The name of Luke Shaw might not mean a lot to Newcastle United fans but to those with their hands on the tiller at St James’ Park, it is a name synonymous with the headaches of the domestic transfer market.
Shaw, for those still getting to grips with the return of football for a new season, is the 18-year-old Southampton wonderkid being billed as the new Ashley Cole. He was also the left-back earmarked by Newcastle three years ago as a potential heir to José Enríque, who was diligently scouted for months by United’s small team of dedicated domestic talent spotters.
A dossier thick enough to answer any questions about his ability to step into United’s first XI was compiled and in January, when Newcastle’s need for a left-back became pressing, it was decided that tentative enquiries should be made. A figure of more than £7m was put to the club by intermediaries, instantly wiping out months of work by the club.
Southampton, no doubt, had their reasons and their logic was impeccable. If Shaw is as good as they think, an eight-figure fee is the going rate given the current state of trading between Premier League teams. Moreover, they simply didn’t want to lose a player who had honed his talent in their revered Academy.
But Newcastle’s response was to table an offer of around £2m for Massadio Haïdara, a player with equivalent credentials in France. After a dash of haggling, the bid was accepted.
As we chart another summer of frustration at St James’ Park, the demise of the domestic transfer market is inescapable. At Newcastle United, just £9.25m has been invested in domestic transfers in the last five years – a figure dwarfed by the £48.2m that has gone into the Continental market.
As Newcastle, under the unsteady stewardship of new Director of Football Joe Kinnear, turn their attention once again to the domestic market it is a figure worth considering. Delving back into the domestic market, which is something that Alan Pardew has been pushing for behind the scenes since the calamitous collapse in form at the back end of the last season, comes fraught with danger.
It is also uncertain territory for United. If they do land Darren Bent – and a meeting between agents and the club takes place this week – it will be only the second English player signed by the club since the summer of 2011. It is a quite incredible development but it is not just Newcastle’s frugal approach under Mike Ashley that has brought them to this point. The general decline of the Premier League’s domestic market has also dampened the anticipated rush of signings that had been predicted in the wake of the bumper TV deal signed last year.
That was supposed to lead to eye-watering deals and adrenaline- fuelled additions. Instead, the additional £5billion poured into Premier League coffers seems to have been buffeted into book-keeping exercises as the transfer market remains frustratingly stalled.
Some have taken advantage. Norwich City have invested substantially and additions have been made at Aston Villa, Swansea and Tottenham too. But big deals between top flight clubs? The largest has been Simon Mignolet’s £9m move to Liverpool and it will stay that way unless Chelsea can break down Manchester United’s resistance over Wayne Rooney.
If it makes life difficult for teams trying to scout local talent, the result is even more terrifying for England.
Already struggling to qualify for the next World Cup, the influx of overseas talent threatens an even bleaker future for the Three Lions. Just nine English players have moved in this transfer window and just six of the 20 Premier League clubs have moved for stars eligible for England duty.
It is frightening for Roy Hodgson, but presents a vision of an apocalyptic future for the Football Association. It also reflects a general lack of faith in English talent when Andy Carroll and Jonjo Shelvey move from Liverpool to West Ham and Swansea respectively. Both are good sides – but hardly likely to threaten the Champions League qualification berths any time soon.
It is only natural that the Continental influx makes opportunities harder to come by for the next generation of English talent. The low standards of coaching and immaturity of so many talented English players play their part too but if the odds are so heavily stacked against developing talent it is no wonder that the pool of talent is getting shallower.
Over the river, Sunderland would love to change those worrying statistics but their experience in trying to sign Danny Rose illustrates the difficulties of working within the confines of the Premier League.
The Black Cats want Rose, and the player remains unconvinced about Andre Villas-Boas’ declaration that he will get chances this year. There is a deal to be done, but not at the £7m mark that Tottenham would require to get around the negotiating table.
Besides, it is Sunderland’s over- reliance on the domestic transfer market that has kick-started the Paolo Di Canio-fronted revolution. Nine senior players have come in and their scouting and acquisition shows more sophistication in Sunderland’s summer work than they have previously illustrated in the Premier League era.
The Black Cats spent lavishly on Connor Wickham, Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson in recent years and it has not brought about the level of improvement that Ellis Short was anticipating. It is not that they haven’t – to varying degrees – done well. But their combined price-tags would have almost funded Sunderland’s entire spending spree this summer.
Short’s new direction might have slipped under the radar of many Premier League observers, but it is a sign of things to come.