When Sunderland sold their best homegrown talent since Jordan Henderson this summer for £30 million there was a sense that the deal was a good one. Jordan Pickford is after all a goalie, and goalies - despite playing in perhaps the most important position on the pitch - are valued far less than strikers.
The £30 million deal gave Pickford the honour of becoming the third most expensive goalkeeper in the world - behind Gianluigi Buffon and Manchester City’s new keeper Ederson Moraes. So can we really gripe about the fee the club got?
What is the market for a goalie like Pickford?
So we all know what Jordan Pickford can do, we spent last season watching him keep us in games - while he was often our best chance of scoring at the other end thanks to his incredible passing ability.
Pickford can make saves that no other keeper can, whilst simultaneously having the ability to spray passes around the field like he is Steven Gerrard. He has a calmness that is vital for a young goalie, but is not afraid to give his defenders a telling off if they need it. All in all, Pickford is an elite talent who should prove to be one of the best keepers in the world for the next 15 years.
Every team in the world that needs a goalkeeper would have Pickford at the top of their list this summer, he is that good.
Jordan Pickford could probably save the NHS if he tried.— Laura Hankinson (@JustLaurahhh) August 24, 2017
Making sense of player values
So what are players worth? Well, it’s a tricky subject to tackle because there seems to be little method to the madness of valuations. But what we do know is that teams have money burning a hole in their pocket thanks to the new Premier League TV deal - so in a market full of teams with money burning through their pockets, selling clubs should be making top dollar.
Daniel Levy of Spurs is known for driving a hard bargain, and this summer he managed to squeeze £50 million out of Manchester City for Kyle Walker. Is Kyle Walker worth £20m more than what Everton paid for Jordan Pickford? I would argue not - Walker is a quality full back, but I would stop short of saying world class. There can be no doubt Man City overpaid for the England defender.
Burnley charged Everton £30 million for Michael Keane this summer, a high price for a center back once discarded by Manchester United. But Everton know that quality defenders do not come cheap, so that was the price Burnley could get. Is Keane worth the same as Pickford?
Speaking of Everton - Ross Barkley nearly completed a £35 million pound move to Chelsea on deadline day. The same Ross Barkley who divides opinion of almost everyone and has never played a full consistent season yet. So the inconsistent Barkley, who Everton were actively trying to sell, is worth £35 million despite having huge question-marks over his attitude? Yet Pickford - a proven talent - is worth less?
Back to Man City - they paid £36 million for Ederson. The Brazilian goalie played his first full season in Europe last year, playing 37 games for Benfica, but he has yet to crack the Brazil team yet. Pickford as a proven Premier League goalie went for less than Ederson, who has looked shaky in his first few outings this season. I know who I would rather have… and for less money.
In the lower echelons of the market, players like Andre Gray, Sam Clucas, Chris Wood, Jacob Murphy and Jay Rodriguez have all moved this summer for figures between £10-20 million. These players are not proven Premier League players, with the exception of Rodriguez, who has not been the same player since suffering a career threatening injury. Yet the selling clubs have managed to hold out for sums of money well above what the true value should be for these individuals.
Prices go up as we get closer to deadline day
Teams naturally panic when we get to the end of the window - clubs up and down the country come to the realisation that they have a weakness and they only have a small timescale to fill it. Insert deadline day panic. We see that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - who has scored 9 league goals in nearly 150 games - was sold to Liverpool for around £35-40 million.
Dwight Gayle of Newcastle was subject to bids of around £15-20 million - a player who has never proven himself in the top flight. Chelsea paid £35 million for Danny Drinkwater - who for me is a bang average central midfielder. The frantic nature of the end of the window hikes prices, and clubs who need players will find ways to buy them even if they end up paying over the odds.
You cannot help but wonder what would have happened if Sunderland had kept Pickford until near the end of the window. Firstly, we may have more points on the board! But secondly, Everton and other interested parties would be desperate to get the deal over the line, pushing the price up to their highest possible levels. Instead we sold Pickford early, and got pennies on the dollar.
You can't say £30m is a bargain and that wasn't a great penalty but... everything about Jordan Pickford screams magnificent business 1/2— Dominic King (@DominicKing_DM) August 24, 2017
So was £30 million fair?
The short answer to this is no. Sunderland made a decision to sell Pickford early in the window. However, because of this they did not receive the highest possible price for their treasured youth product.
Ultimately the club SHOULD have forced the sale of Pickford for a world record fee - for a goalkeeper. Is he the best keeper in the world? No. But he arguably has the greatest potential.
Maybe their hand was forced due to financial failings off the pitch, but surely holding out for the best possible deal was a better idea than selling early at the first sign of easy money. Money which may prove to be a bargain in years to come for Everton.