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Maguire to Man United: Is he worth the money?

Harry Maguire

London, August 6: The Harry Maguire transfer saga is over at last, with Manchester United confirming the signing on Monday.

The England centre-back has agreed to a six-year deal at Old Trafford and moves for a reported fee of £80million - a world record for a defender.

It has been quite the journey for Maguire, who did his time in England's lower leagues and only joined Leicester City for roughly £17m two years ago.

Even in the modern hyper-inflated market, the fee United have paid for the 26-year-old has certainly raised some eyebrows. But is he worth the money?

It may not seem like it now, but time will show United have got value for money - by Peter Hanson

The issue when analysing fees forked out by clubs in this extravagant era of spending is that people judge the fee in isolation rather than in the context of the mind-boggling market we now live in.

If we look at the reported £80m United have paid for Maguire as a single transfer then, yes, of course you can argue the sum is too high.

But, the economics of transfer fees now means that the deal is about the going rate for an England international, particularly given English players command inflated fees due to the home-grown rules in Premier League squads and a dearth of top-class domestic talent.

For those who shout loudest on Twitter that Maguire is not worth more than the £75m Liverpool spent to bring Virgil van Dijk to Anfield, again that is a valid argument but it is a distorted argument.

Since Van Dijk made that switch in January 2018, four deals have broken the £100m barrier with Neymar's move to PSG the first to go past the quite frankly absurd benchmark in July 2017.

So, realistically the Maguire deal cannot be compared to Van Dijk's simply because Van Dijk with the market as it is would easily bring in a minimum of a £100m fee. If the question is, is there a £20-40m price differential between the two players the answer is unquestionably yes.

Moreover, Maguire perfectly fits the mould of young, hungry, British talent Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been looking to bring into United.

United have signed a player entering his peak years, who is an established international and a defender with great aerial prowess and reading of the game. He undoubtedly improves a United defence that shipped 54 Premier League goals last term – only West Ham in the top 10 conceded more.

It may not seem like it now, but time will show United have got value for money in Maguire.

Had United finally done anything to improve their recruitment network, they could have scoured for better business - by Joe Wright

Let's be clear: United's defence will be better with Maguire than without him. Does that make this a prudent transfer? Not really.

Solskjaer's centre-back options have needed serious strengthening, but signing Maguire so late in the window - for such a staggeringly inflated fee - feels a desperate act that does not entirely do the job.

Maguire stood out in a poor Hull City team that were relegated from the Premier League. He performed well for a Leicester City side that still conceded 108 league goals in his two seasons at the club - 22 more than United, if we're counting.

He was a consistent positive for England in the World Cup in Russia last year, as the Three Lions finished fourth. It was then that the first links with the Manchester clubs began in earnest.

All this sounds like the summary of a decent defender delivering generally adequate and sometimes excellent performances for teams without high expectations. It's an apt one for Maguire, and it should not be enough to make him United's top target for a defensive revolution.

He is now the world's most expensive defender. Is he the best? Of course not. He is not even the best at United's disposal - there is more to Victor Lindelof's all-round game than Maguire's.

Solskjaer has praised Maguire for being "a great reader of the game", "a strong presence" and "calm under pressure" with "composure on the ball". There are alternatives around Europe who exceed him in those qualities.

For "strength" and "calm", why not try Kalidou Koulibaly, a player Napoli would countenance selling to fund a recruitment drive that included Kostas Manolas, another fine central defender? For reading the game and composure in possession, go for Milan Skriniar and exploit Inter's interest in Romelu Lukaku to make the deal happen. More preparation in the market might have allowed a swoop for Lucas Hernandez before his Bayern Munich move, or a deal for Samuel Umtiti to help Barcelona offset their huge transfer and wage expenditure.

There is plenty of conjecture here, of course, but had United finally done anything to improve their recruitment network, they could have scoured for better business than Maguire - a good player, but little more than that.

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Story first published: Tuesday, August 6, 2019, 11:30 [IST]
Other articles published on Aug 6, 2019
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