Aston Villa, Darren Bent and ‘market value’

Aston Villa, Darren Bent and 'market value'

‘Market value’ has been the buzzword of the week in English football. For David Cockcroft the Darren Bent to Aston Villa transfer isn’t as barmy as is being portrayed.

Every football team is always in the market for a goal scorer, and a proven one at the top level in England will fetch you around a cool £20 million pounds these days.

This inflated price tag was realised again this week with the Darren Bent transfer to Aston Villa.

A move that surprised many sees the, dare I say it, journeyman striker move south to the West Midland strugglers, and I for one question the doubters who believe the front man is overpriced.

Aston Villa will shed out an initial £18 million pounds on Bent, which will reportedly rise to £24 million in add-on clauses over the 4-year deal.

With a career goal ratio of 1 in every 2.4 games, this is a true marksman and his form at Sunderland proves he can be consistent at the top level. An impressive 62.5% strike rate last term clarifies that.

Villa boss Gerard Houllier knows what he’s getting for his money with this move and it’s one that will rub salt into the wounds of fellow struggling neighbours Birmingham City.

The Blues are too, like everybody else, in the market for a proven marksman and on the eve of the deal in nearby Aston, their very own elusive goal scorer was apparently waiting in the wings to sign.

Tottenham Hotspur have starved Robbie Keane of first team football in recent times and the Republic of Ireland captain is ready to quit White Hart Lane again. Keane, a prominent name in the 2011 January’s transfer window, was destined for St Andrews – or so we all thought.

As the ‘collapsed deal’ unfolded, acting Blues Chairman Peter Pannu stated that a move for Keane “wasn’t financially the best option available to the club”. These comments came out of St Andrews following a reported agreement between the two clubs.

It was understood that Spurs had accepted an initial £4 million pound deal that was set to rise by a further £2 million pounds in add-ons. However the noises now coming out of Birmingham suggest personal terms couldn’t be agreed. The player in question actually denied a move to Birmingham City was ever on the cards in the first place.

If the saga didn’t leave Birmingham red faced enough, the capture of Bent just north of the city would have.

The Blues are only ‘bettered’ by Wigan at the moment in the Premier League with the fewest goals scored and a striker with a glowing scoring reference, just like Darren Bent, is of the highest order at St Andrews.

In terms of proven strikers, money talks.

Nikola Zigic for example, signed by Birmingham for £6 million pounds back in May 2010, has since failed to live up to this missing piece of the jigsaw in front of goal.

He is just one of many other Premier League imports that have underperformed on the understanding of being a big money goal scorer, and it is because of these flops that the cynics on Darren Bent’s latest ‘outrageous’ price tag should be silenced.

Bent may be costing Villa double their previous transfer record fee, but who recalls Chris Sutton’s £10 million pound switch to Chelsea back in 1999 or Francis Jeffers £8 million move to Arsenal 2 years later?

Two fine examples of what was thought to be top English striking talent, both failing to live up to the expectation and price tag of being a consistent goal scorer in the Premier League.

The following ten years of Premiership football has seen fees like Sutton’s and Jeffer’s become an average price to pay for any player, but the striker’s fee has increased more and more over time.

Bent’s eventual £24 million price tag is still dwarfed by some deals, and unsuccessful ones at that. It was only six years ago when Chelsea forked out £30.8 million pounds on Ukrainian legend Andriy Shevchenko. His return at Stamford Bridge cost the west Londoner’s a staggering £3.42 million a goal.

To put Bent’s transfer fee into context, Manchester City paid out £17.5 million pounds, a fee similar to Bent’s, on Roque Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz has of course recently left the club on loan to his previous employers Blackburn Rovers due to lack of first team football.

Dimitar Berbatov, who cost Manchester United £30.75 million pounds two and a half years ago, has an almost identical career strike rate to Bent yet cost nearly £10 million pounds more.

Newcastle United bought Michael Owen, the fourth highest goal scorer in the history of our national team, back in 2005 at probably the peak football age of 26. His move from Spanish giants Real Madrid cost the magpies £16 million pounds. Regardless of his injury problems in the northeast, Owen still managed a goal ratio of 1 in every 2.7 games, Bent’s fee sounds like the going rate on that evidence alone.

So is £24 million really over pricing Darren Bent? A player that scored 25 goals in 40 outings last season and 8 league goals already this term?

A goal scorer is worth his weight in gold. Just ask a Birmingham City fan.

David Cockcroft can be found on Twitter.

(photo by DesertMonsoon on Flickr)

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5 Responses to “Aston Villa, Darren Bent and ‘market value’”

  1. Jonathan F
    January 22, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    Nice piece David. I tend to agree with you in the sense that I find Bent quite underrated. Perhaps it’s because of his unlucky spell at Spurs where he didn’t really get a look in behind Keane and Berbatov, not to mention the fee they paid for him. But from Ipswich to Charlton to Sunderland he’s always scored goals and was desperately unlucky not to go to the 2006 World Cup when he scored around 20+ league goals.

    I’m sure he’ll do well at Villa provided he gets good service, even if the fee is somewhat inflated.

    • David Cockcroft
      January 22, 2011 at 11:58 pm #

      I’m not sure if it’s arrogance or premature but can I say point proven after todays debut?

  2. Peter
    January 23, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    There appears to be something up at Birmingham City regarding transfers. Last season when Carson Yeung took them over he promised £40m in the transfer kitty for the Summer for them to push on. For whatever reason it didn’t materialise. Then he said that there would be significant money for Alex McLeish in the January transfer to stave off relegation. Again it hasn’t happened. As the guardian reported on Saturday, no-one seems to fancy a move to St.Andrews. Ryan Babel & Robbie Keane have both turned them down recently. Most alarming though is Kenny Miller.

    Miller would have fit in perfectly at Birmingham and would have got on with McLeish as they worked together at Scotland internationally. But for whatever reason, he decides he would rather move to Bursaspor. While being a good club, the Turkish league is nowhere near as tough as the Premier League and Turkey has always been a tough place for British players to settle in (See Darius Vassell).

    It seems there is a problem at St. Andrews with money. Perhaps Yeung is all talk and no walk or perhaps he doesn’t trust McLeish with his money. Either option is very scary for Birmingham fans who must have thought the team would push on from last season top establish a top 10 finish and move onwards from there. Instead they are in a relegation battle along with West Brom, West Ham, Wolves and below Blackpool. All who have got nowhere near as much money as Yeung supposedly has.

    Heres the Guardian article I took the info from:
    http://bit.ly/eJYuCm

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