EPL Transfer: If Darren Bent's Worth £24m, Then What Of Ronaldo, Messi & Others

Nabeel KhokharCorrespondent IJanuary 23, 2011

EPL Transfer: If Darren Bent's Worth £24m, Then What Of Ronaldo, Messi & Others?

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    BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 18:  Darren Bent speaks to the media during a press conference to announce him signing for Aston Villa at Villa Park on January 18, 2011 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Darren Bent's move from Sunderland to Aston Villa completed this week for a initial sum of £18 (raising to a staggering £24 with appearances, goals and caps etc) makes the 26 year old Englishman the most expensive English player in history, when transfers are accumulated.

    This may come as a surprise to many, given that one would not say that Bent is a rising star nor an established one. The player whose record he has just eclipsed, is none other than Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand, whose cumulative transfers totaled £48m.

    This unassuming striker has never taken the headlines, never taken the Premier League by storm and has yet to make it into double figures when it comes to international appearances for England.

    Born in Tooting, South London, Bent joined Ipswich Town as a youth aged 14 and progressed through their ranks and signed on as a professional with them in 2001.

    The South Londoner went on to make 122 appearances for The Tractor Boys, scoring a commendable 47 goals.

    In 2005, Charlton Athletic completed a move for Bent for an initial amount of £2.5m, raising to £3m with appearances etc. Once again, the South Londoner, banged in the goals and accolades and records followed. In the 2005-06 season, Bent was the highest scoring English player in the Premier League with 18 goals.

    Despite another impressive scoring record, Charlton were relegated in 2007 and Bent was sold to Tottenham Hotspur for £16.5m. His records for Charlton was once again extremely good; he scored 31 goals in 68 appearances for The Addicks.

    However, at Spurs Bent seemed to lose his way slightly and was never a regular and by no means a crowd favorite at White Heart Lane. His record at Spurs speaks for itself; with only 18 goals in 60 appearances it is safe to say that Bent was not considered a success.

    Again, Bent looked for pastures anew and after an infamous Twitter hiccup, signed for Sunderland for £10m but which would later rise for around £16.5m.

    At Sunderland, the Englishman again came into his own and goals flowed. In 58 appearances for Sunderland, Bent scored a phenomenal 32 goals. This strike rate ranked alongside the best strikers in the Premier League. It would not be stretching the truth to suggest that Bent is one of the most prolific English strikers playing in the Premier League today.

    Yet, at international level Bent seems to be the forgotten man of English football and he has made this point on more than one occasion. Having only seven caps to his name and the solitary goal, this club goal scoring machine has never gotten to grips with the international game.

    Truth be told, he has not really been given a good run in the side to show his worth and he has frequently been overlooked by managers preferring to pick the then 'flavours of the month' strikers.

    Bent has become slightly disillusioned with this fact; his club record would suggest that he should be an automatic choice for England but whenever the squad is announced, Bent has more often than not just missed out.

    And missed out to fringe players, players with potential, players that are on the verge. But what of proven goal scoring ability, does that not have a place in the England set up?

    In this transfer window, Bent has made a surprising move from Sunderland to Aston Villa. No sooner had the news broken that Bent has put in a surprising transfer request, that he was signing on the dotted line for Aston Villa for a staggering £18m, but will eventually be more in the tune of £24m.

    To most commentators and pundits, this is a shocking amount of money for a striker, who granted has a more than impressive domestic scoring record, but has certainly not proved himself internationally. If the question was posed to followers of the Premier League, "What price would you pay for Darren Bent?" Arguably most would return with a figure in the region of £10m.

    However, football transfers rates as prices of all commodities are set by market forces of supply and demand, coupled with subjective value of what is the perceived value of such a commodity.

    Now in a strange state of affairs, Bent's perceived value around the league is actually lower than what Aston Villa have actually paid for his services. It would be doubtful if any other club would have filed a bid of anything more than £10m, such is a believed value.

    Surprisingly, once Bent came onto the market, there was not a string of clubs lining up to sign him up. This could be because Villa simply put in a bid so far inflated from what other clubs rated Bent at, that they just thought that they had no desire to pay that much and opted not to bid.

    So why no buying frenzy. Simply put, Bent is not in demand despite his scoring record. But for a forward that is not highly in demand but is still able to persuade a club to pay £24m for his services; the question must be posed that if a forward that would be in demand came onto the market, given the amount paid for Bent, what would such a forward go for?

