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August 2021

Is there a risk insurance policy for transfers?

Untold Arsenal on Twitter  @UntoldArsenal

By Walter Broeckx

A much used argument with the currently missed transfer of Campbell to Arsenal is : just pay the price. Just give them what they ask.  Apart from the fact that according to reports it was the player/dad/agent that didn’t turn up for a kind of final meeting with the people from Arsenal, and that is  why the deal seems off for the moment.  But who is telling the truth is hard to find out from where I live? It is rather a far way from Costa Rica.

But let us presume  that we agreed £1M with the club and a fee with the player until they changed their mind at the last minute in the hope to get more money after the U20 world cup. And at first sight we could say that what the hell just give them £2M and some more money and the deal is done. This is a way of doing things. Other clubs do this sometimes. Fair enough for those clubs. It ends you up with paying £35M for a player that has hardly played due to injury. Or paying £50M for a player that hardly could score after the transfer. But they got their player.

But Chelsea followed this route and won nothting and Liverpool also spent a lot and didn’t even make it in to Europe. So you can spend a lot of money and no result.

But there is in my opinion still a few other things to keep in mind when doing a transfer. If Arsenal go out for a player they know him, the follow him for a while and they make up their mind of how much money he is really worth. And in reality I don’t mean the over inflated prices that are being throwing around.

So if Campbell is worth £1M for Arsenal it is an evaluation. Because in this price there is also a very big risk calculation. Because we can buy him for £1M but this is a risk. We never are sure of how he will develop. And losing £1M if a player turns out not good enough is bad. But paying £2M for the same player is twice as bad. Just imagine paying £20M.

So if we would double our initial offer every time just to make sure we get the player this would be dumb. In a way this could be done for a player who cost £1M but not for a player who you value at 10M. Then you are doing stupid business. It will be the shortest way to bankruptcy (unless of course the club is funded in the same way that Chelsea and Man City are funded).

Another thing we have to keep in mind is the question of whether the player would fit into our team.  Now some may say: oh, if the player is good enough he will deliver no matter in which team he plays. But is this really a 100% guarantee? Why don’t we try to find out what happens when the best players get transferred to see if this is as certain as 1+1=2?

Ronaldo was regarded the best player in the world when he left Manchester United and went to Real Madrid. And in the two seasons at Real Madrid they have won one prize out of a possible 6. I admit one is better than none but I have a slight feeling this was not what Ronaldo dreamed of when he went to Madrid. Now in this case it is fair to say that this is not the fault of Ronaldo. No, in fact he himself has done very well. He scores a lot but the rest of the team is not good enough. Despite them all costing lots of millions. So in this case Ronaldo lived up the expectations but his club did not. So this is an example of a player who has done good himself but the team not.  So pay over the odds could be the answer.

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Messi. So inevitably we turn to look at the best player in the world.  And this is an interesting case study in my opinion.  And I will only talk about Messi the player in this article, not the ‘I want Cesc next to me in the shower boy’. Messi is probably the best player in the world. Top scorer, assists, well he does it all for Barcelona and he wins them things on his own. Okay a pinch of salt on this. No in fact he is so integrated in the Barcelona team that they have one big and well oiled machine to produce the results they want.  So would Messi, the best player in the world, be capable of doing this in any team he plays? Well in fact we have a very clear answer on this: NO. No, he just can’t.

Because let us take a look at the last world cup. Argentina was considered to be one of the top favourites of the tournament. Because they had Messi. But even the best player in the world (and coached by one of the all time greatest players in football history) could not win them anything. They went home very early and not covered with glory.

And now in the Copa America playing at home everyone was thinking that with Messi surely they would win it this time. And yet again they went out and Messi once again could not lift the team. And don’t say the rest of the team is rubbish as most of them are very big names in world football.

So saying if we buy player X we will surely win is just a lie. It doesn’t work that way. If it would then Argentina should have won the world cup and the Copa America. And they clearly didn’t. They even didn’t came close.   The reason is that Barcelona and Messi are playing together for many years. And they have become better with playing together all those years.

But in another team where people don’t know each other that well players could be thinking: oh, he will get us through. But when the best player doesn’t get the support he is used even he becomes a shadow of himself.

So even if we would buy Messi it would never give us a 100% certainty of winning anything.  In fact this is a very good example of the fact that you just cannot take a player from one team, put him in another team and just expect things to work out for you.

