Money is said to be the deciding factor in football these days, with the old skills of actually, managing, coaching and scouting players displaced by a crude game of rich men’s fantasy football.
But at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford on Saturday you saw both old and new school try to prove their worth. Yes, Manchester United are one of the richest clubs in the world but they have never gone for the scattergun approach to player recruitment, in fact they have barely spent a penny since selling Ronaldo for £80million.
But they did spend £6million – or four Joleon Lescotts – on Javier Hernandez. Few had heard of the little Mexican striker when he joined last summer and many wondered whether Fergie was signing ‘lesser’ players in light of greater financial muscle among his Premier League rivals.
But how wrong have we all been proved as Hernandez – or Chicharito - as he is affectionately known – has hit 19 goals, many of the crucial like the opening goal in the Champions League clash with Chelsea and the late winner against Everton on Saturday,
United fans may see shades of another baby faced striker in Hernandez – Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer. The Norwegian was signed for just £1.5million in 1996 and again was a relative unknown at the time. But he went on to become a cult hero with the United fans as he always had the habit of scoring at the right time – most famously in the Champions League final back in 1999.
Contrast those two with Fernando Torres, who has endured a torrid time since moving to Chelsea, as well as £28million man Edin Dzeko at Man City, and it becomes clear that while money can buy you a lot, it isn’t the sole attribute needed for success. Both Torres and Dzeko have undoubted quality, but sometimes a player needs the right club, team-mates coaches and environment. I feel those two were brought in for their price tag alone, chucked onto the pitch and expected to perform, Whereas Hernandez was brought with the long term in mind, has slowly been allowed to settle in, and is now rewarding the boss with results.
Dzeko and Torres both opened the Premier League accounts last weekend, suggesting money does buy you quality in the end, but Fergie’s ‘little pea’ proves there are exceptions to that rule.