    Here are top 5 examples. It must be stressed that these forwards are NOT on the market and this is simply a subjective exercise to determine what their values could be if they were to come up for sale in the this transfer window or the summer.

Cristiano Ronaldo

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    MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY 13:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid controls the ball during the quarter-final Copa del Rey first leg match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on January 13, 2011 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Jas
    Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    Cristiano Ronaldo was plucked by Sir Alex Ferguson from Sporting Lisbon after Manchester United were defeated in a friendly match to celebrate Sporting inauguration of their new stadium. Such was the impact the the young Portuguese rising star had on the United players, that they persuaded Ferguson to splash over £12m on a relatively unknown and unproven but possible talent.

    It was as a 16 year old that Ronaldo was spotted by Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier, but the then Reds boss thought him too young and too raw and decided to wait and come back later. The rest as they say is history!

    Forced to take the responsibility of the No.7 shirt previously worn by such United heroes as George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona and David Beckham, Ronaldo went on to add his own name to the United greats to have had No.7 on their backs.

    With United, Ronaldo grew in character, stature and influence. His cocky raw talent was honed by Ferguson and as the years went on, the Portuguese winger collected player award after player award and trophy after trophy. He became only the second player ever to win the PFA Young Player of the Year and Player of the Year awards in the same season.

    In 2007, Ronaldo finished runner up to KaKa for the coveted Ballon d'Or and third in the FIFA World Player of the Year. 

    In 2008, the midfielder's 33rd goal of the season broke Best's United record of 32 goals for a midfielder that had stood since the 1967-68 season, he went on to amass 42 goals on all competitions that season.

    It was in the at same year that Ronaldo won the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards.

    Ronaldo's record for United was remarkable considering that he played in a variety of attacking positions including striker. In 292 games he scored 118 goals, helping United to three League titles, one Champions League triumph, one FIFA World Club Cup, one FA Cup, two Leagues Cups and a Community Shield.

    However, in June 2009 United sold Ronaldo to Real Madrid for a staggering £80m. 

    Many in the game thought that no one player could be worth such an astonishingly large price tag. 

    At Real, in his first season he was presented with the iconic No.9 shirt and scored 33 times in just 35 outings. 

    This season he was handed another iconic shirt number, this time that of Real legend Raul. With the No.7 shirt on his back, Ronaldo has scored 31 goals in 29 appearances and the second half of the season is still to come.

    On the international front, he is the Portuguese talisman and captain. He has become an inspiration to his team and scored 25 international goals in 79 appearances.

    The most amazing statistic of all is that Ronaldo is only 25 years old!

    When one compares the amount of money, £24m, forked out for Darren Bent by Aston Villa, then like for like what would the price be for Ronaldo? 

    The mind boggles! 

    It is even slightly embarassing to mention them in the same breathe, they are worlds apart when it comes to talent. But whereas Bent's scoring record is not too shabby when it come to Ronaldo's, there is no comparison; Ronaldo is Ronaldo and Bent is, I am afraid, just Bent.

    To put the worth of Ronaldo into context, Ronaldo's contract with Real Madrid has a buy-out clause, it is not certain whether Bent's Villa contract does. The whole idea of such clauses are to deter any suitors from coming near the club's prized asset.

    Notwithstanding the fact as to whether Villa have put a buy out clause into Bent's contract, Ronaldo's buy out clause at Real Madrid is an unbelievable €1bn!!

    Purely subjective and based on the £24m paid for Bent, then a price tag for Ronaldo of anything short of £100m-£120m would be appropriate and maybe even a bargain.

Lionel Messi

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 12:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona holds the Ballon d'Or trophy prior the Copa del Rey quarter final first leg match FC Barcelona and Betis at Camp Nou on January 12, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Lionel 'Leo' Messi has an impish boyish charm about him that endears him to all around him. The outstanding talent of this young Argentine is at times sublime, breath taking and a sheer job to behold.

    What makes Messi's story all the more of a fairytale is that at the age of eleven he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency syndrome. At the time, the Argentine club River Plate showed an interest in this rough diamond, but the Messi family were not financial able to pay for the $900 per month treatment costs.

