This week saw United make their second high profile and financially notable summer signing in securing the signature of Southampton left back Luke Shaw for an initial fee of £27 million. Most United fans have been buoyed by activity in the transfer market this early in the summer. A nod to both van Gaal and Woodward and a stark contrast from last summer’s shenanigans under The Chosen One. In some circles though, the hefty price tag for a young player unproven at the very highest level has been questioned, and accusations of overcompensating on transfer fees for last year’s failings have been levelled. But £27 million, making him the world’s most expensive teenager, looks outstanding value from where I’m sitting. Here’s why:
His age. Shaw is just 18. If he stays injury free and fulfills what is expected of him, he can cement the left back position at the club for the next 15 years. If that were to happen, the £27 million fee (rising to around £31 million) would look a snip at the equivalent of £2 million a season in an era of continually inflating transfer fees. If he were not to stay for such a length of time, at 18 his value will under normal circumstances, only increase over the next 5 years, thus presenting an opportunity to cash in on a good investment.
The left back position is vacant. When United signed Juan Mata in January it lifted the mood around the club. Although Mata was cup-tied in Europe and subsequently took a while to settle, most United fans were, and still are happy with his acquisition. However a Juan Mata type player was not what United needed most. With almost the entire back four announcing their desire to leave and a woefully underperforming central midfield, an attacking wide-midfielder-cum-Number 10 was not really what the doctor ordered. The situation is different with Shaw. United need a left back. While no United fan will resent Patrice Evra’s decision to stay for another season (where he will presumably play a bit-part role and help Shaw settle) few will disagree that his defensive capabilities have been dwindling for some time and a genuine replacement was a priority.
Comparison to recent transfer fees. It’s hard to draw too much of a conclusion when Shaw hasn’t yet played a game in a red shirt, but let’s take a look at the major transfer fees over the last three seasons alongside the age of the player when they signed: Fellaini £27 million, aged 25. Juan Mata £37 million, 25. Shinji Kagawa, £12 million, 23. Robin van Persie £24 million, 29. Wilfred Zaha £15 million, 20. Phil Jones £17 million, 19. David De Gea £19 million, 20. Ashley Young £17 million, 25. With one or two exceptions, this does not smack of a list that represents good value for money. Perhaps it is merely a reflection of United’s recent poor decision making in the transfer market, but it is surely likely that £27 million for an 18 year old England international will prove favourable in comparison to what United have seen for their money in the last 3 years.
Southampton. It’s hard to argue against Southampton being the best academy in English football. They have a consistent record of producing outstanding and widely coveted young players. Bale, Bridge, Lallana, Shaw, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott all within recent memory. Shearer and Le Tissier before that. A pretty good crop really. All these players have, to varying degrees, excelled on the football pitch. They all seem generally grounded individuals too. I can’t remember many racism rows, exorbitant wage demands or biting incidents involving these players. It would seem those from Southampton are from good stock. Comparatively speaking anyway.
As with any marquee signing at United, the pressure and spotlight on Shaw will be there from the outset. But if he settles in a way in which his ability on the pitch and the factors explained would suggest, £27 million looks to be a very shrewd investment.