*With due credit to the poster who claims not to be Mac_Red but posts in exactly the same style and even reacts to critics in exactly the same way, for I got the original suggestion from him.
Glen Johnson: £18 million.
Jermaine Pennant: £6.7 million.
Peter Crouch: £7million.
Q) What do all these players have in common, apart from nationality?
A) All of them were available, during Rafa's tenure before we bought them, for relative peanuts - their combined transfer fees to the clubs we eventually bought them from, I do believe, amounted to less than £5million (please correct me if I'm wrong on that).
In any given season, there are players of promise and potential who move to 'bigger' clubs, and 'flop' badly. This often has nothing to do with actual levels of talent. The flopping can happen simply because the club happens to be well stocked in that area already, and the signing should perhaps never have been made (Heskey to Villa, Bentley to Spurs), sometimes the manager simply doesn't fancy the player (Bent at Spurs), sometimes personal problems (Pennant, Micah Richards). In any given season, a number of these players will move to 'lesser' clubs, revive their careers, and sometimes end up stronger and better for the experience, and end up back at top clubs after all.
Now, given our financial situation, and also the CL rules on British players, it's fair to say that we, as a club, have to 'think outside the box' when it comes to transfers. The players I mentioned at the start - their potential was clear before they joined the clubs that sold them to us. Crouch has always been a target man with a good goal record. Even at Villa he had a good goals per appearances record - he just never appeared, largely because Angel was understandably preferred. At least to me, his subsequent form for Southampton came as absolutely no surprise whatsoever, he simply had the games and faith to show talents that were always clear.
Over the last few years there are a lot of players who come into this category, who could at one point have been bought for peanuts, and who could, at the very least, have improved our squad, two more that spring to mind are Gareth Barry and James Milner, both of whom were subsequently interested in but not prepared to pay the eventual fee for. Milner in particular is a player I'm gutted we don't have, I think he's an impressive grafter with a great attitude, great versatility, a real 'Rafa' player, and with no shortage of quality to boot - plus he takes a better set piece with his wrong foot and his eyes closed than anyone in our squad seems to manage even given 250 tries.
These kinds of gambles, to me, make particular sense when it comes to English players, simply because the risk is so low. Look at Pennant - after one terrible season and having been photoed out on the lash around Liverpool, we still had Stoke prepared to bid £5million for him. It's very difficult to lose money if you buy cheap and British. Maybe Glen Johnson is only the player he is thanks to Pompey, but who knows? What we do know is that we could very likely have bought him for peanuts, had solid competition for our RBs during seasons where that competition would have been hugely valuable (especially last season, proper RB cover could easily have made that 4 points difference which cost us the title), and that even if such a player flops again, chances are we could get our money back.
Milner is a great example of that - had several good seasons but was simply not fancied by a particular Newcastle manager and farmed out to Villa. At that point, no-one seemed prepared to take the risk, but he could have been bought for as little as a couple of million - it really wouldn't have taken many good games for us to have made that money back, and even if we didn't £2million isn't a huge loss - not compared to, say, the full fee we eventually lost on Pennant, who again we could have bought a season earlier for £400k or so (I think that was his Brum fee).
I'm curious how other people see this - do you agree that such risks should be worth taking more often? Also, are there any players who fit this category right now? Bentley and Heskey spring to mind for me, players who I personally rate who are being frozen out, but who also have clear potential.
Over to you...