    Barcelona became aware of this starlet and after watching him play in a trail, offered to pay for all his medical expenses on the premise that the family and Leo move to Spain.

    At the age of 16 years and 145 days Messi made his official first team debut for the Catalans and when he scored his first goal at the age of 17 years, 10 months and 7 days old, became the youngest player to score for Barcelona, at the time.

    The comparisons with the great Diego Maradona, were hard and still, are hard to ignore. Both are Argentine and possess magic in their left foot, both have graced the turf of Barcelona and both are idolised by the football fanatic Barca supporters.

    Messi is a one team player so far, but still at the tender age of 23, Barcelona have made it perfectly clear that if he wished, they would keep him at the club for his entire footballing career; such is the talent of the young man.

    In 2006, the Spanish club improved Messi's contract with increased wages due to his breaking into the first team and to lock him into the club until 2014, a further eight years.

    During the next seasons, Messi began to establish himself as a true footballing genius, blessed with great composure, balance, phenomenal dribbling abilities and a fabulous left foot. His label as the 'New Maradona' was not just hype as he went ably about filling the legend's No.10 shirt with aplomb.

    In fact, Leo replicated Maradona's 'goal of the century' against England in the 1986 World Cup finals against Getafe in April 2007, wherein he dribbled the same 62 metres, beat the same number of players (six, including the goalkeeper) and slotted the ball home from the same angle. To top it all off, he celebrated in the same vein as the great man himself with a sprint to the corner flag.

    Messi's footballing brilliance knows no bounds, he is the complete forward and his abilities are such that Barcelona consider their gem to be priceless.

    In 2007, the footballing world recognised the genius of this young man and he came third in the Ballon d'Or, in 2008 he was the runner up and in 2009 he was awarded the prestigious award. For many this was always forthcoming. 

    The FIFA World Player of the Year award followed the same order and in 2009, Messi was named as FIFA's World Player of the Year.

    In 2010, the two coveted awards were merged to form the FIFA Ballon d'Or and Messi was once again award this honour.

    The esteem with which the little magician is held is epitomized by his current manager Josep Guardiola, who described Leo as the probably the best player he has ever seen in his time in football.

    In late 2009, Barcelona again extended Messi's contract until 2016 and inserted a buy out clause of €250m.

    Messi's scoring record for Barca is astonishing and has improved season upon season. From 2006 he has hit over 30 goals every season and this season after 29 appearances he has scored 32 times. With the season only really half way through Messi looks well on course to beat his own record of 47 goals in 53 games set last season.

    In a total 243 appearances for the Catalans, Messi has hit the back of the net on a staggering 159 occasions and most of those breathtaking solo efforts or exemplary team efforts.

    On the international level, Leo has played for Argentina on 53 occasions in his short career so far, knocking in 15 goals in the process.

    It is without doubt that Messi, is already and will certainly take his place alongside the greatest to have ever played the game. In years to come his name will be utter alongside the other greats such as Pele and Maradona; and he will certainly not be out of place.

    So going back to Darren Bent and Villa; at £24m Bent is deemed to be an expensive acquisition and if this is the price for a player of Bent's calibre and stature, what would one pay for the services of Leo Messi?

    This is like attempting to put a price of a priceless piece of artwork or family heirloom, as would be the case with Barca.

    But using Bent's £24m as a benchmark and assessing both players' contributions to clubs and country, a value in excess of £150m for Leo Messi would not be exaggerated.

David Villa

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 16:  David Villa of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Malaga at Nou Camp on January 16, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
    David Ramos/Getty Images

    David Villa is a striker's striker, with a scoring record that is second to none. Without any disrespect to Villa's overall game, there is not much more to it than goals; but when you are as good at scoring them as he is, then you need little else.

    It seems that hitting the back of the net for this Spaniard is just all too easy, he has scored hatfuls of goals wherever he has played and at what ever age.

    Villa broke into the professional game with his local club Sporting de Gijon, making his first team debut in 2000-01 and scoring 25 goals in 65 appearances for their B team. This was rewarded with a move up to the main team where he continued scoring, bagging 40 goals in 85 matches.

    With Sporting suffering financial difficulties, Villa was sold to newly promoted Real Zaragoza in 2003 for €3m, where he hit 17 goals in his first season. The Spanish scoring machine went on to appear for Zaragoza on 92 occasions, scoring 41 times.

