Should Premier League Take a £15m Risk on Johnson?

With Premier League teams clamouring for home grown talent, big spending Manchester City have snared their fair share of Britain’s best players but one man who appears to be heading toward the exit door is Adam Johnson.

The young winger has impressed during a relatively short spell at the Etihad Stadium but with question marks over his defensive motivation and bigger stars waiting in wings to replace him, manager Roberto Mancini has deemed him surplus to requirements this summer. The Englishman is attracting interest from Liverpool, Tottenham and Sunderland among others but at 24 years of age is still relatively unproven at the highest level. With that in mind is Johnson genuinely worth the £15 million being touted around?

Given the overinflated prices being paid for British stars, it would appear Johnson is a snip at £15 million. He’s a Premier League winner, a full International and possesses that sought after quality of being a left footed Englishman. Lesser players like Jordan Henderson have demanded undeservedly high transfer fees so teams should be jumping the queue in order to sign him but for some reason Johnson’s personality and mentality are tarnishing his obvious talent.

Fans have heard various whispers regarding his failings and apparently his rise to prominence has made him too arrogant at an early age. To make matters worse his lack of defensive motivation doesn’t serve his teammates very well when defending as a unit. It’s something a tactician like Mancini has been quick to point out. The Italian manager said:

“Sometimes he thinks, ‘OK, in this game I scored one goal, I did an assist, that is enough’

“He can play for England but if he wants to continue doing this he needs to play well in every game for us. Some dribbling or two crosses don’t make him a good player. He must keep his feet on the floor. It’s important all the players have good behaviour during the week. He’s a fantastic talent but he’s not a top player at this moment.”

While many fans were surprised when Stewart Downing was chosen ahead of Johnson in Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad, having seen the defensive manner of the England setup during the tournament, it’s clear that Hodgson agrees with Mancini’s concerns over the winger’s willingness to defend in unison. That very same lack of work rate seems to have held him back when breaking into the City first team and meant he played a bit part role in their title run in. Edging out the likes of Samir Nasri is no mean feat but Johnson is the same age as the Frenchman and he knows Mancini is strict because he rates him so highly. He said:

“He can criticise as well as praise you and I’ve never had a problem with that. I’m not the type to let those things bother me. I take it on board and continue to work hard in training every day so there’s no problems there.”

Johnson’s comments appear to be fairly level headed but his omission from the England squad and the City first team tells a different story. If a controversial personality like Mario Balotelli can earn Mancini’s trust then Johnson must be doing something wrong and now less establish stars like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have leapfrogged him into the national side. The youngster may be able to talk the talk but clearly he hasn’t walked the walk enough to persuade either his domestic manager or his national team coach to select him. If he’s not trusted to put a shift in then why are other Premier League teams so desperate to sign him?

Of the clubs being linked only Sunderland have any prior history having come close to signing Johnson when he was at Middlesbrough. In the end City’s finances blew the Black Cats out of the water but they’ve monitored his progress and retain an interest in bringing him to the Stadium of Light. Few Sunderland fans would refuse his signature but in reality the contract extension he earned last year has priced them out of a permanent transfer. Now on higher wages and with the experience of European and International football, the Easington born star is unlikely to return to the North East anytime soon unless it’s on loan. That leaves clubs like Tottenham and Liverpool at the head of queue but should these teams be spending £15 million on a potential flight risk?

Liverpool could certainly use another skilful winner with only Downing currently on their books but, as another former Middlesbrough winger, Johnson is of a similar mould to his fellow countryman. Tottenham’s quest for UEFA Champions League football could lead them to splashing the cash but they already own Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon so do they really need another first choice winger? Johnson prefers to cut inside from right midfield so could find a place in the side but would Spurs fans prefer him or Lennon on their right wing?

For such an obvious talent, it’s a shame Johnson’s personality has led to his stock falling so far. Since he’s no longer first choice for club or country it’s vital he finds a suitable transfer this summer in order to guarantee regular football. Whether or not prospective teams are willing to risk their hard earned pennies remains to be seen but if Henderson’s reportedly worth £16 million and Downing £20m then Johnson must have enough on his CV to warrant another Premier League team investing in his services.

Do you think Johnson is worth £15m? Would you be happy if your team signed the winger?

Let me know your views and opinions by following me on Twitter – Tweet me @Alex_Churcher

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