Sports letter: High price

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High price

Sir: Under the Bosman ruling, football clubs have no right to buy and sell players as commodities at the expiry of their contracts. The primary effect of this has been for clubs to offer ever-higher salaries, rather than ever-higher transfer fees, to secure the services of unattached players.

However, there is a secondary, and more important effect. When a player is transferred to a club under the Bosman ruling, because there is no transfer fee involved the club can afford to pay the player a substantially higher over-inflated wage. If, while in contract, the player then seeks a move to another club, there will be a transfer fee. More importantly, as with any other employee, the player will be reluctant to take a drop in wages.

An example of this secondary effect occurred earlier this season when Patrick Kluivert requested a transfer from Milan. Manchester United and Arsenal were interested in buying Kluivert, but he demanded his Milan wage of pounds 40,000 per week - a figure that was over-inflated by his previous free transfer.

Dare I suggest Steve McManaman will become the second high-profile player to suffer the same problem.

This summer, under the Bosman ruling, McManaman will move to Real Madrid and his earnings are said to be pounds 50,000 a week. It is questionable whether McManaman is worth a tenth of that. Football pundits have been saying he has great potential for 10 years, but it is easily to lose track of the fact that he is now 27.

It does seem ironic, then, that Kevin Keegan can pick McManaman for the England team when the player has not even be getting a place in his club team.

So will McManaman succeed in the football cauldron of Madrid? Probably not. But then who is going to buy him back on wages of pounds 50,000 a week ?