Wednesday, July 27, 2005

So Darius Vassell’s gone to Man City for £2,000,000. Fair enough, he’s just had a bad season, he’s only got a year left on his contract, probably a good time for him to leave. Conveniently, £2,000,000 adds neatly onto Aston Villa’s already-tabled £5,000,000 bid for Milan Baros to make up the £7,000,000 Liverpool are asking for.

It was when I realised this that I had a horrifying flashback. Just as ’Nam veterans relive their buddies dying face down in the mud, I suddenly recalled a succession of limp performances from Stan Collymore. The association is undeniable: decent striker, underperforming in the Premiership with Liverpool, sold on to Villa for £7,000,000. The Horror.

Collymore was a club record signing at the time, and began a trend at Villa for bringing in big-money signings who totally disappoint. Alpay and Bosko Balaban come to mind, not that I particularly want them to. Angel had a reasonable 2003/4 but went back to his previous semi-effective self afterwards. (Again a connection with Baros suggests itself, as the two players have much the same haircut.) On the flipside, most of the club’s successful signings since the late 1990s have been done on the cheap: Merson, Dublin, McCann, Sorensen, Solano.

Of course, if the club is ever going to become competitive again then this trend of poor judgement has to come to an end, and it’s only going to come to an end when the club signs a big-money player who can actually play. Although I actually think Baros is a good player, and I’m at a loss to explain his indifferent Liverpool form, I’m sceptical of any suggestion that he might recover his form at Villa, because I can’t think of a single player in recent years who’s actually gained in value whilst he’s been at the club (except Vassell, and since Villa was his first club that doesn’t really count).

The worst thing about this is that Doug Ellis, who needs no encouragement to hide his wallet at the best of times, has been further discouraged from making funds available for new players. Hence the club ends up buying moderately expensive middle-ranking players who play no better than the cheap options. In fact, until now David O’Leary has been able to do nothing other than bring in cheap options and the club has done quite well under him.

Well, this season’s transfer kitty is rumoured to be £20,000,000, which is roughly equivalent to Chelsea’s annual budget for taking prospective players out for a meal. Spend wisely, David.