De Boer Is Right To Look Abroad Rather Than Spend Big On Current Premier League Talent
Frank de Boer’s appointment at Crystal Palace is the sign of a fresh mindset at Selhurst Park.
In recent seasons, player recruitment has consisted of primarily scouting in England. Since promotion in 2013, only five permanent signings had never played in Britain before their arrival in South London, a mere 12% of the 41 permanent incomings.
Instead, de Boer seems keen to look abroad. The capture of Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek proves that there may be value in loaning young players from the Premier League’s top club but otherwise, a look at who the Eagles have been linked with this summer shows an obvious ambition to utilise the European market.
It makes perfect sense. The English market that Palace have used to varying success is now losing its value.
Spending £30million now gets you 24-year-old Michael Keane, who has spent much of his career in the second tier and has accumulated just two England caps, albeit impressing for Burnley. Meanwhile, Gylfi Sigurdsson, the star player in a Swansea City side that finished fifteenth last season – and only saved by the appointment of Paul Clement – has been valued at £50million by the Welsh club, and Everton, rolling in cash after selling Romelu Lukaku for £75million, look set to meet it.
Premier League clubs are aware of their rivals’ riches and simply try to rinse each other.
Players moving between Premier League clubs will generally demand much higher fees than a player coming from abroad, a fact largely caused by the top-flight’s ludicrous home-grown rule which states each club must have eight ‘home grown’ players in their respective 25-man squad. The value of English players has risen so dramatically that most clubs have simply ignored the rule anyway and have looked abroad. It’s great to see that Palace are now doing the same.
Jairo Riedewald from Ajax looks set to be de Boer’s first permanent signing since the Dutchman succeeded Sam Allardyce two-and-a-half weeks ago. The Dutch international is expected to go straight into the Eagles’ first team and compete for a regular place with James Tomkins and Scott Dann, while he can also play at left-back and in defensive midfield. With Riedewald expected to sign for a mere £7.5million, a versatile 20-year-old with the capability of being thrust into the starting eleven straight away would cost at least three, maybe even four, times more if being signed from an English club. It can only be considered excellent business if the deal eventually goes through.
Riedewald’s former Ajax team-mate, Kenny Tete, recently signed for Lyon, who beat interest from the Eagles, for just £3million in a deal that looked incredibly shrewd in comparison to transfers involving similar standard full-backs in England. Even signing a right-back from the Championship could set Palace back at least double that figure. Moving away from the extortionate English market is wise, especially with the Eagles having spent around £80million in the past twelve months and needing to be careful with Financial Fair Play regulations needing to be in consideration.
Looking for better value abroad also fits Palace’s obsession with signing players who the club can make a profit from. Southampton have done the same in recent seasons, the best example being Virgil van Dijk who was signed for £13million and now looks set to leave the Saints for a fee closer to £50million. It’s a model that clubs aiming to be a mid-table side need to follow if they want to decrease the ever-growing financial divide between themselves and the division’s elite. Only two good campaigns will be sufficient to double Riedewald’s asking price if a bigger club enquires.
Looking abroad has, however, raised concerns that signings lack Premier League experience. The term is somewhat flawed in the sense that it is purely subjective and has no criteria. For example, Loftus-Cheek has two top-flight winners’ medals to his name and, on paper, would appear to have vast Premier League experience, especially given that he has double the quantity of winners’ medals than the rest of the Palace squad combined, with Jeffrey Schlupp being the only other current player to win the league. However, the 21-year-old loanee has just 22 Premier League appearances to his name, of which most have been cameos from the Blues’ substitutes bench.
Palace’s squad is already enriched with players who possess vast experience in the top-flight and the priority should now be targeting players who fit de Boer’s system. The only worry for Palace fans is that the system the former Netherlands international described as his preference in his press conference is akin to the one that Alan Pardew failed to impose on a Palace side that has, throughout history, been much better when counter-attacking rather than dominating possession.
The Eagles need players who are more comfortable on the ball than many of the current squad but signing the likes of Riedewald and Loftus-Cheek are small steps forward. Trusting de Boer and Steve Parish to improve the squad and prepare it for a season where the club need to push up the table would only be the sensible thing to do.