    His exploits made him a cult hero at Zaragoza and a firm fans favorite but once again the club he played for decided to ease their financial burdens by cashing in on their prized asset. In the summer of 2003 Villa was sold to Valencia for €12m.

    Villa opened his account for Valencia against his old club Zaragoza in only his second game, when he came on as a substitute and scored in the space of a minute of coming on and earning his new club a draw.

    The Spaniard's most audacious goal was arguably in 2006, when he scored against Deportivo de la Coruna from the half way line, if that was not special enough, he actually hit the shot on the turn!

    In 2005-06, Villa was awarded the Spanish player of the year award and it was at Valencia that he really established himself as a top European striker.

    The Spanish striker has pace and strength but his true ability is simply knowing where the goal is and putting the ball in it, with either foot or head. A goal poacher with a knack for being in the right place at the right time, Villa is simply one of the most natural goal scorers in the game today.

    His record at Valencia was astounding, in 212 matches Villa scored a remarkable 129 goals!

    Once again, his team at the time needed to cash in on Villa and after turning down offers from all the top European teams, it was Barcelona that acquired the Spanish ace's services for just over £34m in mid 2010.

    At Barcelona, just as he has at all his other clubs, Villa just keeps scoring; in the 26 games to date he has hit the net on 16 occasions.

    His overall scoring statistic make some of the most impressive in football today; in a career total of 480 matches, Villa has netted 251 goals!

    His international exploits are just as impressive; making his national debut in 2005, Villa has gone on to represent Spain on 70 occasions and scored a record-breaking 44 goals.

    In Euro 2008, he was the competition's leading scorer, earning the Golden Boot, with 4 goals. In the 2010 World Cup he earned the Silver Boot but more crucially won a World Cup Winners medal.

    In David Villa, Barcelona have arguably the best 'out and out' forward in the game and inserted into his Barcelona contract is a buy out clause in the amount of staggering £175m.

    So back to Darren Bent and his £24m move to Villa. Less than a year ago Barcelona paid £10m more for Villa's services. Just looking at the respective players' records it would seem that Barca got an absolute bargain when compared to Bent.

    If Barcelona were cash in on their star striker then, when compared to the Bent transfer fee, a value in the region of £100m would not be far off their expectation. Given the fact that Villa is 29 years old may limit his worth to around that figure!


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    MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 09:  Pato of AC Milan in action during the Serie A match between AC Milan and Udinese Calcio at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 9, 2011 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    Alexandre Rodrigues de Silva, is otherwise known as Pato or by his nicknamed "the duck".

    This young Brazilian sensation joined Italian giants AC Milan in 2007 from his native country's Internacional where he was a member of the squad that won the 2006 FIFA World Club Cup. It was during this event that the youngster broke the long standing record of being the youngest player to score in a FIFA organised tournament. The record was the great Pele's before Pato broke it at 17 years and 102 days.

    On his professional debut with Internacional, he scored in the first minute of the game and went on to fulfill all expectations in that game, with mazy dribbling and slalom runs past bemused defenders. Internacional knew they had a diamond in the rough in Pato.

    In mid 2007, the European Champions of the time, AC Milan took over Pato's contract but due to the regulations of the Italian transfer window, it was only official ratified in January 2008. The transfer fee for this teenager was a staggering €22m.

    Due to the incredibly young age of the Brazilian, the club integrated him into the first team squad cautiously but every time he was given an opportunity Pato impressed and slowly, despite his tender years, began to start more and more games.

    In 2009's season opener, Pato was in the starting line-up and scored in each half to secure an opening day win for Milan. Champions League goals also came when he scored two in a 3-2 win against Real Madrid, in Spain. And the young Brazilian went on to be awarded the 2009 Serie A Young Player of the Year Award.

    In the 105 games Pato has played for Milan, he has scored 49 goals. Add this to his time at Internacional, then his club scoring is a remarkable 61 goals in 132 appearances.

    Pato has also represented Brazil at U20 and U23 level and in 18 appearances has scored 10 times.

    Moving on to the full national team has not fazed the youngster and he even has a Confederation Cup Winners medal from 2009. In 11 appearances in the famous gold jersey, Pato has hit the net on 4 occasions.

    The most astonishing fact of this new Brazilian star is that he is still only just 21 years old. 

