Ask any club owner around the world, and they’ll tell you that international breaks are akin to Purgatory. Ask any manager around the world, and they’ll tell you that international breaks are the bane of their very existence, the crux of a functioning side. Where playing for one’s country was the height of a footballer’s career, call-ups are now little more than a nuisance. And yet, if a player performs at a high level during one of these breaks, their market value skyrockets. Especially during events like the World Cup, international breaks seem to make it harder, or at least more expensive, for a club to go out and purchase.
Is it true? Do national teams really drive up a footballer’s value that much? Let’s take a look.
The hottest topic in England right now is one Harry Kane. A goal-scoring machine, he doesn’t look like he’ll ever drop from this high of his. Born and raised on Hotspur soil, the Londoner lives and breathes both the club and playing football for them. Most recently, his claim to further fame derives from his first England cap. During the Lithuania match in the European Championship qualifiers on Friday, Kane saw Wembley’s pitch in a senior England shirt from the bench for the most part. When he was subbed on for Wayne Rooney in the 71st minute, the crowd roared in approval. They were quiet for only a few brief moments.
A goal within two minutes of his England debut. Sure, the Three Lions had a three-goal lead. Oh yes, the Lithuanian defense were allowing the likes of Danny Welbeck and Raheem Sterling through all evening. But no matter what the circumstances were, one headline remains at the end of the weekend: Harry Kane scores on his debut, bringing his 2014-15 goal tally to 29.
So, where does young Kane stand at the moment? What’s he worth on the market? A quick glance shows that his meteoric rise to the top has already begun to affect his overall value.
At the beginning of this season, Kane had a registered market value of around £2.6 million. As of February 11th, he’s valued at just over £13 million. Since then, he’s scored several goals, including his header for England.
The question begging to be asked here are: does his value increase because he scored so early? Does it go up because he scored his first for England? Or, does it increase simply because he’ll surely be a regular in the national team?
In order to answer these kinds of questions, we’ll have to take a look at other players who have been transferred after a pretty important international break this past summer: the World Cup. Is it reasonable to predict that Kane could be transferred at an inflated value due to international performance? Here are some summer transfers from 2014.
Colombian Internationals: James Rodriguez and Carlos Sanchez
That is one fantastic set of results for a side that was expected to exit during the group stage. Sure, there was quite a bit of potential for them to cause a stir, but the Ivory Coast brought an incredible side and Japan and Greece were formidable in their own respects. Without the inclusion of Falcao during the summer injury bug, the Colombian attacking options were questioned while their defense was presumed to be shaky.
And yet, the Colombian national team did plenty. Riding off the back of a brilliant run of performances from James Rodriguez, winner of the competition’s Golden Boot, Colombia made an impressive push for World Cup glory. Six goals in five fixtures, knocking out Uruguay and just falling short to home-field Brazil: not too shabby, eh?
But defensively, Colombia held strong. One of the top performers at the back was the solid Carlos Sanchez, who kept prolific attackers like Luis Suarez, Honda, Wilfried Bony, and Edinson Cavani at bay. Colombia only allowed four goals throughout the entire tournament, and two of those came during their single loss that sent them home.
Both these players were purchased by new clubs before the regular season opened. How did they do after their fairy-tale World Cup performance?
James had been brilliant for AS Monaco prior to the World Cup, more than likely leading to his call-up for the tournament. At such a young age, the lad has loads of potential. While still in France, his market value was around £52.80 million. Real Madrid swooped in for him not long after he arrived back home. The resulting transfer fee? A whopping £70.40 million that was only overshadowed by the Luis Suarez deal.
Big numbers for a big talent. It could be easily argued that the already well-built fame surrounding the young Colombian might have led to his excessive transfer fee. He was also purchased by Real Madrid, one of the richest clubs in the world. Why shouldn’t Monaco have asked for such a ridiculous fee? Perhaps his defensively-minded compatriot provides a different narrative?
Sanchez’s 2008 campaign led to a huge increase in his market value, but faltering performances in France led to his being shopped around in Spain. Prior to the World Cup, his value as a footballer sat around £2.20 million. Then, his big international break: value jumps to £3.52 million. That’s when Aston Villa came calling for some more defensive solidarity. His transfer fee leapt to £5.58 million for the Premier League side to take him. They came good on the deal, and he’s become a solid Premier League midfielder despite the Villans’ relegation woes.
Even for lower-end transfers, we still see the same hike in financial value. No goals or assists, just some solid defending against one of the weaker groups in the World Cup. But this could simply come down to the Colombian national team, right? After their summer performance, Colombians could have an increased value based solely on reputation. So let’s take a look at another national squad: Chile.