Thus any transfer is a risk. And the more money you spend on a transfer, the bigger the risk as you can only spend your money once. Well, at least this is what my mother used to tell me when I was young. And now I have found out that this in fact is true.


The index of recent articles, and links to the various sections of Untold can be found in the Untold Index. For Arsenal  History there is (rather logically) an Arsenal History Index.

Some recent snippets…

From the series on next season’s team: Campbell on hold others pending,

From the Arsenal History site…

Are you related to anyone involved in the original Woolwich Arsenal club?  Player, supporter, manager, official, director…  If so I need to hear from you

From the Untold Media series…

Phone hacking and football; refs and club owners

Untold Media: Launch of new media section, and we need your help

22 comments to Is there a risk insurance policy for transfers?

  • mandeep

    i like the article. people say buying mata or ribery is gaoing to win us things but what if ribery turns out to be a selfish player and mata to be too slow……money doesn’t win u titles…teamwork and respect for each other does…..doing things the arsenal way….

  • John

    One point about why Argentina didnt win the Copa America or will never win anything is the shocking defence they have and if I’m honest it was kinda like watching Arsenal in more ways than one.

    Firstly the attacks are laboured and overcomplicated the amount of times Messi and others tried to slip a ball through the eye of a needle in the box beggers belief…. just have a pop at goal if you dodnt shoot you dont score its simply and it doesnt have to be pretty all the time.

    Secondly the defence was disgracefully every Forlan ball into the box nearly resulted in a goal. They had no organisation and no leader which reminded me of Arseanl and proves even though you can have quality offensive players you will not win anything unless you have a solid defence.

    You cant outscore you way to a PL title Keegan tried that at Newcastle it didnt and never will work. The team that has the best defence generally wins at the end of the day. Utd have Vidic and Ferdinand not only that Fergie already has there replacements lined up okay they cost £30M but who cares Jones and Smalling could cover ten years together.

    One other point on Campbell I’, glad Arsenal dont throw money around like City and Chelsea we cant afford to and I hope to God they dont pay £17M for Cahill or £12 Samba neither were worth half that. But common sense has to come into play and the amount of money being layed out is very relavant. Lets say Arsenal decided to pay Campbell £5M to close the deal pre U20 competition it represents 5 times what they original thought but its still only £5M sometimes you have to take a chance.

    Regarding money some people would argue the likes of Denilson, Eboune, Rosicky, Alumnia and Squallaci wages being paid week in week out is a complete waste as they contibute little even when given games in the 1st team.

    PS Love the site

  • nicky

    A cruel but accurate blog. No wonder Arsenal carry out their transfers with as much secrecy as possible. Where we come unstuck is deciding our own valuation of a player and not budging from that figure, especially in the face of interest (and bidding) from other Clubs. Maybe the FFPR will sort out the “sugar daddie” Clubs but somehow I doubt it.
    The problem in the current and in all future Windows, for Arsenal fans, is the lack of official information, coupled with a surfeit of advice and ideas from all and sundry. It is so easy, reading the host of would-be transfers put up by fans, to imagine Wenger’s team at the Emirates studying these at length.
    The fact remains that, secretly, transfer targets were decided months if not years ago.
    The brutal truth is that we fans simply have to have patience and await the outcome over which we will never have control OR even know the wheeling and dealing going on behind the scenes.
    Notwithstanding all our hypertensions, maybe it’s better that way.

  • Ed

    the amount of risk depends on how much money you have. For arsenal to spend 50m on a player (or even 15m) they have to be fairly nailed on successes.

    Chelsea and Man City can spend 30m on players who are risky (e.g. balotelli) and it doesn’t matter if it doesnt work out. they can just sit in the rseserves and be replaced by another 40m signing.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Before Chelski and ManShitty (and probably Leeds)there was Blackburn in the early
    nineties who after being promoted from the old 2nd division ,started to spend top dollar on new players like Shearer and did win the league but were soon relegated.They were
    financed by Jack Walker, the local owner and a life long Rovers fan.
    As in life there are no guarantees in sport and other fields .As Alfred E. Neuman once said ,” Children are like photos , you never know how they’ll come out !”

