. Darren Bent on the other hand has barely appeared for England and the closest he has come to European football is mainly on the substitute bench for Spurs.
The obvious reason for this so called ‘Tax’ is the implementation of the requirement of eight home grown players within their twenty-five registered players. However as most football fans know, this rule is open to manipulation, with the likes of Cesc Fabregas and the Da Silva twins both meeting the specifications needed to be classed as home grown. English players also usually provide a safe bet, with a (very, very high) majority having learnt their trade in our game, therefore not requiring any potential transition phase as seen with numerous foreign imports. United’s Vidic and Evra both come to mind as prominent examples of this. In the cut and thrust world of Premier League management, managers simply cannot take a risk on a player that will not integrate into the squad immediately. Juande Ramos at Spurs lost his job after several of his new signings failed to fire immediately. Modric, Pavlyuchenko and Assou-Ekotto, were the guilty ones, the same players that now form part of the strongest Spurs team in decades.
Even that argument can be picked apart, with numerous English and British players taking months and in some cases years to fully settle at new clubs. Gareth Bale signed for £12 million in the same summer as Modric, was a much more prominent failure until last season. Failing to win a Premier League game in twenty-four attempts. Whilst his fellow Southampton academy product Theo Walcott has failed to make any form of significant impact at Arsenal after joining for a similar fee to Bale.
This ‘Tax’ is a strictly English phenomenon as Spanish, Italian and French players all moving between clubs in their respective league for much more modest and realistic fee. There is however a plethora of high quality players of these nationalities, the same can’t be said for any British players. There are about five world class Englishmen, any player who seems to be heading to a decent level of football is immediately seized upon by the big clubs. Driving the price up; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is another example of this strange ‘Tax’ with his fee looking to reach £10 million, twenty games into his fledgling career.
Quality Englishmen will always be hot property; no Englishman wants to go and watch their club and see none of their countrymen. Kids need to see local products and their compatriots wearing the shirt they so desire to wear. Although it doesn’t make business sense, it will continue until quality British players become the norm, rather than the exception
Written By Lee Wilson at the excellent ‘This Is Futbol’