Debate: Big buy flops like Verón and Berbatov should warn Manchester United to be prudent with signings

Comment by Samson Dada

While Manchester City have splashed the cash in this summer’s transfer window their cross town rivals Manchester United are patiently waiting for their moment to strike.

City’s summer spending currently stands at a mammoth £90million after recruiting several big name stars.

Contrarily, United are yet to open their chequebook despite the uncharacteristically public pursuit of Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara and Leighton Baines.

With Barcelona refusing to budge on their ‘not for sale’ stance regarding Fabregas and, after missing out on Spanish star Thiago, fans of the Red Devils are beginning to feel anxious that their club will not add a major name to their line-up.

This worry has prompted manager David Moyes to reassure fans that he is confident of bringing more players to the club before the start of the new season.

However, Moyes should not feel pressurised to make his mark on the club by purchasing overvalued players that might not live up to their potential and leave prematurely for a fraction of their transfer fee.

History tells us that the success rate of the club’s big money signings has been incredibly mixed.

In 2001 Juan Sebastián Verón was signed for a then British transfer record of £28.1million from Lazio.

It was expected that he would bring a good all round game of excellent possession, short and long range passing accuracy, and awareness to a championship winning side; Sir Alex Ferguson even described him as a ‘marvellous player, and a world class fantastic footballer’.

He was bought to be a skilful Argentine playmaker who would dictate the tempo of the United midfield; however, after years playing at a slower pace in Serie A, Veron struggled to adapt to life in the Premier League and, after just two seasons, he was sold to Chelsea for £15million.

The £13.1million net loss represented a huge flop for the club.

It was a lesson to United that the potential signing of playmakers from foreign leagues, who may be unsuited to the rigours of English football, should be treated with caution.

Given that deep-lying playmakers must control the flow of matches it is imperative that, when coming to a new league, they adjust very quickly or face a struggle to cope with the league’s demands: something that is especially true in the frantic pace of the Premier League.

During the summer of 2008, United broke their transfer record to sign Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov for £30.75million from Tottenham Hotspur.

Berbatov is a gifted striker with fantastic technique who had many memorable moments at Old Trafford.

A five goal haul in a 7-1 demolition of Blackburn Rovers and a match winning hat-trick against arch-rival Liverpool demonstrated the potential of the languid forward.

After a slow start to his United career these performances suggested that Berbatov was now establishing himself as a first choice striker – at the end of the 2011 season he had 21 goals and shared the Golden Boot with Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez.

However, after being left out of the squad for the 2011 Champions League Final against Barcelona at Wembley, Berbatov’s future looked increasingly doubtful and he was sold to Fulham in August 2012 for an undisclosed fee.

Despite Berbatov being at the top of his game, he was the victim of a transfer indulgence that meant United had an abundance of options up-front and the Bulgarian could not be guaranteed playing time.

Ultimately, Berbatov’s laboured style of play meant he was seen as a weak link compared to pacier strikers Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernández.

In light of this recent history Moyes caution is very welcome. The rise of overvalued players in today’s transfer market gives him an opportunity to be savvy and consider what long-term contribution potential signings can make to the club.

Manchester City might have the biggest transfer budget, but money is no substitute for common sense.

After all, as City found last year, it does not guarantee the league or European Cup.

Picture courtesy of Ian C, with thanks.

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