We’re all painfully aware of the ‘English player tax’ that is surreptitiously added to any player with three lions in their international career.
It doesn’t seem to matter their status at club level either. Whether they be stellar names or simple squad filler, if they’ve been in or around an England squad, then the price hike is rather noticeable.
The proof? Just look at Wesley Fofana of Leicester City. The young Frenchman had a few admirers when he joined the Foxes, but his arrival was pretty unheralded. And yet last season he emerged as one of the best defenders in his age group in the Premier League.
Then there is Ben White. The Brighton defender enjoyed a successful loan spell at Leeds the previous season and was recalled by Brighton, where last season he played the majority of the campaign. Yet he hardly pulled up trees with his showings and also earned two red cards.
Yet he is being touted for a megabucks £40-45m move to Arsenal.
Fofana is worth at least this amount, but he has shown consistency to drive his market value up. Ben White is promising of course, but the regulation that stipulates the amount of homegrown players must be in each squad is a big factor in why English players are going for much higher sums of money than a similarly talented player from a different country.
Just look at West Ham’s chase for Burnley’s James Tarkowski last season. A £50m price tag was put on Tarkowski’s head.
And the latest rumours are linking us with a £70m move for James Maddison – the supremely talented but inconsistent and injury prone playmaker for Leicester City.
Price tags like this will represent the lion’s share of any transfer budget. So a move will have to be the number one priority for each club. And you have to wonder – is a centre back the spot we need to invest the most in?
Especially when you realise that we ranked 12th for chances created last season in the Premier League – ultimately quelling one of the most prolific strikers in the last ten years in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang?
And what of a partner for Thomas Partey? The Ghanaian harbours the threat of being able to dictate games by himself, but needs a partner to offer security alongside him. With no effective DM in our ranks, surely the likes of Yves Bissouma – one of the best for blocks, tackles and interceptions in the PL last campaign – must be higher on our list if we are going to chuck that sort of money at a player?
We have Gabriel, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and William Saliba in our central defensive spots next season. Saliba aside, they are all proven at PL level. Saliba has shown in his loan spells that he is more than ready for his shot too. Bring in Ben White and not only does it harm Saliba’s development, but it also ruins the equilibrium we have in terms of the right number vying for two spots.
We could certainly bring a defender in, but it would have to be the right type. A defender who is ready for a step up and knows that he must wait for his chance. Someone like Dinos Mavropanos perhaps, who was excellent at Stuttgart last season.
Ben White is looking like a great defender, but his price tag (inc the English tax) is exorbitant and would represent the heart of our budget. If we’re going to spend big, let it be for the right player.
Like it or not, we’re not one of the big boys anymore.