£143,000,000 is a lot for any footballer. It is 66% more than the world record transfer fee that Manchester United recently paid for Paul Pogba.
For that price, you would expect Lionel Messi. Perhaps Neymar. At a stretch Gareth Bale or Luis Suarez. It is possibly a bit too much for 32 year old Cristiano Ronaldo.
In summary, for a world record price, you would expect one of the best players in the world. An established global superstar. Someone who will come in and win you the league. Will score near enough a goal a game. Will break all sorts of goal scoring records.
What you would not expect for that price is an 18 year old striker with just 19 starts in the French Ligue 1. But that is what Kylian Mbappe is set to go for.
Now there is no doubting his potential. He is an extremely gifted player with a bright future, if everything works out. But What Real Madrid and others are paying for is not an established star, but for what he might become.
There are a lot of obstacles from being a talented youngster to becoming a global superstar.
When you look at the winners of the Golden Ball since its inception in 2003, how many of the players have kicked on to become a truly global superstar.
Now I am not talking about just become a very good player, I am talking about becoming one of the best in the world. The level where you are being considered for the Ballon d’Or. That they are considered in not just the top 2 players in their position, but they are considered as one of the best players in the world, regardless of their position.
Of the 14 players to have won the Golden Ball, only really Lionel Messi has gone on to become a legend of the game. Sergio Aguero is borderline. I probably would consider him one of the greatest strikers of the last 8 years- although injury has probably held him back from reaching the top bracket.
Injury, one of the many things that can stop a player going from being a top youngster to a global superstar. What ha soften set the likes of Messi and Ronaldo apart is their fitness record. Over the last 10 years, Messi has averaged 50 games a season for the last 10 years. Ronaldo has averaged 50 games a year since he joined Manchester United, way back in 2003.
Since joining Manchester City, Sergio Aguero has averaged 40 games a season, and that is what has held him back.
The likes of Wayne Rooney & Cesc Fabregas have had glorious careers. But you feel they peaked in their early 20s and never really kicked on to be amongst the best global players of their generation.
Rafael van der Vaart ended up with a bit of a journeyman career.
Anderson, Alexandre Pato and Mario Balotelli all highlight that being a top youngster does not always guarantee being a top senior pro. All have had big money transfer. They are aged between 26 and 29 and should in the peak of their careers.
Anderson (29) is currently at Brazilian side Coritiba, on loan from Internacional. Mario Balotelli (26) is playing for Nice in France. And Alexandre Pato (27), plays for Tianjin Quanjian in China.
Isco is a slow burner. He took a bit of a wrong move joining Real Madrid, where he struggled to break through, but he is now flourishing. But I doubt if he will ever reach the level that Cesc Fabregas was at his best, let alone the level of a Xavi or Iniesta, and certainly not reach the heights of a Zinedine Zidane.
The likes of Mario Götze and Raheem Sterling have certainly not lived up to their big billing as a teenager. Gotze dumped by Bayern Munich after a big money transfer, Sterling just not pushed on since joining Manchester City. Renato Sanches and Anthony Martial are both in danger of following the same route.
Then you have Paul Pogba. A bit of an enigma. The current holder of the world record transfer fee. At times he is unplayable. A mix of strength and technique. But he has yet to do what Yaya Toure did. And is not yet fit to clean Patrick Vieira’s boots. For him to justify his transfer fee, he has to surpass these two players achievements.
So the road to stardom is not guaranteed for Kylian Mbappe. At £144m, Real Madrid, Man City, or whoever buys him, will be paying for what he might become. They are spending the big money on the basis that they hope he is a 50-goal a season man by the time he is 21. The heir apparent to Cristiano Ronaldo’s throne.
But he is not yet Cristiano Ronaldo. He scored just 15 league goals last season. He still has a long way to go. He is not the even the best striker in Ligue 1 – last season he finished behind Edison Cavani, Alexandre Lacazette, Radamel Falcao and Swansea flop Bafétimbi Gomis in the top scorer charts.
Mbappe was level with previous top youngster Balotelli, Newcastle flop Florian Thauvin and Ivan Santini, whoever that is.
Would you be happy spending £144m on Balotelli, Thauvin or Santini? The answer would be no. You would be disappointed if your side spent anymore than £20m on those players.
You would not consider paying above £60m for Cavani. Arsenal signed the superior Lacazette for around £45m. And how much would you be willing to splash out on previous Premier League flops Falcao and Gomis?
So Real Madrid (or whoever go’s for Mbappe) is certainly not paying the £144m Mbappe as the player he is now, but as the player that Mbappe could become. And as we have established, there is no guarantee of a top youth player becoming a top player.
For someone like Arsenal, not signing Mbappe is the right move.
If he becomes a £144m player, then fair enough. We will all moan about how we could have signed him in 2016 for £265k – although I do not know why this criticism is always labelled at Arsenal, every club could have got him for this amount in 2016. Mbappe decided to stay. Arsenal did not miss out.
But if (for example) he stays at Monaco for a year, and he fails to score 30 league goals, would he still be worth £144m? Or would that price start to dwindle a bit to represent his true value rather than his potential?
And if he joins Real Madrid (or Manchester City, or whoever) for £144m, and flops, he will be available in a couple of years for half the price, or more. If he does not score that 50 goals a season, does not break into that top bracket, he will still be a top player, but his value would then represent what he is actually worth, not what he might be worth.
To finish, a story of a young lad from Chester. The year was 1997. He was just about to have his breakthrough season. He was just 17.
At 18 he had the world at his feet. He had scored 23 goals in 44 games in the 1997/98 season for his boyhood club. That summer he was to score a wonder goal for his country at the World Cup. He exploded into the world’s conscience.
What followed were 4 injury hit seasons, when only once did he play over 30 league games. He never once scored over 20 league goals, and by 24 his hamstrings were shot. His fitness did not stop him getting a big money move at 24 to Real Madrid. He lasted a single season before being sold to Newcastle. A talented player, but he could not get fit.
He ended up finishing his career at Stoke City.
At 18 he was expected to become a world great. Break every record going. Lead Liverpool to multiple titles. It is ironic that his only league title came at bitter rivals Manchester United as a bit part player. And whilst he won the Ballon d’Or in 2001 at just 21, you feel his career never reached the heights expected as a 18 year old.
Michael Owen could have been one of the greatest of all time. But he never lived to his potential.
At £144m, I would expect to be getting the real deal. Not some youngster with potential. Arsenal are best off missing out.