    Premier League clubs, in particular Chelsea, were interested in signing Pato in mid 2009, when the player would not yet have been 20 years old. The transfer fee was reported to be in the region of £45m.

    The existence of a buy out clause in Pato's Milan contract is possible and, if there, would be astronomical especially given his young age.

    If the transfer of Darren Bent is used as a bench mark at £24m, then if Chelsea were to renew their interest in the Brazilian talent, then figures closer to £75m would not be far off the mark.

Luis Alberto Suarez

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    AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 19: Luis Suarez of AFC Ajax celebrates scoring during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between AFC Ajax and AJ Auxerre at the Amsterdam ArenA on October 19, 2010 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Get
    Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

    Luis Suarez is a scoring sensation currently knocking in the goals at Dutch club Ajax. But if transfer speculation is to be believed, then he may be on the way to Merseyside to join Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool in the coming days.

    Suarez is a Uruguayan and has already played for his country at the highest level, at last year's FIFA World Cup Finals in South Africa.

    The youngster started his career at home with Nacional, where he scored 12 goals in 29 appearances and later moving to Groningen for €800,000 where he netted 10 in another 29 appearances.

    His play and scoring record started to attract top clubs and in mid 2007 Ajax paid a substantial €7.5m for Suarez in the hope that they had unearthed a gem.

    They could not have been more richly rewarded. The Uruguayan had successful partnerships with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Marko Pantelic, playing the supporting striker's role.

    Such was the growing influence of this young man, as goal scorer and leader, that Martin Jol on his arrival as manager in 2009, handed Suarez the captain's armband.

    In 2010, he was awarded the Dutch Footballer of the Year Award for his scoring record of 35 goals on 33 league appearances, with a total of 49 goals in all competitions. Suarez has joined a very select group of Dutch greats to have scored more than 100 goals for Ajax, names such as Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten and Dennis Bergkamp.

    His record for Ajax is an amazing 110 goals in 154 outing for the famous Dutch team and in his club career he has 139 goals in 222 appearances.

    His prolific scoring continued as he entered the international fray for Uruguay, where he has netted 16 goals in 39 outings.

    Suarez is a goal scoring machine and but more astonishing is that he operates more as a support striker, playing off an out and out front man. This would suggest that not only is his goal scoring a major string in his bow but also his all round team play.

    Additionally, to captain the famous Ajax is an honour not bestowed on many so young and also underlies the level head that rests on such young shoulders.

    At such a young age to have experienced the trials and tribulations of playing at the World Cup Finals can only add to the growing reputation of this raising star of world football.

    It may well be that in a few days Liverpool Football Club will have secured the services of Suarez, with a transfer fee of around £18-20m being touted about.

    Taking into consideration the £24m that Villa have just paid out for Darren Bent, Liverpool could well be in line for a major transfer bargain. This will of course depend if Suarez is able to reproduce his goal scoring in the Premier League where it does take players a while to settle into the rigours of the English game.

    But, it does appear that if the intended move does take place then, Liverpool would be getting a real bargain when the Bent transfer is put in comparison.

In Conclusion......

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    BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22:  Darren Bent of Aston Villa celebrates after scoring the opening goal on his debut during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Villa Park on January 22, 2011 in Birmingham, England.
    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    £24m man, Darren Bent did what he does best on his Villa debut; scored. Bent has an uncanny knack of scoring on his debut, a feat that he has also done for former clubs, Charlton Athletic and Sunderland.

    Despite, this scoring debut, the pressure will be on the Englishman to live up to and exceed his hefty price tag. By no means a household name in European or world football unlike the others on this list, Bent must start to push into the international set up if he is to be recognised as a star striker.

    Some would say that Bent actually wishes to have such a heavy ticket to carry around, as it provides credibility for his talents and shows that he is worth a big money move.

    However, whichever way you look at this, there are many more that would view this as too high a price to pay for his services, than would otherwise. And when you place such a price on Darren Bent, then the price for true European and world football's scoring forwards are elevated to levels that are simply beyond what many club could ever afford.

    Football transfer fees are pure subjective and based on perceived values placed on players by clubs. Whether the amounts paid by clubs ever matches the returns that these players bring to the club can only be measured in what they do best; goal scoring. And ultimately for the clubs themselves that their goals lead to silverware, that really is what all clubs look for when signing players.