Erling Haaland is going to cost Manchester City £213m. And that is a fine way to report a £63m fee if wages and bonuses are always included.
Every once in a while, certain sections of the media decide that traditional ways of reporting on the costs of a transfer do not suffice. A basic fee simply will not do. Even including add-ons is often not enough. The bigger the better when it comes to numbers.
Chuck in the total wages over a five-year period – don’t forget the signing-on fee and bonuses – as well as figures due to agents, representatives and the handily vague ‘other assorted fees’ and voila: you’ve got yourself a goddamn headline.
‘Manchester City close to clinching £213m Erling Haaland signing,’ is the Daily Telegraph‘s take. It implies a world-record cost higher than that of Neymar’s move to Paris Saint-Germain but even that is not quite enough to convey the magnitude of the money involved, so the excerpt rams it up further: ‘Borussia Dortmund striker reported to have undergone medical on Monday and will sign this week in a deal totalling €250m.’
They missed a trick by not converting it further – that’s equivalent to 2.5billion Norwegian Krone. If you’re going to do it, do it properly.
This has, of course, fed neatly into the belief that a media bias exists against Manchester City, something propagated by Pep Guardiola recently and which Mediawatch itself does not give much credence to (and has been accused of in the past). Regardless, it is peculiar that this phenomenon does seem to happen to one particular club:
MIRROR SPORT: £100m – the real cost of signing Walker #tomorrowspaperstoday pic.twitter.com/tb31WUitz9
— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) July 13, 2017
But James Ducker, co-author of the Telegraph’s Haaland story, was not about to take the criticism lying down.
Sent two screenshots of headlines to stories he has written – the Haaland article and one from June 2021 which stated Manchester United were expected to sign Jadon Sancho for a wage-less £77m – he replied in kind.
— James Ducker (@TelegraphDucker) May 9, 2022
Absolutely sensational work to make sure the author – Matt Law and absolutely not Ducker himself – was cropped out. Makes for a strong argument.
Perhaps it is specifically a Manchester club thing; The Sun once tied themselves in absolute knots trying to claim Alvaro Morata would cost United £180m. It just begs a couple of questions:
- Why and when do some journalists pick and choose when to have their transfer cake and eat it?
- Where is the line as to the ‘real fee’ drawn? Are the wages of the scouts who have been watching the player included? Do the cost of plane tickets get thrown in? Or his premium Netflix subscription? Haaland was presumably pretty peckish after his medical so what about counting the price of his Boots meal deal?
And then we get to Kaveh Solhekol – who has presumably learned how to vet his text messages before reading them out live on air by now – for a detailed rundown of the deal on Sky Sports News.
“We’ve got to talk about the financial package,” he said on Monday. “His release clause is £63m, which sounds quite cheap for arguably the best young striker in the world. But once you factor in his wages and all the commissions that have to be paid on the deal as well, you are talking about an investment of more than £200m. And that is an enormous sum of money, it’s an enormous investment.”
In a different segment on the same day, Solhekol added: “I know the actual transfer fee, the release clause sounds very cheap when you consider what a great player he is. And he is so young as well, so he’s going to have resale value in the future. But we do have to factor everything else in: the wages and the commissions due.”
Do we? Why? Why for this specific move? Why was and is Paul Pogba described as an £89.3m signing for Manchester United when he will have accumulated £90.4m in basic wages over six years, on top of the £41m commission paid to Mino Raiola as his agent? There are countless other examples of cases when we clearly did not ‘have to’ factor everything else in so this just comes across as a bit weird.
Indeed, there are even examples of wages, commission and the rest being entirely ignored and the fee broken down to its most basic form to paint a transfer in a wholly positive light:
🗣"The deal is incredible for Liverpool, they are paying £5m a year for the best midfielder in the word, it is the best lease purchase I have seen!" @SkyKaveh on Thiago to Liverpool pic.twitter.com/vIKOY1EEDQ
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) September 17, 2020
Put it that way and Manchester City’s £213m Haaland deal suddenly means they are paying just over £42m a year for the best young striker in the world, a 21-year-old forward whose career record is close to a goal a game and whose resale value will still be incredibly high if and when it comes to his departure.
It’s still a hell of a lot of money but you can see how things can be framed more positively or negatively depending on preference (or the club involved).
And the Daily Mirror (‘Manchester City have won the race to sign Erling Haaland – in a stunning overall package worth in excess of £200million’) and Daily Express (‘Manchester City are poised to announce they have finally landed their big summer target after Erling Haaland agreed a £200m deal’) have a quite clear preference.
Both make mention of the £150m move Manchester City opted not to make for Harry Kane last summer. Silly sods. Kane was reportedly set to earn £400,000 a week over five years. That’s £254m in fees and earnings, before taking into account an agent’s cut and other bonuses, for a striker who is almost exactly seven years older. Suddenly Haaland for £213m sounds cheap again. For his actual £63m fee, it’s pretty much a bargain.
Mediawatch looks forward to every single transfer from this point being discussed in sum total figures. After all, it would be a tad strange if we suddenly reverted to the established way of reporting things, right?