Now that it is finally confirmed Harry Maguire is moving to Manchester United, the rest of us move to the true unknown in all of this. Is the 26-year-old actually worth it? Is he worth such a fee, which could well amount to the biggest in the world for a defender?
The answer to the latter is that he is obviously not the best defender in the world, and some way off Virgil van Dijk’s quality, but the influence of the Liverpool centre-half’s £75m price is one of many factors that make this so much more than a simple yes-or-no answer.
The main factor is how that very price itself is set. As goes without saying, but is often under-considered in such issues, price isn’t completely related to the absolute quality of the player. In the words of one agent who has worked on many such deals, “it’s mainly done by comparison to other moves in the market, with some impact from remaining contract time”.
And this, remember, is not just a market where top clubs sign their primary centre-half for £75m. It is now one where the “standard fee” – almost the average deal – has become £40m-plus, and closer to £50m.
Part of that obviously comes with the premium from operating in the Premier League market itself, which is one of many multipliers to go with contract time, age, nationality, player profile, media profile, financial situation of the selling club and – perhaps most relevantly in all of this – financial situation of the buying club.
The question isn’t really what Maguire is worth, but what he is worth to United. This cuts to the core of all of this.
All prices are relative, and thereby someway irrelevant. If a player is a success, the deal has worked out and has been worth it. If he struggles, it hasn’t. The exact price thereafter gets lost to the vagaries of time and huge variables like inflation.
So, the question is whether Maguire has what it takes to be a success.
He does have a lot of qualities United are missing, which they obviously need. He has physical presence, and is likely a better centre-half than everyone they’ve currently got, although some United staff members do think Victor Lindelof is superior.
Even if that is true, though, it’s not so important since the whole idea is that they will complement each other. Maguire has qualities that the Swede does not, but also one specific quality that a lot of the current team lacks: mature composure.
A lot of this is down to his personality, and that is why there has already been talk he could soon be made captain. This is why Pep Guardiola has also been interested in him. And it says just as much that – for all perceptions about his size – he has already fit in well to a Brendan Rodgers approach, and the Catalan reckons he could do the same with his.
Many of the United players who have worked with Maguire at the England camp talk of the composure and competence he brings, something that has been relayed to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He can look ungainly, but that doesn’t often come across in his performances.
Performances with United are a different level, mind. The expectations are different. The standards are different. The play may be different.
Maybe the biggest question revolves around how he will fit into Solskjaer’s ideal of a fast and high-pressing approach. Maguire does after all radiate presence rather than pace. All of the leadership qualities in the world also become somewhat irrelevant when someone is running at you one-on-one at speed.
But this is the level. This is the step-up. This isn’t always related to the price. That, as much as anything else, is worth remembering.
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