Like when they broke the news of Marcelo Bielsa’s sacking, The Athletic have ruined the vibe of a perfectly acceptable muggy Friday evening by telling us that Leeds United have agreed to sell Kalvin Phillips to Manchester City. Even if that transfer felt inevitable this summer, I just wanted to watch the England Women’s match tonight in peace! It’s been a long hot week and I did not need this to think about.
I also did not need to read these details about the fee:
City are poised to pay £42m with potential bonuses valuing £3m.
Now, transfer fees, wages, and just the general money situation in football is a sick joke and the idea of this sort of money being handed over so one footballer can play for a different team has become so detached from reality that the values are essentially abstract. And football fans arguing online about how much their favourite clubs should pay or receive for players is a hideous part of modern fandom because, when it comes down to it, what difference does one multi-million pound organisation giving another multi-million pound organisation £10m more or less really make to anyone anymore? As a fan I would like to worry less about the current accounts of multi-million pound football clubs and enjoy more watching good players being great at football.
That said, Leeds United negotiating with one of the richest clubs in the world to receive £12m more from selling Kalvin Phillips than they paid Valencia to buy Rodrigo when that club had debts of almost €450m is terrible and I hate this transfer fee. Even the £3m ‘potential bonuses’ are not making me feel better. What are Leeds going to do with that? Buy Barry Douglas again? They can’t even budget for it, because maybe Phillips won’t ever play on the actual moon or whatever City have shoved in the deal and he won’t trigger any ‘potential bonuses’.
The Evening Post’s Graham Smyth is trying to thank god it’s Friday our way out of this, by ringing up the club and asking what the heck:
Leeds United believe Kalvin Phillips deal with Manchester City will be worth between £50m and £55m all told, with Darko Gyabi going the other way.
But I’m still what the hecking over here, because all that means is that Darko Gyabi — who with all due respect to my interest in the beautiful game, I’ve never heard of in my life — must be valued around £10m to make up the difference. Or, in other words, one-quarter of a Kalvin Phillips. At time of writing Gyabi is an eighteen year old who does not even have a Wikipedia page, and even a list of number one singles in the charts in Finland in 1996 has a Wikipedia page. That’s a bad sign about Darko Gyabi! And The Athletic’s Watford correspondent is saying the deal is only worth £5m anyway! And it might be a separate deal so Leeds are getting £42m and giving City £5m straight back! Doing the most generous maths: £42m + (maybe) £3m + a kid worth £5m = the very, very bottom edge of that ‘£50m to £55m’ Leeds believe the deal is worth. We’re back to £42m down, while hoping for another £3m to fall and for a kid to grow up good.
Obviously with all the attention on this transfer, and all the attention on transfers in general — Fabrizio Romano is already at the scene, with fishing rods and fried chicken, and he’s talking about £42m plus add-ons — and the expectations around this being one of Leeds United’s most significant outgoing transfers in years, selling a key England international and a vital part of our team, who is culturally important to our club and our city as a homegrown home town hero, with fringe benefits from all the commercial opportunities that come to a lovely lad who is good at football and the club that employs him, to another club that not only receives huge revenues from the Champions League but is owned and underwritten by a Middle Eastern state willing to spend untold millions to make people think it’s a cool and progressive place nobody should spend any time worrying about, for just £42m, is not going down well with people on social media, many of whom often hate things but they really hate this.
They’re right though! Phillips has the same number of England caps as Jack Grealish, the vital home town hero of Aston Villa etc etc etc, and they got £100m for him from City. And it’s not only for this transfer in isolation, but for the other big one, about Raphinha to Barcelona, who must be wondering why they were worrying so much about raising all that money for their summer budget when it now looks like their favourite target can be had for less than the hire of a private jet to bring him over.
And that’s bad news for the famed Leicester/Red Bull model or whatever it is Leeds are doing now. We got the most up to date glimpse of our future when Jesse Marsch sat down for an interview with Sky Sports at the start of May, and was asked what the next three years look like at Leeds. This is the nearest we’ve heard to a plan since Marcelo Bielsa was sacked:
“I think in three years it looks like the best academy in Europe, with young players that are playing in the first team consistently, where we’re competing for Europe consistently, again with our process of developing players from the academy into the first team, and that in the process we’re also creating world class players that can perform here, but also can help us financially, by selling them to the most massive clubs for massive amounts of money, and then reinvesting that in the infrastructure of the club. Until we get to the point where five, ten years from now, we can talk about really competing for titles and being one of the best teams in Europe. That’s the goal.”
I mean, get more, get less, I could lose my mind comparing transfer fees player by player. But then I haven’t pegged my football club’s future to getting big fees after developing players as a policy. Phillips and Raphinha represent the new Leeds United’s first chance since promotion to set the bar for what ‘selling to the most massive clubs for massive amounts of money, and then reinvesting that in the infrastructure of the club‘ looks like, and at the moment what that looks like is like selling Phillips to one of the richest clubs in the world for less than it could cost to replace him. Leeds should remember when Fizzy Salzburg drove them a hard bargain so they made their profit on Brenden Aaronson. They really should remember, it was this January. Would Red Bull sell Aaronson to you for £15m? No they wouldn’t! That’s what you’re trying to do! Do that!
All this, of course, is easily rectified, and that is the constructive proposal I wish to make now. If I was in charge of Leeds United Football Club, I would be making Manchester City pay more money to buy Kalvin Phillips. Manchester City definitely have more than £42m in money, so it should be a simple matter to tell them to pay more of it to our club. And I know it’s a lot of money, but I would even tell them to pay more than £50m! That is what I think the people at Leeds United should do and I look forward to their success with my far-sighted proposal. ⬢