Joe Cole signed a four-year contract with Liverpool today. It’s been rumored that he will be making about 90k pounds per week. The transfer, however, was free. He’s 28 years old and in the last 18 months has been injury-prone. Often thought of as the most creative English midfielder in the past 8 years, his stock has dropped considerably since the ’06 World Cup in Germany. So the question is, “Is he worth it?” and what makes a player worth “it” these days?
In the US, free agency in baseball, basketball, football, etc. (the soccer equivalent is called a Bosman), is the main form of players moving from club to club. Often they do trades, but the majority of the time the club from which the player leaves does not get reimbursed.
In the soccer world, free agency is much rarer. A player is either signed to an extension, offered a new contract, or sold to another club within 18 months to a year remaining on their contract.
When a player is sold, for say 20 million pounds, the club receives that money. The player (actually his agent) then negotiates his own personal wages. This information is public, but rarely the focal point of the news surrounding the transfer.
So is Joe Cole worth it?
In this case yes, very much so. This is a very similar situation to United signing Michael Owen last year. The big difference is Liverpool expect a lot more out of Cole then Ferguson did from Owen.
Cole is going on the downside of his career, but his skill cannot be denied. A rising star with West Ham, he transferred to Chelsea as they began their recent dominance in the league. He was one of the stars that brought the first of three recent titles to the London club. He also cemented himself into the England side providing a creative spark that had been missing since Gascoigne left.
Assuming Torres stays (a big if), Cole will slot in on the left side of midfield, but look for him to switch in and out of the middle with Aquilani if they go with a 4-5-1. If Liverpool play a 4-2-3-1, Kuyt and Gerrard will be the rest of the attacking midfield, and Lucus and Aquilani will slot in behind (assuming Mascherano leaves).
This gives Liverpool a lot of attacking options but not much defensive verve. They also seem to have an abundance of quick and skillful – but fragile – attacking options in Cole, Aquilani and Rodriguez.
Liverpool will also get a proven premiership attacking midfielder for free with Milan Jovanovic, (the Serbian winger who scored against Germany also came on as a free transfer). His signing also shows Gerrard and Torres that Liverpool mean business and really want to compete. Sales from Benayoun and Insua, and more than likely Mascherano and Riera, will bring about quite a bit of money to go after a big signing.
With these two signings Hodgson is rebuilding the squad with known commodities. He’s not building the team for the future…yet. He needs to win over Gerrard and Torres first, and by getting Cole he’s a step closer without using any of his transfer money.
So Cole will get to play regular football and get a chance to prove himself. He did very well at Chelsea, but spats with management and injuries stopped him from being the golden boy everyone assumed he would be. At Liverpool, he has a chance to rejuvenate his career and what better manager to help him do so than Hodgson.
So what is good business for a club? What makes a player worth it?
Buying an outfield player, especially an attacking one who is 28 or older, is a risky move. Regardless of their pedigree and past exploits, they’re not likely going to be able to maintain the form they exhibited in the past for the remainder of their new contract.
Jovanovic and Cole are still very good players, but have a lot of miles on their bodies and represent a short term fix to a problem. Liverpool need to get back in the top four and they might be able to help.
World Cup years always make for interesting off seasons. Many clubs make the mistake of signing someone who was relatively unknown, but who had a good tournament. Take Diego Forlan as an example: not that he is unknown, as he has been very successful with Villareal and Atlectico Madrid, but if some team splashed a large amount of cash on him that would represent bad business. He’s 31 and probably doesn’t have that much left in the tank.
Michael Bradley, Gyan, Coentrao, etc. all had great World Cups and their stock rose considerably. A lot of teams will be vying to sign them and they will more than likely cost more than if this was a regular summer off season. That said, they are all 24 or younger and have not only proven themselves in the past few years with club and country, but have very bright futures. It will be worth it to pay extra to have them on your team for the prime of their careers.
Andre Ayew and Anthony Annan also had good World Cups and could potentially make big money transfers this summer. Both are young and haven’t really played a lot of top level football, making them much more raw. They could go either way. Their stock is in their potential. Typically these players are worth it, but obviously it depends on how much a club pays for them.
Buying a player based on potential is always tough. Often a player comes with a buzz and it’s amazing to me that clubs don’t do enough research on up-and-coming players. Sadly, Jozy Altidore is coming close to being labeled a bust.
This doesn’t mean he’s a bad player, but Villareal paid close to 10 million dollars for him and he hasn’t done anything to justify that sum of money. He’s been loaned out in hopes of getting more experience, improving his skill set, etc. He’s obviously a much better player for the USMNT than for club and that’s where the frustration lies for Villareal.
He’s still only 20 but at some point one can’t keep saying, “he’s still young and has potential.” Clint Dempsey, though at 27, represents fantastic business by Fulham. They got him for 4 million dollars after the ‘06 World Cup and he has had a very successful career with them. He too is in the market and it will be interesting to see what happens.
What it comes down to is: it’s all about business. Are you getting what you paid for? Are you getting a steal? Or are you paying too much? In the case of Joe Cole, he was free (not talking about wages). Can’t really go to wrong with that.
Same goes for Theirry Henry. Henry more so in that he will bring tons of revenue to the Red Bulls so he represents excellent business.
The “silly season”, as it is often been dubbed, has just started. One will hear many crazy rumors, and no doubt a lot of players and money will exchange hands. Just wonder after all has been said and done: is that player worth it?