Friday, June 24, 2011

Why Ashley Young's a bargain

Fri Jun 24 08:25AM
At an estimated £15 million Ashley Young's move from Aston Villa to Manchester United does not represent the most expensive signing of what has been a relatively quiet transfer summer, but it is the most significant deal that has been completed thus far.
It's also a bargain.
That might seem a somewhat crazy thing to say, but one of the most underrated factors when signing players these days seems to be proven quality.
Instead there is a prevalent obsession with "potential": everybody seems to be looking to find that rough diamond that they can then chisel in their own image - even if said diamond is going to cost you more money than Young (see Phil Jones and Jordan Henderson).
In ED's mind, though, one of the most derided transfer moves of last season proved to be one of the best.
When Darren Bent signed for Aston Villa from Sunderland for a reported £18m (rising to a potential £24m), the general consensus at the time was that Villa had paid massively over the odds. But why?
Darren Bent scores goals in the Premier League - he's been doing it for a good few years now - and at the prime age for a footballer of 27 - there is no reason why he can't go on doing it for a good few more years yet.
People seemed almost surprised when he walked straight into the Villa team and just continued doing what he was doing at Sunderland - playing well and scoring goals.
Will he get any better? Probably not, but who cares when you are banging in 20 goals a season without fail?
Liverpool, on the other hand splashed, out £35m on Newcastle's Andy Carroll with the sole justification for such a huge outlay being that "P" word we mentioned earlier.
Now if Carroll goes on to become, like Bent, a player who scores 20 goals in the Premier League each season, it will seem like a shrewd bit of business.
But does it not seem like a skewed market when you are paying almost double for someone who has the potential to do what a finished product is already doing at half the price?
Bent's now former team-mate Young is a similar signing for United. All transfers have an element of risk about them but the capture of Young is pretty much as safe as you can get.
He's English, he's played in the Premier League for a number of years now, he is an established international, he will know all about the histories and traditions of Manchester United and perhaps more importantly about Sir Alex Ferguson.
If Ferguson tells him he should do X or work on Y, Young will know to listen because he has grown up and then played in a culture that has (rightly) revered the record-breaking Manchester United manager.
The one big risk when signing a proven *superstar* (say the Kakas or Wesley Sneijders of this world who may or may not be on the market) is that they might expect to have the team built around them, because they have grown up being the centre of attention.
Sure, if they embrace and integrate themselves into the culture of the club (a la Dennis Bergkamp or Gianfranco Zola) they will become a huge success, but if they struggle to adapt their game and mindset to their new surroundings they can become an expensive mistake (see Juan Sebastian Veron or Andriy Shevchenko).
Young's progression to United has been much more organic. He has moved from what was then a small Premier League club (Watford) to a bigger one (Aston Villa) to the biggest one (Manchester United).
There is still work to be done at United; from a purely positional sense Young was not a crying need with the likes of Antonio Valencia, Nani and Park Ji-Sung already offering United good options in wide positions, andas the Armchair Pundit noted yesterday, some serious surgery is still needed in regards to the midfield.
But in the current climate, £15m for a proving Premier League star coming into the prime years of his career seems like a bit of a steal.
Stockpiling on young talent is an interesting tactic and one that can pay dividends if you make the right picks, but waiting for your numbers to come up can be a slow and painful process - just ask Arsenal fans.

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