So often, the English face the same conundrum. In the immediate aftermath of early exit from a major International tournament, men gather, in smokey pubs and FA headquarters alike, to discuss what is wrong with our game. Frequently, lack of coaching is cited as a major problem. Large pitches and large footballs are, every two years, admonished for their role in the supposed grass roots malfunction of the sport. However, the most common bone of contention arrived at by fans, ignorant and indignant, is that "there are too many foreigners in our league." In the modern era, however, such reliance on this overseas demographic has, for many clubs, come to constitute good business sense; the exorbitant tax seemingly placed on the transfer fee of any English player an absurdity evoking focus on different lands with different talents and different price expectations.
Who can now blame an owner for shopping overseas? The shocking price tags associated with vast swathes of English players border on comical. Jordan Henderson left Sunderland for Liverpool as part of an 18million pound deal, a figure that defies belief when contrasted with the 4.3million that Yohan Cabaye cost Newcastle United in the same season. Cabaye would widely be considered a better player than Henderson, a phenomenon illustrated by the respective importance of each player to his team, as well as style and skill. The fact that Henderson was born in Sunderland, and Cabaye in Tourcing, France, instigates the price differential of nearly 14million. Why? No reasonable rationale can be provided for a manager electing to sign the more-expensive, less-talented player.
A further expensive calamity wrought by Liverpool serves to illuminate the dichotomy even more. As every man, woman, child or animal freely roaming Planet Earth is aware, Andy Carroll became a Liverpool player for the gargantuan fee of 35million pounds. Even if we forget for a moment the utter absurdity of such a player commanding such a ludicrous transfer fee, this move makes little sense, as highlighted even this weekend in the Premier League. Miguel Michu, signed by Swansea City for just 2million pounds over the summer, lit up the weekend with a dazzling two-goal display at Queens Park Rangers, bringing to attention the imbalance that so dangerously exists. It would appear that the Spaniard plucked from abroad harbours a greater chance than the Geordie hastily panic-bought from the North East of inspiring and affecting his current club this season. With such bargains to be found, and with such calamitous fiscal mistakes to learn from, what owner would now buy British first?
The Premier League is now littered with stars that were found in relative obscurity, purchased for a fraction of their English counterparts, and who now flourish at the top of the game. Take, for instance, Demba Ba, who cost Newcastle United little other than the agent negotiating fees that initiated his arrival. The aforementioned 18million so recklessly splashed out on Jordan Henderson represents nearly 10million pound more than the combined cost of Michel Vorm, Pavel Pogrebnyak and Moussa Dembele upon their Premier League arrival from European destinations. It is so startling and glaring a discovery that, soon, owners are going to relent from signing English talent entirely.
For every cheap foreign bargain, there is an example of an expensive homegrown arrival. Queens Park Rangers are on the verge of securing Michael Dawson, for 10million pounds. Jay Rodriguez left Burnley earlier in the summer for 7million pounds. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain joined Arsenal for a reported 12million pounds. Phil Jones cost 20million. Why? What makes an English often double the price of a similarly talented foreigner? It is one of the games most infuriating fallacies.
Until the day that Jordan Henderson patrols the midfield of England at a World Cup at the very top of his profession, that 18million will have been wasted. Until the day that Andy Carroll becomes a forty-goal-per-season centre forward, that 35million will have been wasted. Until the day that Phil Jones and Chris Smalling and Jack Rodwell and the rest transform from hyped teenage sensation into fully-fledged world-beater, they, too will rank as overpriced and unworthy. As owners become wise, and shop in the talent-rich, financially-friendly enclaves of Europe, we could be in for a very long wait.