Everton and Leicester have both reportedly had £40m bids rejected for Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurdsson, a fee that most already found extravagant. Indeed, both clubs must have been slightly taken aback when told that Swansea want £50m.
£50m would put Sigurdsson higher on the list than Lacazette (£45m), Bernardo Silva (£42m), Salah (£36m), Tolisso (£35m) – all highly sort after players, playing for teams competing for top honours. Only Romelu Lukaku has moved for more than £50m this summer.
So why is Gylfi Sigurdsson, a player who battled relegation last season, commanding such a fee? Because the team asking for it need him more than the money.
Of all the players mentioned, their teams will replace them. Lyon immediately went out and signed Bertrand Traore and Mariano Diaz to replace Tolisso and Lacazette, with players like Nabil Fekir and Memphis Depay already in their squad. Monaco, champions of France, wasted no time in replacing Bernardo Silva with the very highly-rated Youri Tielemans for £22m. They sold those players, as key as they were, knowing they would replace them – everyone would be rightfully surprised if those were the only replacements, too.
Swansea don’t have this luxury; tThey survived relegation by the skin of their teeth last season, relying on Paul Clement to turn them around after the disastrous reign of Bob Bradley. Even then, he nearly failed in that goal. They’re not a team on the up, they’re not a team that present an exciting prospect to players, and they most certainly don’t have the squad to fill any void left by losing their best player.
And Sigurdsson isn’t just their best player: he’s their playmaker, the player they rely on to make nearly everything happen. Yes, Sigurdsson isn’t on the level of any of the previously mentioned players, you could argue that he’s not even particularly close, and in terms of individual value for money, there is much better priced talent out there.
But if you give Sigurdsson a value of, say, £30m (which is still probably generous when considered purely on talent), and Swansea sold him to Leicester, or Everton, or whoever else would be interested in that price, what would they do with that money? You’d be asking a team who battled relegation to find a player who can fill the enormous void left by their star man, and to do it for £30m. £30m to find someone who can make a Premier League side tick, who can be relied upon, who can be creative, score goals, win top flight games – and for him to do it immediately.
Gylfi Sigurdsson’s season by numbers:
377 final-third passes
77 chances created
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 9, 2017
If that player existed (and we haven’t even taken potential wages into account) and was attainable, why aren’t Everton and Leicester looking at him? Why even bother with Sigurdsson if that player is better or available for less? Because finding that player is incredibly difficult, and would be far, far riskier than Sigurdsson. And that risk is so much greater for Swansea.
Monaco sold one of their best players this summer in Bernardo Silva. They did it as the champions of France, knowing it will likely weaken them. Now, instead of a player who made the Ligue 1 Team of the Year and shone in the Champions League, they’ve taken a chance on a 20-year-old from Anderlecht who has a lot to prove.
Monaco, however, are going into the new season knowing that they’ll likely finish lower than they did last year (even if PSG have been remarkably quiet so far this summer). The risk in selling Bernardo Silva is that the principality may drop as low as third next year, with fourth being disappointing, and fifth being somewhat of a disaster. They took this risk, though, feeling they had to.
Swansea will be taking a similar risk if they sell Sigurdsson. Only they’ll be selling someone who is even more key to them, even if he’s not as good, and doing worse next season for Swansea could mean relegation to the Championship. You’d go as far to say that it probably would mean that. If that happens, and Sigurdsson left for £30, 40, 50 million, the club and their fans won’t find much satisfaction in looking back and thinking “that was a brilliant business deal though”. For one thing, it wouldn’t be – they’d actually be down money. Aston Villa were kept up in 2015 by Christian Benteke’s goals, and the £32m they got for him didn’t count for much when they were relegated the next season.
That’s what the Premier League has done, and fans can laugh at it all they want, but the TV money involved means players are naturally more valuable. Players at the bottom of the league may even be more valuable than teams higher up, as bizarre a concept as that should be.
Southampton have sold player after player, consistently losing their best and not changing much. They sell their players safe in the knowledge that a worse season means bottom half at the absolute worst, and likely not even that. Sadio Mane is a better player than Gylfi Sigurdsson for instance, but his value to Southampton was nowhere near what the Icelandic’s is to Swansea.
£50m seems to be the sweet spot for Swansea – the price that they’ve decided brings them enough to properly improve their side without Sigurdsson being in it. Llorente looks likely to move too, however, and that’s possibly played a part, too.
Replacing their attack, an attack that saved them last year, is an incredibly difficult task, and an unbelievably risky one. If it wasn’t for the player power that exists in the game these days, it’s hard to believe that the Welsh side would even consider selling either, but they likely have no choice. It’s an enormous summer for Swansea City Football Club, and they’ll want everything they can get to help.