Last summer saw the completion of a transfer deal which shook the European transfer market to its core, as Brazil golden boy Neymar completed a staggering £200m transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain.
That move sent new levels of shockwaves around the continent and seemed to indicate that the transfer market had reached a new peak of astronomically proportioned distortion, as the mega-rich Arab-owned Parisians sought to set a new benchmark and take forceful control of the market.
Neymar’s transfer seemed to mark the beginning of a new era of unprecedented riches, and drastic inflation in a market set to be dominated by those who simply could afford to pay astronomical figures for players.
Almost a year on from the eye-watering, barnstorming and mind-boggling transfer of Neymar, it is not just PSG who have moved with the times of mega-spending.
In the Premier League, Manchester City are the Parisian’s equivalent in terms of virtually unlimited spending power. Their £57m transfer of Aymeric Laporte in January and the £60m transfer of Riyad Mahrez from Leicester this summer have each broken City’s club-record fee twice within the space of two transfer windows.
However, it is Liverpool who are surprisingly setting the benchmark with a remarkable spending spree which shows no sign of slowing down.
Their £75m capture of Virgil van Dijk from Southampton in January shattered the record fee paid for a defender.
If those deals had seemed sizeable at the time, Liverpool’s huge investment in van Dijk was truly ground-breaking. It was an unprecedented outlay for a defender which has very much opened the gates to further such financial commitments to defence-based players.
Previously, it was largely an unspoken tradition that such record-breaking figures were only committed to the signings of attack-minded players, typically those who were signed to add goals and creativity to a side.
Liverpool’s £75m splurge on van Dijk to become the rock at the heart of defence which Jurgen Klopp’s side had long required seems to have revised that tradition. Prior to the Dutchman’s arrival, Liverpool’s record transfer deal was the £52.75m signing of Naby Keita.
That deal was concluded with RB Leipzig last summer, with the arrangement of his arrival at Anfield a year later now in effect. It was a considerable jump to splash over £22m more on a central defender one window on from the Keita deal.
Liverpool have continued in the same vein this summer, adding defensive midfielder Fabinho from Monaco for around the £43m mark. It is notable that each of these three deals for more defence-minded players considerably exceed the £36m spent to bring last season’s top scorer Mohamed Salah to Anfield from Roma last summer.
It speaks even greater volumes of the direction of the market that, just over a year on from the Salah deal, Liverpool have returned to the table with Roma to complete the breath-taking £67m signing of goalkeeper Alisson from the Serie A giants.
If Liverpool’s £75m outlay for a central defender came as a shock, their newly set record for a goalkeeper is truly stunning. If not scandalous.
Since 2001, the world record transfer of a goalkeeper had been set by Gianluigi Buffon’s £32.6m move from Parma to Juventus until last year.
Even with the breaking of that record through Manchester City’s capture of Ederson from Benfica for £34.7m last summer, it seemed as though the £30m mark was as high as any club was willing to go for a goalkeeper, regardless of their spending power.
However, it was Liverpool who once again stepped up to break the mould that was seemingly set across European football. The £67m outlay for Alisson has almost doubled the previous record set by Ederson’s move last summer.
At over £30m more than what was spent to recruit last season’s star, Salah, from the same club, it seems Liverpool have set a new benchmark for record spending which even they may find difficult to justify.
Alisson’s reputation as one of the world’s premium goalkeeping talents has gathered pace very quickly and over a relatively short space of time. The Brazilian transferred to the Italian capital just two years ago from Internacional in his homeland.
Having spent his first season as understudy to Wojciech Szczesny at the Stadio Olimpico, Alisson only broke through as Roma’s first choice in goal last season, following the departure of his Polish counterpart to Juventus last summer.
Though Alisson’s performances for the Serie A outfit last term were impressive, as Roma reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, in which they were knocked out by the Brazilian’s new employers, the £67m fee still represents an astronomical outlay for a goalkeeper.
In a sense, the Brazilian will have little trouble justifying the price tag in terms of being a clear upgrade on Loris Karius, the number one at Anfield last term. It was on the grounds of Karius’ error-prone performances last term that Jurgen Klopp was most under pressure to recruit a world class shot-stopper to add stability and quality between the posts at Anfield.
That pressure would only have grown following Liverpool’s displaying of their financial power with the captures of van Dijk, Keita and Fabinho, and it seems that the pressure was a factor in forcing Liverpool’s hand into the huge outlay on Alisson.
Results must now reflect the risk of mass investment, however, as Liverpool must recover the costs of their mega spending through the rewards which come with results.
The lines of convention and pattern in transfer spending across Europe have now been well and truly blurred.
If a quality goalkeeper can now command a fee of £67m and the £200m spent to recruit a world star at PSG last summer has set the bar for player recruitment in the modern market, one can only wonder where and when a line will be drawn.