Some historical context to consider when buying an expensive striker

July 28 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Chelsea FC forward Fernando Torres (9) shoots as AC Milan midfielder Djamel Mesbah (15) deflects it during the second half of the 2012 World Football Challenge at SunLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE

Chelsea are still looking for depth at striker, I think we're all keenly aware of that fact by now. If you follow twitter at all, it seems that the vast majority of the fanbase is screaming for the club to add a guy like Hulk or Edinson Cavani to fill that role (although Hulk can certainly play the wing as well). Should the club end up actually buying either, there's a good chance that they will end up costing in the vicinity of £35 million. That would put them in elite company, as there are very few players at or over the age of 25 that can justify such a price tag. With that in mind, I'm going to look at 10 players who have sold for a similar fee and try to determine exactly how it worked out for the club that bought the player*. First up, I'll look at the 2 most expensive strikers that Chelsea have ever signed.

*I've put the player's age at the time of the deal in parenthesis and am only looking at players 25 or older.

  • Fernando Torres (26) - Chelsea's purchase of Torres is the second most expensive center forward buy in history. I'm sure we're all familiar with 'Nando, and I don't think even the most enthusiastic supporter can call the signing anything but a massive failure. There is still time to turn this one around, but the odds of him ever justifying the price tag are basically non-existent.
  • Andriy Shevchenko (29) - Shevy was a great player for AC Milan. Chelsea paid about £31 million for his greatness. He gave Chelsea 2 very underwhelming seasons before heading back to Italy (on loan and then on a permanent basis). With the player having left the club after scoring only 22 official goals, this deal can only be viewed as a colossal failure.

Not so good thus far, eh? After the jump, we'll look at 8 more aged 25 and older strikers who sold for a massive fee to clubs other than Chelsea.

  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic (27) - "I am Zlatan" became the most expensive center forward in the history of the game when FC Barcelona purchased him from Inter Milan (around £61 million). Ibra would stay at Barca for 1 season, making 45 appearances and netting 21 goals in all competitions. While the return wasn't bad, it certainly wasn't good enough to justify the price tag (especially when he was sold for over £40 million less than he was purchased for after a single season). Ibra is a fantastic player, but this deal was a massive failure.
  • Radamel Falcao (25) - Falcao moved from Porto to Atletico Madrid last season for a fee of 40 million that could eventually reach 47 million. He had 36 goals in all competitions last year, so the early signs look very encouraging. I'm not going to call this deal a massive success after just a single season, but it's certainly looking very good right now.
  • Christian Vieri (26) - Vieri went from Lazio to Inter for a world record fee of £32 million. In 6 seasons with the club he banged out 125 goals, so it's hard to view this one as anything other than a success. He eventually left on a free, but Inter can call this buy money pretty well spent.
  • Dimitar Berbatov (27) - Berba cost Manchester United a bit over £30 million, and few would argue that he's been worth more than a fraction of that fee. He's been a solid backup for most of his time at United, but in his 4 seasons at the club he's totaled only 55 goals. He's been a useful part, but he was a massive overpay in terms of what he's actually produced.
  • David Villa (28) - Barcelona paid 40 million for Villa after they cut the cord on the Zlatan, and they've been rewarded with 32 goals in 76 games. That's not bad by any stretch, but for a club with the firepower of Barcelona it's nothing to brag about either. That price tag is probably about right if he scores at the same rate for the next 3 years, but at 30 years of age it seems unlikely that he will. The jury is still out on this one though, and there's always the chance that it might end up looking better down the line. For now I'll give it a "meh", but I suspect it will look pretty bad by the time he eventually leaves the club.
  • Hernan Crespo (25) - Crespo cost Lazio £35 million when he moved from Parma to Lazio, a world record at the time. He'd bang out a fairly impressive 48 goals in his 2 seasons there, but Lazio would be forced to sell him for about half of what they paid after those 2 seasons. I'm not going to call this a flop, but I'm not going to call it money well spent either. This one earns a solid "meh" in terms of value.
  • Ronaldo (25) - Ah, Ronaldo. He was one of the best players ever to play the game, but injuries and off the pitch issues leave me wondering what could have been. He moved from Inter to Real Madrid for 46 million, and 101 goals later he sold for 8 million. That's a good return on investment in my eyes, although it falls well short of being great.
  • Marc Overmars (27) - Overmars went for £25 million at the turn of the century, moving from Arsenal to Barcelona. He'd last 4 seasons at the club, notching 19 goals in all competitions. It's hard to view this deal as anything short of a massive failure.
  • All told, I'd look at these 10 transfers with the following results: 5 very poor signings, 2 that make me say "meh" (one of which could still change in either direction), 2 that were pretty good, and 1 that looks great after just 1 season. That's not a very good success rate in general, and it could certainly look worse in a few years.

    Edinson Cavani, Hulk, and Fernando Llorente are all very good players. If I was in charge of Chelsea's transfer decision making, I wouldn't be targeting any of them. From a historical perspective, these types of expensive signings rarely work out. People seem to view these "proven" strikers as being less of a risk due to their track record, but the sad truth is that they really aren't. If Chelsea are going to spend massive money on a center forward, buying younger and less "proven" seems to be where the better value would most likely be at.


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