  • Ed

    regarding the Campbell transfer:

    I think its the same with every business. Of course if there is more demand, the price will go up and i am sure his team wants to sell for the highest price. But there is always a limit and Arsenal can decide if he is worth that extra. Just like an auction, Arsenal can compete with other bids up to a certain amount (say 5m) but if he isnt worth the trouble, then just leave it. Just like there is more than 1 best player in the world (Messi or Ronaldo – i still cannot decide)there will be more young promising strikers in the world.

  • Lanz

    Messi does not score for Argentina like he does for Barca. John why, the defence?

  • Shard

    I think the point you make about a team being more than the sum of its parts is absolutely right. Let’s face it. Arsenal cannot, simply cannot compete with the likes of Chelsea, Mancity, and even ManU, Liverpool and Spurs, in terms of transfer fees. This is true, and at least in the case of the first 2 clubs, will remain true for eternity (or till their owners walk away, whichever comes first)

    The only way we will succeed is the much derided “youth project” (A term I hate) If we abandon the youth structure and giving chances to our academy products now, we’ll lose the one competitive ADVANTAGE we hold over the rest.

    Obviously the youth has to be supplemented by players bought from outside. And these players have to be extensively scouted to determine that they will fit in to our system. Sometimes, we lose out on players because we can’t afford to get into a bidding war with certain clubs. But some will come to us as well, because those clubs can’t buy EVERY player, and also because some players are not motivated primarily by money (tough to believe but it’s true)

    Our YOUTH, and our SCOUTING network are our strengths. Those advocating that we follow the majority and blow money we do not have because it is “common sense” have it wrong. What happened to playing to your strengths?

    And it’s not like we are ‘weak’ in the areas which are deemed others’ strengths. Our wage bill is competitive (though for how long I wonder), and we are by all accounts a rich club. A rich club with a great new stadium which is paying for itself while we pay off the loans (another advantage), with near capacity sales for every match(and even if these fall off by say 20k, we’d still have more paying fans than Spurs, Liverpool and Chelsea), and in a few years we can resell the shirt sponsorships and stadium name for even more money, all the while keeping our stability intact. That folks, is how a superclub is founded, not how a club in decline looks like. So I say, let the others spend, and buy their success. We’ll get our success our own way, despite ALL the obstacles put in our way.

  • John

    I cant answer that question only Messi knows that most players play better with players the play week in week out with and train everyday with. Example Rooney doesnt play for England like he does for Utd.

    Lanz do you think Argentina defend well and I’m not talking about individuals I’m talking about defending as in being organised and defending as a team.

  • Michael Morris

    I love reading your blogs and just wanted to convey my thanks for the time and effort it must take! It’s great to have someone with some common sense who rites sober articles about our team. Keep up the great work!

  • Dark Prince

    Lol, i think this site is confusing itself….

    There is no insurance for transfers…no doubt about that…

    There’s no insurance for failing to win a trophy as well….but does it mean we should jus sit back and do nothing…

    Success is never insured. But if you dont try, you’ll never succeed. Same goes for transfers, if we can conclude a deal but we dont bcoz there’s no insurance or there’s no guarantee of it succeeding, is like giving up without trying.

    Sorry to say, but poor article.

  • Arsenal F.C Fan

    It may be hard for you Arsene F.C fans to take but but perhaps in the case of Campbell, whom you so lavishly welcomed to the club as a tranfer triumph for The Nearly Man – it is simply that fabled the pulling power of Le Prof dissolves when a more successfull manager, from a club who pays more, and wins more trophies come in to the picture ?

  • Arsenal FC Fan. Yes that is possible. So are the following…

    1. That Campbell started to read the anti-Wenger blogs and thought, hell, this club’s fans are tearing the club apart. I am not going there.

    2. That the passport situation meant that he would go out on loan – unless he can get Ireland to grant him a passport quickly. So he is pausing to see if that is the case.

    You have to look and think which you think is the most likely reason.

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    Funnily enough Arsenal is one of the riskiest spenders in the EPL. We pay a fortune for promising young talent where you have no idea what the end product is going to be.
    Other teams might spend more but they generally have more of an idea of how their transfer targets cope in top level competition. Although prices for ‘proven’ performers have skyrocketed. On the basis of the England U21s, if Henderson is worth nearly £20 million then Lansbury is worth a lot more and Wilshere even more so. And Lansbury has barely played for Arsenal (but obviously doesn’t look out of place in a CL grade midfield).