Chilean Internationals: Alexis Sanchez and Claudio Bravo
This graphic in particular is a breakdown of Alexis Sanchez’s international results in the seven months prior to the World Cup. Between the middle of November and end of June, including the World Cup matches, Sanchez scored four goals. The forward also assisted the same number in the 8 matches in which he appeared. Two of those goals and one assist were in the World Cup, and he came to shine. His pace and pressing at the tournament were phenomenal. The Chilean national team were famous last year for running and pressing, pressing and running, and then some more of each. They were quick with a fast tempo and difficult to break down.
Next to Arturo Vidal and (maybe) Gary Medel, Sanchez was the best-known name on the national team, and definitely the most popular of the bunch over the summer. Liverpool were in deep trying to get him with a large portion of the Suarez money. In hindsight, I personally can only imagine what the Reds’ season might have been should Sanchez have come to Anfield. But, alas, it was not to be. Arsenal pulled themselves into the race and successfully signed the Chilean forward before we could get our say.
So how much did he go for?
Once again, Alexis Sanchez’s overall value increased right around the time he left Brazil. Clubs became far more aware of the player after his performances on the world’s biggest stage were of such quality. Sanchez had played brilliantly for FC Barcelona for over a year, leading to a summer price jump in 2012. But Barca decided not to sell for another two years, when Arsenal and Liverpool battled for his signature. His market value at that time? £26.40 million. While there were several numbers being tossed out, his total transfer fee ended up being in the ballpark of £37.40 million. Not quite as large as the jump for James Rodriguez, who admittedly had a more glistening run over that summer, but 11 million quid is still a boatload of money. His international break gave him a big “WC Stamp of Approval” that hiked up his transfer fees.
Even the less prolific actors over that summer still saw some action on the value charts. Claudio Bravo, the Chilean goalkeeper that was crucial to their success, played for Real Sociedad for several years before the World Cup took place.
Though there were several increases in market value for Bravo, he managed to stay in that £3 million range for several years prior to the summer international campaign. After a good performance in the World Cup, FC Barcelona came knocking on Real Sociedad’s door. Desperate for a second keeper that had the potential to replace Ter Stegen in the starting XI, Barca came willing to pay what was necessary to get the Chilean. His market value at the time of purchase was around £3.52 million. His transfer fee? A massively inflated £10.56 million, which stands as his current market value after a string of performances in which he has replaced Ter Stegen in the Barca lineup.
So what does the jump in price mean after solid international play? How does it affect us as Liverpool fans? Of all the transfers made after Luis Suarez was sent to Spain, only one had an international campaign worth mentioning: Divock Origi.
The Belgian International: Divock Origi
When looking at percentage increases, Origi is by far at the top of the list. The young striker for French side LOSC Lille saw the pitch before the World Cup, but produced lackluster results. Five goals in thirty matches in 2013-14, with just one assist to boot. Then, the summer hits and the Belgian national team brings a young roster filled to the brim with talent. One of their forwards was Origi, who replaced Romelu Lukuku nearly every match due to poor play. In the tournament, he scored a goal against Russia and played the assist for the winning goal against South Korea that ensured their top-of-the-group place. Origi’s playing time went so far as starting the match against the U.S. before Lukaku replaced him at the beginning of extra time.
At that point, his market value sat at a meager £880 thousand.
So after the departure of Luis Suarez, Liverpool and FSG were out to look for some replacement strikers. What we ended up with was Lazar Markovic (whom we’ve played consistently out of position), Mario Balotelli (who surely wasn’t a Rodgers signing, right?), and Divock Origi, who was sent back out on loan for a season in France.
For a striker that we don’t currently have, how much did we pay for him? An attacker whose goal-scoring record was relatively poor and market value was less than £1 million: what’s he worth to Liverpool?
Apparently, £11.11 million. I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
Now, this article isn’t about transfer policies and whether Brendan Rodgers/the transfer committee has a good eye for talent. This isn’t about Liverpool at all. What matters here is that while clubs maintain that international breaks are detrimental to their financial investments, they still care about how players handle the international stage. There’s still a difference between scoring a goal against Liverpool, or Chelsea, or Arsenal, and scoring a goal against Argentina, or Brazil, or Germany.
So when the next market value analysis is completed, I can guarantee that Harry Kane will be sitting higher than he currently is. Expect an £18 million market value. Why?
Not because his nearly 30 league goals.
Not because he’s a young English talent.
But because Kane is a goal-scorer for England.