With the European Championships coming ever closer to a, hopefully, spectacular and entertaining end all focus will return to club competition and in particular the summer transfer market. The window itself is always a time when you need to keep your wits about you as a football fan as all kinds of supposedly "in the know's" come crawling out of the woodwork ready to convince you that Fernando Llorente was spotted in B&M Bargains in Pallion.
Martin O'Neill's strategy in the transfer market is one that is often defined by his supposed preference to looking closer to home for his new recruits as opposed to foreign shores where it often argued more value can be found. Today I go head to head with RR's resident red-head as we put forward our arguments for and against "restricting" our search for new talent to our home shores.
David Boyle: The Case For A Domestic Focus On Transfers
Back in April I penned a Roker Ramble based around Martin O'Neill's fondness for looking "local" for talent to improve his squad and a couple of months on I have seen no reason to revise my opinion. Much has been made, and quite rightly, of Graham Carr's success for that lot up the road and his extensive knowledge of foreign leagues. Whilst O'Neill has of course brought in players from overseas during his managerial career he has had the most success revitalising the careers of players such as Chris Sutton and John Hartson who went on to become instrumental in the success that Martin brought to Celtic.
There is of course often a price that comes with buying players from the domestic leagues and that is of course the inflated price tag that is more often than not associated with such transfers. You only have to look at the huge chunk of cash that we managed to get for Jordan Henderson when Liverpool were chucking money about like it was going out of fashion. However for every Jordan Henderson transfer there is a Tim Cahill who joined Everton from Millwall for just £1.5m, or a Joe Hart who cost Manchester City, of all clubs, just £600k when he moved from Shrewsbury in 2006 - fantastic value I'm sure you will agree.
Since history dictates that O'Neill thrives on the challenge of bringing in players that may be in the fringes of their current club and molding them into valuable first team players at his own club I see no reason why we should expect him to change his style now. Yes, much has been made of the money that he spent during his spell with Aston Villa and the big money that was spent on players like Fabian Delph, Curtis Davies and Nigel Reo-Coker could all be labelled as transfers which failed but name me a manager that hasn't made mistakes in the transfer market. O'Neill is obviously a very intelligent man, an attribute which is clear for all to see every time he speaks with the media, so I am sure he has learned from the mistakes he made with Villa and we will see a much more prudent MON here at SAFC.
For me the main strength that focusing on the domestic transfer market has over more riskier foreign signings is the simple fact that you know from the outset if your target can cope with the rigors of the Premier League. That is quite simply not the case when signing a Milton Nunez who has never played in the world famous conditions that are a cold, wet midweek game at Stoke in December.
There is also very rarely an issue with the player requiring time and assistance to settle in to a new country when dealing with transfers from UK clubs as the player is more than aware of the climate that the North East of England boasts i.e. crap. I often wonder how our gorgeous fullback Marcos Angeleri coped with the long, dark, wet English winter...
I'll round this case for the domestic transfer market up by conceding that of course many domestic transfers end up costing the club more than a similar player from abroad would, however negotiating such an obstacle should not faze an astute manager such as O'Neill, whom I have every faith will bring the necessary quality from these shores to the North East in the up and coming months. We now have a manager we can trust and I cant wait to see what he conjures up next.
Chris Weatherspoon: The Case For Looking Further Afield
The Premier League, we are so often reminded, is the world's greatest. We only had to look at the final day of the season: heart-in-mouth excitement right to the very last, a confirmation of our domestic league's supremacy over the rest of the world - or, more pertinently, over the rest of Europe.
And yet, is this right? Sure, the English league probably is the most entertaining the world over, but that doesn't make it the best in terms of footballing quality. Furthermore, all this entertainment comes at an undoubtedly exaggerated cost. Buying from league rivals is an expensive business; meanwhile, lower leagues have got smart and bumped up their prices. Yes there have been some bargains at rare spots down the line, but these are undoubtedly exceptions as opposed to the rule.
Jay Rodriguez for example, off the back of a goal ratio just shy of one in four in the Championship, has just commanded a transfer fee of £7 million from Southampton. Steven Fletcher, a target of our own from recently relegated Wolves, looks likely to cost even more if we are to snare his services.
In contrast, the foreign market still seems to offer great value. Looking at high-end examples: while Andy Carroll ludicrously cost Liverpool £35m, Chelsea have just nabbed one of the world's hottest prospects in Eden Hazard for £3m less. This is, clearly, a rarified instance, but it perfectly illustrates the differences in value between domestic and foreign markets.
It is a well-used example, but we need look little further than our neighbours up the road for the value in buying foreign. Casting aside arguments over whether or not Graham Carr has truly "unmasked" hidden gems, Newcastle have still represented astonishing value for money in some of their deals. Yohan Cabaye signed as a French double-winning central midfielder for the paltry fee of £4.4m - his value is now estimated to be easily more than double that, following a fantastic first season in England. More recently, Alan Pardew acquired Papiss Cisse's services for £10.56m. Few will need reminding of the impact he has had in his half season on Tyneside.
Arsene Wenger, for all his critics, is another who has embraced the foreign market to good effect. Arsenal are commonly picked out as the perfect example of a football club being run efficiently and, despite Wenger's perceived tightfistedness, they remain a heady force in English football. Though a long time ago, the signing of Patrick Vieira in September 1996 (for what was, even then, a bargain price of £3.5m) is an indicator that value in buying from abroad is not a new concept.
For Sunderland, of course, we are not expecting such high calibre signings as Vieira, Pires, et al. But the examples given show that there really is value to be had. Theodor Gebre Selassie, a recent standout performer for the Czech Republic, has just signed for German side Werder Bremen for a fee in the region of £1.5m. This transfer came about even after Gebre Selassie had inflated his stock in Poland and Ukraine. Considering Phil Bardsley cost Sunderland the same a few years ago, and Gebre Selassie is - with respect to Bardsley - a far better full-back, it seems almost negligent to ignore the foreign market.
Which one of our writers do you side with? Does the greatest benefit for the club this summer lie in the domestic market or further afield? Let us know by voting in the poll below having your say in the commenst box.