Back in 1261 whilst waiting for the medieval equivalent of Super Sunday to start, Italian philosopher and Doctor of the Church, Thomas Aquinas picked up his quill and started to draft the first ever transfer policy for his jousting team. He had studied the way that his local market worked and mused that “no man should sell a thing to another man for more than it’s worth”. In that one statement he basically explained the collective transfer value of Andy Carroll some 750 years in the future.
According to prevailing economic theory, there is no such thing as a rip-off or something being over-priced. The price of anything is simply the market – if someone is prepared to pay then it is a fair, market price AS LONG AS there are alternatives (monopolies such as train companies do not adhere to such a model of course). So if someone wants to pay £25million for a route-one target man with a dodgy knee and an even dodgier ponytail then it is a fair price. Nobody forces a football club to buy any player – they have four choices. Try to negotiate a lower price perhaps throwing in a few players who aren’t good enough for them, spend the cash on something else such as a new fleet of Bentleys for the existing player or go and buy an alternatively crocked player with a bad haircut elsewhere. Finally, they can go without the player and play another in that position – without this as a strategic option we would never see promising youngsters become first-team regulars.
The transfer market should establish a fair price for every player as no one has an intrinsic value. So they may have played for their country a hundred times, scored the winner in a World Cup Final, kick with both feet and can head the ball fifty yards – all great characteristics but irrelevant if you are looking for a goalkeeper. Clubs who slap a price tag on a player are trying to create a false economy that will never prevail.
Aquinas suggested the concept of a “just price” – the price the buyer is willing to pay with the right amount of knowledge of the product. So if a club knows Carroll has a dodgy knee/ankle/ponytail, the price they are willing to pay should be different to that without the information. He also saw those people who sold with recognised avarice as evil people – something that could certainly be levelled at the ticket pricing strategy of football today, the failed experiment by the Premier League clubs of charging £15 for pay-per-view games during COVID-19, or dare I say it, football agents.
So there we have a brief explanation as to how a 13th century Italian monk came up with the first, truly fair rules of the transfer market. That ladies and gentlemen, is the theory of just pricing.