When Newcastle United moved to sign Fabian Schar for just £3 million it felt as if Rafa Benitez was being victimised by the tyranny of Mike Ashley.
Another average transfer completed within the remits of a shoestring budget; another example of why the Sports Direct tycoon is the most unpopular man on Tyneside; another player to cement the painful mediocrity of a prestigious club punching well beneath its weight.
Why would Deportivo La Coruña willingly allow a quality central defender to leave the club for a pittance in a transfer market where bargain hunting is a practice that is snowballing towards extinction?
Well, their hands were of course tied as Newcastle triggered a release clause in his contract, but the mere existence of a release clause set the alarm bells ringing anyway.
The cunning individuals responsible for bringing Schar to St James’ Park, however, are certainly no fools and it has since become apparent that the signing was much more than a hopeful stab in the dark.
Jamaal Lascelles was the star of Newcastle’s defence last season, commanding interest from Manchester United in the process and leaving the supporters in a state of bewilderment at Gareth Southgate’s stubborn refusal to bring him into the England fold.
The aspiring England international, though, has since been upstaged by the brilliance of Schar. Plenty of players need to be afforded time during their transition to Premier League football but the Switzerland international has required no such treatment, starring on his maiden campaign and offering a level of ball-playing quality which wouldn’t go amiss at a top-six club.
Schar has played with tenacity and composure, strength and finesse, technique and desire. Combining old-school defensive arts with the progressive ball-playing principles which defenders are required to adhere to in the modern game, Newcastle fans have watched a player of genuine quality blossom under their noses this season.
He has been eulogised over by the Magpies faithful yet acknowledgements of the genius behind the transfer deal don’t seem to transcend much further than the Angel of the North.
Sky Sports produced an article on the candidates for signing of the season back in March. The four players identified were Salomon Rondon, James Maddison, Raul Jimenez and Alisson. Come on, Alisson? Really? He cost £67 million. What a farce. As if Liverpool fans needed any more ego-feeding in the media.
Listed in the list of potential alternatives to the aforementioned quartet were: Ben Foster, Felipe Anderson, David Brooks and Matteo Guendouzi. The absence of Schar was an utterly predictable but equally inexcusable omission.
Perhaps his absence from the conversation can be explained by the unassuming manner in which he walked through the door at St James’ Park. Nobody envisaged that he would do anything more than mirror his modest price-tag when, in fact, the standard of his performances suggest his true valuation dwarfs the cost of his transfer.
His goal-of-the-season contender against Burnley, multitude of incisive diagonals and crunching tackles point towards a level of flair and star quality of a potential award winner, but he has stealthily swerved serious consideration for esteemed recognition. Newcastle fans won’t mind that injustice too much, however, with the transfer window looming and a handful of top-six clubs seemingly in need of defensive recruits.
It’s not a sentence which many could have envisaged at the beginning of the season but Schar is surely the value-for-money, unsung signing of the Premier League season.