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In the summer of 2007, Liverpool signed Fernando Torres for £25 million, a fee not including the move of Luis Garcia in the opposite direction.
Torres had scored 91 goals across five seasons in La Liga for his boyhood club Atletico Madrid and Liverpool, looking for a goal-scorer to fire a title challenge after reaching two Champions League finals in three seasons, saw fit to break their transfer record on the then 23 year old Spaniard.
Torres arrived in England to a huge billing which was quickly justified by the striker with 33 goals in his debut season, earning him a place in the PFA Team of the Year, and 17 in his second, in which Liverpool narrowly missed out on their first league title in 20 years.
A further 31 goals followed across the next season and a half and even though he left for rivals Chelsea in acrimony, netting Liverpool a £25 million profit, he is remembered as arguably, in stiff competition with Robbie Fowler, Luis Suarez and Michael Owen, Liverpool’s most deadly striker of the Premier League era.
As Torres was unveiled at Anfield back in 2007, Yannick Bolasie was gearing up for a season in the Maltese Premier League with Floriana having spent a year with Hillingdon Borough in the Southern Football League.
After a season in Malta, Bolasie was offered a route back to England with a 2 year deal with Plymouth and, after loan spells at Barnet and Rushden and Diamonds, he finally made his football league debut in January 2009.
Fast forward seven years and Bolasie is now worth as much as Torres was in 2007, telling as much about the rise of the French-born DR Congo international as it does the outrageous rate of transfer market inflation that has propelled football into a financial world of its own.
In 2016 the £89 million that has switched hands between Manchester United and Juventus for Paul Pogba is the world record fee, almost double the £46 million Real Madrid paid Juventus for Zinedine Zidane as it stood when Torres moved in 2007.
In the era where the Champions League has evolved into an ultra-lucrative behemoth and the Premier League’s eye-watering television deal that is worth a record £5.14 billion, deals involving unspeakable amounts of money are commonplace and the £27 million that got Manchester United Wayne Rooney in 2004 just about covers the cost of Christian Benteke should Crystal Palace succeed with their offer for the Belgian after his failed season at Liverpool.
Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Leicester, Manchester United, Swansea, Watford and West Ham have all broken their transfer records this summer and Everton have now nearly done the same (spending just shy of the £28 million it took to land Romelu Lukaku) with Bolasie, slapping him with a price tag that says a lot about how football’s modern finances are steaming free from reason.
The Congolese winger will undoubtedly improve Everton, but that a £25 million fee for a player of his level is just being accepted as part of football’s natural course is obscene.
Worth the fee?
Bolasie will provide Everton with a direct threat from wide positions and his physicality gives manager Ronald Koeman he doesn’t have in current wingers Gerard Duelofeu and Aaron Lennon, but with 10 goals and 14 assists across his three seasons, does he really possess the star quality that reflects such a fee?
Maybe he’s just symptomatic of a financial climate that not only allows Everton, with the added might of Farhad Moshiri’s billions, to pay such a sum but allows Crystal Palace, with their expenditure this summer currently at £23 million for two players, to hold out for it.
Of course it is unfair to hold the fee against the player, “when someone says £25 million I just think I am here to play football” he says, but as he pledges to “settle down and do some damage” at Goodison Park one suspects he will have to deal out a lot of it if he is to drown out the scepticism.
The amount of injuries and flat performances at Everton under Roberto Martinez’s regime led to questions over whether technique had been prioritised over strength and conditioning in training as his players, especially as his era drew to a close, looked short of the fitness required for the intensity of the Premier League.
Now called “the beast” after thriving on a fitness program he was placed on at Palace after promotion to the Premier League, Bolasie’s addition will address such an issue where Martinez was guilty of overstocking wide positions with agile and physically slight players.
Whereas Bolasie created less than the one chance per game Duelofeu managed last year, the Spaniard could only manage 1.77 take ons per game compared to Bolasie’s 2.88.
There was early indication of what Bolasie can offer Everton in the 1-2 win over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday in which, coming off the bench, he skipped clear of Johnny Evans on the right-flank before delivering a deadly cross that Ross Barkley contrived to head wide.
His electrifying pace also saw him free on the left only to have Lukaku hit his square ball directly at the goalkeeper. Everton failed to make their margin more comfortable but their new winger had made a big impression with his 30 minute cameo.
Only four players in the whole league completed more dribbles than the 2.6 Bolasie averaged per game last season and his ability to hold off opponents while skipping past them with quick feet and an unorthodox, low-gravity running style will give Lukaku greater supply as well as injecting Everton with a more direct and physical impetus in attack.
It was something Martinez tried to address when he signed the now discarded Oumar Niasse for a reckless £13.5 million last January but Koeman has acted decisively by bringing in somebody with Premier League pedigree, albeit at a premium price.
Things are looking bright at Goodison Park
At Goodison Park however, with a move for Manchester City’s Joe Hart now being hinted at by the manager they did so impressively to lure from Southampton, there is a feeling that the Moshiri era is beginning to kick-start.
Bolstering their defence with Ashley Williams and the arrival of Idrissa Gueye, exceptional in the opening game of the season against Spurs, as well as the money spent on attracting Bolasie, suggests they are now capable of purposefully securing targets that will help them to improve on their last three seasons of underachievement.
As for Palace, who now look worryingly short in attack and are being linked with Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko, will have to find a replacement for the winger who they missed badly during his 2-month injury last season, failing to win any of the 9 games played during Bolasie’s absence.
Maybe they were right to value him as much as Atletico did with Torres.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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