The transfer market in British football is polarised. £420 million was spent by the collective…
If you’ve read the papers today you would have seen the reports claiming that Aberdeen were planning on taking a rather stubborn approach to rumours linking their star central defender, Scott McKenna, with a move down south.
The Pittodrie club would, according to a report in the Daily Record, demand a fee of around £10 million for the 21-year-old in light of a potential offer from Hull City and Swansea City. That may cause a reactionary scoff from rival fans, but it’s exactly the kind of approach Scottish football clubs have needed in the transfer window for some time and fortunately we’re seeing much more of it in 2018.
Naturally, there’s plenty of logic behind this decision to hike up the asking price. McKenna is of course on a deal until 2023 and as he continues to develop for club and country, Aberdeen are under no particular pressure to sell him. In isolation, the Dons can theoretically set their price and walk away from the table until it’s matched. But there’s much more to it than just that.
In Aberdeen, Derek McInnes & Co. will have caught on to the growing theme of young, Scottish players moving down south for pennies only to be worth a fortune just one year later. There are a number of examples worth citing here, but Ryan Fraser’s departure from the club for just £400k in January, 2013 is a perfect case. Since leaving the club Fraser has gone on to become a distinguished English Premier League winger and would today be worth 10 or 15 times the fee Bournemouth paid five years ago.
Of course, there are a number of examples from the past two or three seasons of young players moving south and becoming stars. Liam Lindsay’s move from Partick Thistle to Barnsley for £360k seems like a steal after a breakout season in the Championship, Jackson Irvine’s value jumped from £322k to £1.9 million after one season at Burton Albion after moving on from Ross County and even James Maddison, who recently joined Leicester City for £20 million suggests that a young player that does well in the Premiership will almost certainly be worth a fortune in a matter of two or three years if he moves to England.
As such, 2018 has seen a welcome change in tactics from much of Scottish football’s top clubs. No longer dogged by financial troubles after the breakdown of TV deals 10 years ago, much of the Scottish Premiership’s clubs are run at a profit and no longer need to cash in as soon as an offer comes through.
Motherwell are a good example of this. In January the club had to deal with constant attention for star striker Louis Moult. Yet, despite having just six months left on his contract, the Steelmen managed to bag around £400k for the striker. And this summer we’ve seen Allan Burrows & Co. hold their nerve in a transfer window that has undoubtedly seen interest circulate around key players like Allan Campbell and Chris Cadden.
Earlier in the window the club rejected a £350k bid from Hull City for star defender Cedric Kipre. And just this week Stephen Robinson confirmed that Grimsby Town’s offer for forward Ryan Bowman had been thrown out immediately. “We are in the position financially that we don’t need to sell,” explained the Motherwell manager. “There is a fee that everyone has on their head that we would have to accept because you can’t stand in people’s way, but none of those have even been close to being met.”
And it’s not just a tactic used when English clubs come calling. Hibernian’s current duel with Celtic over the future of John McGinn is another example of a new-found confidence from Scottish football’s top-tier clubs in the transfer window. Celtic’s initial offer of £1.5 million was rejected, followed by an equally fruitless £2 million offer. Either bid may have been enough for a player of that quality from Easter Road five or six years ago, but these days Hibs have a new swagger about them. Sure, they may not get the full £5 million that they’re reportedly demanding for McGinn, but the ultimate fee will be far closer to that than what Celtic were initially willing to pay.
Ironically, this is a tactic that Celtic have used countless times when bigger clubs come calling for their key players. Peter Lawwell knows that a sound financial structure and a steady nerve can extract plenty of extra cash out of the Premier League giants. And it has served the Scottish champions extremely well over the years. If the likes of Aberdeen, Hibs and Motherwell are looking to emulate that tactic in the transfer window then it’s something all of Scottish football can benefit from.