Can Sunderland Take Risk On Jack 'If' Rodwell?

The risk was fine for Manchester City but can Sunderland afford to pay upwards of £40,000 a week to a player who has never started more than 17 games a season?

Last Updated: 05/08/14 at 14:56 Post Comment

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Jack Rodwell poses with Sunderland shirt

Jack Rodwell poses with Sunderland shirt

Jack Rodwell's transfer to the champions is that rarest of things - a high-profile move that suits all parties.

When I wrote those words two years ago, it was with the strong suspicion that Rodwell would never complete a full season - after all, he had never made more than 17 top-flight starts in four frustrating senior seasons at Everton. Predictably and sadly, he has played just 605 minutes of Premier League football in the intervening two years.

The argument was that a club of Everton's size could not afford to keep a potentially Rolls Royce player in the garage, that the £12m outlay offered little risk to cash-rich City and that for Rodwell himself it was a no-brainer; the sentence 'even if he's another Shaun Wright-Phillips or Scott Parker and ends up leaving the club in two years' time with a handful of games under his belt, he will have learned from training alongside some of Europe's finest players in a high-pressure environment' was particularly prescient.

You cannot blame Rodwell for backing his own talent and his own fitness by joining the champions. What kind of potentially elite sportsman would have admitted at the age of 21 that he would never be able to compete at the highest level? He was offered an opportunity impossible to turn down and two years later, he is tacitly admitting that he was out of his depth by joining a club in the lower reaches of the Premier League.

City can wave goodbye to Rodwell (bizarrely clasping a Premier League winner's medal after one start in their title-winning season), having lost a maximum of £5m of his transfer fee and roughly £4m in wages. They took a punt on promise and it didn't pan out; they are one of a handful of clubs who could afford to take that punt without making a dent in their balance sheet. That they have managed to eke somewhere between £7m and £10m out of Sunderland for a player who has played around 9% of City's Premier League minutes over the last two years is remarkable. Everton might be the biggest winners in the transfer business of Rodwell, but City have not lost a great deal.

You could argue that Rodwell would have played more games at a smaller club, but - according to the records of transfermarkt - he has been unfit for 32 of City's 76 Premier League games over the last two seasons; that's 32 games missed through three different injury spells. Sunderland have a player on their books who - history tels us - is likely to be fit for roughly half the season and earns upwards of £40,000 a week. Are they a club who can afford to take that risk?

This tweet from Phil Neville is indicative of the general reaction to Rodwell's move - 'Good move for Jack Rodwell-time for him to play every week and show everyone his ability-if stays injury free will be back in England squad!' - but the 'if' really should be in capitals, just as Andy Carroll was a great signing for West Ham at £15m IF he stayed fit, Owen Hargreaves was a fantastic free transfer for Manchester City IF he stayed fit and Abou Diaby will be just like a new signing IF he stays fit. Some clubs can afford to spend money on 'ifs', but we're not sure that Sunderland fit into that category after posting another loss of £23m in their latest accounts.

You can certainly see the appeal for Sunderland - having lost Ki Sung-Yueng and Jack Colback this summer, they are lacking a calm presence in midfield. But their need is on the pitch and not in the treatment room and there's nothing in Rodwell's recent history to suggest that he is capable of playing 30 games a season, never mind 38 games of what is likely to be a relegation scrap. This is either a genius move or a completely predictable disaster - there's nothing in between.

Sarah Winterburn

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