  • bob

    “BREAKING NEWS” R’us (UA!)
    Exciting is that, (for those who don’t know) the 1/2hour-by-1/2hour breaking Arsenal news list in which each new Arsenal story moves the list downwards until if finally is off the list, has made yesterday’s UA story – “Phone hacking and football: refs and club owners- Untold Arsenal” – a semi-permanent story at the top of the list. It is bolded in RED (while all others are in the customary black font) and it does not move from its slot in the very-top fresh Breaking News section. This is unprecedented for a highly-visited website and is a credit for the timeliness and significance of UA’s interest and skill in catching the historical moment with a key story. Kudo’s Tony!

  • bob

    p.s. it’s worth seeing and taking some pride in it, so here’s the quick link UA’s article – IN RED – is AT THE TOP – and stays there now for two days running.

  • ar u goin to sit down and tell me if wenger had messi arsenal would still be trophyless

  • Mandy Dodd

    very sorry to go off topic but looks like one of the heroes of this board is the subject of a film!

  • bob

    Mandy Dodd, all:
    The Webb-worshipping article is basically a press release for the film and it drops that the film is “Backed by UEFA” It will be the poster boy for the forthcoming Respekt Der Ref Kampaign. And, by backing the celebrity-ref, it reinforces UEFAs rejection of video technology (to help the merely human ref), on the day after it reportedly passed evidence of 41 “suspicious” matches to the Greek FA (resulting in 84 arrests to date).

    The UEFA-backed film is a part of the current PR campaign – starring the Webb-Weaver – to shore up the Authority of Der Ref, all to set the proper tone for the forthcoming season (after the widespread protest of last season). That PR money would be far better put into video tech support – actual support, not image making – for refs like say, Phil Dowd, Howard Webb the actual ref, etc. – so real referees get it right on the pitch, not on the screen. Then again, video replay has been “handled” by Scudamore/FA’s breathless announcement yesterday that goal line (only) technology would be coming – like Santa Claus – in 2013.

  • bob

    p.s. Surely, the Webb-Weaver will officiate at the game that clinches the Red Nose 20th. (I read it in an eyes-only copy of the FA script (working title): “Sir Lord of the Rings”

  • shakabulagooner

    Good coaches are critical to the development of any player: often, they make the difference between a good player and a world class player.

    They assist the good player to uncover his real strengths – which may even lead to the player changing from one position to the other in the field; they help to fine-tune the strengths to peak performance and they nurture the player’s confidence by exposing them to the game gradually and in calculated stages…

    Not all coaches that are good at winning games and trophies are good at developing young talents.Not all the coaches in big clubs are good at taking a risk on unknown young players in their game-day team sheet.

    When I read that Campbell’s corner had developed cold feet, I felt it was fair he did such as would get Arsenal to up its offer to be in league with what his talents may be worth in the eyes of other footballing/coaching experts but I felt beyond trying to maximize the price Arsenal offers, it is more likely to be to Campbell’s loss if he lets the chance to work with Wenger fall through.

    At the level of “Youth Talent” I think it is more of a “buyer’s market” than a seller’s market. There are more young talents seeking consideration than there are quality clubs and programs available to develop them. Also, the young talents are asking that the clubs take a risk on them and invest their talent development time, resources and energies on them. Promising talents have come to nothing due to poor choice of club for their development program and/or failure to live up to their early spark and expectation…

    So, if a young talent focus too much on money too early, it may be counterproductive to his talent development choices and in the overall impression he gives to the world so early in his career.

    Campbell will do well to think carefully and allow “footballing considerations” to guide his final decision – even as he is within his rights to try for $3 – 5m instead of the $1m Wenger was led to believe he had sealed the deal for.

  • shakabulagooner

    At the risk of flogging this dying horse to death, The reports that in Malaysia, at a meeting with some business men, Wenger was asked how he is able to spot young talents and he replied:
    It’s my job to know when something is there. First you need the talent, but also you need to meet someone who believes in you and gives you a chance. You can imagine though, that plenty of people have talent in life but they do not meet someone who gives them a chance. Can you name one Formula One driver from an African country, apart from South Africa? And can you really imagine that there is not one guy in Africa with the talent to be a Formula One driver? Why are they not there? Because no one has given them a chance. So in life it’s important to meet someone who will give you a chance, and when I can do this in football, I do it.

    The question to any budding talent turning Wenger down is to ask if the coach he is looking to develop under have the same attitude and reputation as Wenger’s.