It's been almost a year now since we completed the record £50 million signing of Fernando Torres, and if we had it all to do over again I don't think anyone in their right mind would recommend doing the same deal again. While Fernando is still a useful player and has been playing much better of late it's hard to find any level of performance that would justify his huge price tag. In that regard I feel he's very similar to quite a few names we've been linked to over the past year or so and should be keeping the Torres purchase in mind when speculating about names like Hulk, Perreira, Kaka, Moutinho, Tiote, and Modric.
At first glance none of those other players would appear to have all that much in common with Torres. Where Torres has struggled in any role other than the center of the attack, all of the aforementioned players have shown the ability to play in several roles with some degree of success. All would likely be cheaper than Torres, although in Modric and Hulk's respective cases it wouldn't be much cheaper. What the Torres buy should have alerted us to is several red flags that all of the guys I listed above share with our #9, and after the jump I'll get into why I feel we should be avoiding every single one of those guys this window.
The financial realities of life for Chelsea FC now that FFP has come into play are going to have to be different than what we've become accustomed to. In years past we've been able to make expensive luxury purchases of guys like Schevchenko without having a truly pressing need for the player. We were able to round out our bench with players like Deco and Zhirkov that would start basically anywhere else just due to the vast sums of money that Uncle Roman was providing, and while it was awfully fun to watch we're certainly going to have to be a bit more frugal to comply with the new rules.* While in the past we simply had to ask a question about the quality of the player we were looking at we now need to be asking ourselves several other questions.
*There is no set punishment for failure to comply with FFP yet (despite the media's assumption that it involves banishment from the CL), but I'd much rather let City be the club to call UEFA's bluff on this one
How many seasons can we reasonably expect to get out of this player? - FFP in combination with squad limits imposed by UEFA and the FA are really going to make it difficult to just drop well paid players as they enter into their mid-30's (see Lampard, Frank and Drogba, Didier). Regardless of their declining effectiveness, some of these players are still going to have to occupy important roles for the club. With that in mind we really need to be planning on parting ways with the majority of these guys as they reach their early 30's. Any player we are looking at over the age of 25 is likely only going to be useful for the duration of his initial contract with very little in the way of a return at the end of it. When the club gets additional years out of a player who extends their contract it certainly makes any transfer fees paid out go a lot further.
Is or will this player ever become homegrown? - Homegrown players are always going to be worth more in resale value. This needs to be taken into account when purchasing the player.
Are we getting any sort of discount on the player? - In the case of Gary Cahill we got a bit of a break due to the fact that he was almost out of contract with Bolton. We got a relatively good deal on Raul Meireles because he was unhappy at Liverpool. Milos Krasic would potentially be a cheap buy because he's out of favor at Juventus. Guys like these aren't costing the same immense transfer fees of players like Tiote and Moutinho who recently renewed their contracts and have been performing very well, therefore offering little chance of getting a similar return after being a short term (albeit very good) player.
Does the player still have a reasonable chance of improving? - When we look at players like Lukaku and Romeu we purchase them with the expectation that they will still be improving in the future. Players like Ramires, Mata, and Luiz also fit this description very well. All of those guys will potentially be worth more in the future than at the time of purchase regardless of whether or not we sell them. Fernando Torres was already a finished product when we purchased him. Hulk, Perreira, and Modric would all fit this mold as well. That's probably something we should be avoiding whenever possible. There will be times when we need to fill a very specific hole and have to buy a player in their prime, but it should be a very rare way to purchase going forward.
Just how good is the player? - Certain players will just never be more than role players, while certain players will be the ones you can build your team around. Didier Drogba was one we could build our team around. Torres was potentially that type of player as well. You could make the argument that Luka Modric is that type of player. If the player in question is not that type of player and isn't young enough to develop into that type of player there is very little reason to believe he'd be a good buy at £25 million or more.
Do we need that player right now? - It's January. We're 1/2 way through the season. Is the player in question going to give us a reasonable chance to overtake the top of the table? Are we at real risk of missing the top 4 because we don't add this player? Is the player in question cup tied at all? Will there be other similar players available in the summer that could better fill our needs? The January market is very rarely a buyers market, so any moves that can wait until the summer should be left until that point.
Will this player have resale value anywhere close to the initial transfer fee? - This question is influenced by all of the others. Are we getting any sort of discount on the player initially? Will the player still have good years left for another club when his contract is running down? Is there upside to improve still? There are certain players who will still be good buys even without future resale value, but most of them will cost £10-15 million or less. Any player who will probably have a resale value close to their initial transfer fee will probably be a good buy. If we know that they won't have anything close to the same value we should be avoiding them like the plague.
Fernando Torres may well be turning a corner on his Chelsea career. I certainly hope so, as he's been a very good player for a long time and would bring a lot to the team if he found his Liverpool form. Regardless of that fact though, he'll never be able to justify his immense price tag and should never have been purchased at his ridiculous price. Torres should be a lesson in what to avoid on the transfer market going forward, and guys like Hulk, Modric, and Perreira have enough in common with Torres that they should scare the shit out of each and every one of us. All of those players would be excellent fits at reasonable prices, but none of them will be available for a reasonable price. They are all old enough that they won't give the club 8-10 good seasons. None of them are likely to improve much going forward, and all will likely decline a good amount before they leave Chelsea. The best thing to do at this point with Torres is to cross our fingers and hope to get as much out of him as we can. He should serve as a constant reminder of what to avoid on the market though, as he certainly highlights almost everything that FFP is going to make us stay away from going forward.