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In a competitive and often treacherous transfer market, where is Sunderland’s niche?

With soaring transfer fees and exorbitant wages having a huge impact on the game, the transfer market is something of a minefield. Tom Albrighton looks at how we can best position ourselves for a successful future

Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Another all-too-familiar headline rings out.

This week, it’s Neymar and Aymeric Laporte; the week before, it was Sadio Mane, and not long before that it was Cristiano Ronaldo himself. Saudi Arabia and PIF aren’t messing about and they aren’t shy about splashing their cash.

Football is being rocked to its core. It started with the earthquake of the European giants committing their futures to the ‘European Super League’, and this latest onslaught of super-spending is merely an aftershock.

Neymar joins Saudi club Al Hilal from Paris Saint-Germain Photo by AlHilal Saudi Club / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

For 95% of professional clubs, it’s quite clear that competing with these exorbitant fees and lavish wages simply isn’t possible, but fear not, as for every Chelsea, there’s a Brighton.

With no end in sight to the super spending from the super powerful, clubs are faced with a decision to make and one that can’t be made in earnest.

The answers seem to vary but only a handful of clubs seem to be ahead of the curve, finding their place in the food chain and breaking themselves free from the madness.

Brighton are an obvious example of this and given that Todd Boehly has sent over £200m in their direction, it makes you wonder why he didn’t just buy the Seagulls instead.

Sunderland aren’t at that level yet. In fact, we’re far from it but amid the frustration and confusion of our transfer policy, there’s far more method than madness on display.

Chelsea FC v Real Madrid: Quarterfinal Second Leg - UEFA Champions League Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

In a future where the money in the game only seeks to increase, the ESL will become an ever-growing cloud that hangs over a range of clubs as they stretch themselves to their financial and commercial limits, not to lead the way but simply to keep up.

This is where whatever happens, be it a ‘European Super League’ or not, we’re a step ahead of most.

As we’ve seen (to the frustration of some) a select few Championship clubs have flexed their financial muscle and have been unafraid to deal in large fees, chasing the pot of gold that is the Premier League.

Whether this is sustainable is one question but the more pertinent one is if it’ll actually provide any tangible success. We’ve taken a different tack altogether and whilst the club has spent money, it hasn’t been anything overly extreme or in some cases, satiating.

As frustration grows over our transfer dealings, it’s worth noting that this is likely to be the future for Sunderland.

The model of buying young prospects who are seeking to forge their way in the game with the goal of extracting as much talent as possible before selling for an inflated sum is here to stay, and for good reason.

As the money grows and the greed becomes insatiable, it’s going to pay massively to be on the seller’s side of the table- unless your club is a member of the select few.

Regardless of whether the ESL comes to fruition, the excessive amounts of cash in the game are filtering their way through the system- not always fairly, but rapidly and with reckless abandon.

As we look to grow and develop, this is the model we simply have to stick with.

We’re yet to see the fees it’ll bring in, with the sum for Isaac Lihadji’s services still to be announced, but this serves as a keen taster of what’s to come, even for those who aren’t particularly in favour of it.

Sunderland v Huddersfield Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

What we have to do now is simply to continue what we’re doing.

Success may not be immediate and it may not even be achieved in the medium term, but what we need to do is stay true.

Developing talent is paying dividends now and even more so in the future. Should the ESL come around, being a direct selling club to the European elite will be an elite club of its own, self-perpetuating its wealth and very likely changing a club’s fortunes.

So, whilst the frustration rings true for some and the clamour to join those spending lavishly grows, it would serve us all well to remember that the future of the club lies firmly in finding where we belong, discovering our niche in the market and extracting as much money as possible.

If you need convincing as to whether this is a good thing or not, I’m sure a Brighton fan or two would tell you about how much fun they’re having these days.


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