Chris Goreham: Norwich City has every right to expect value for money in the transfer market... take note Barcelona
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Norfolk, the graveyard of ambition. It’s not the sort of welcoming message to write on the road signs but we all know that’s what outsiders think.
Living in a place that is so good you don’t want to leave has always struck me as perfectly reasonable but I guess it depends on your definition of ambition.
Football supporters across the country have been pouring scorn on Norwich City for apparently wrecking the dreams of their most promising young players. That’s after the club greeted Barcelona’s interest in Max Aarons with the sort of welcome reserved for second home owners turning up during a global pandemic.
Those who haven’t read or thought beyond the headline have made up their minds. This is the same Norwich City who didn’t let Jamal Lewis join Liverpool earlier in the summer. They think Stuart Webber is rounding up promising young footballers and holding them against their will in the dungeons at Norwich Castle. That must be why it features on the club’s badge. He’s not so much the sporting director as The Child Catcher in an expensive suit. No wonder he signed a goalkeeper called Krul.
That logic dictates that a club like Norwich City has no right to expect value for money for their assets. If Liverpool or Barcelona send an email it should be printed immediately so that it can be either framed or used to fan Webber to stop him from fainting at such interest. If a huge club offers £12 and a set of tracksuits for one of our players he must be sold straight away.
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I’m not naïve. Norwich City have their place in football’s food chain and one of the truths that comes with supporting The Canaries is that any player who is too good will not be around for long. For me it was Dale Gordon, Robert Fleck and Chris Sutton but you’ll have your own memories of hearing that your favourite player had been sold. The business model for Norwich City requires players to go from pleasing The Barclay Stand to Barclay’s Bank in order to keep the club afloat. It’s not romantic, or the stuff of dreams but that’s the way it is.
Experience also tells us that if a bigger fish really wants to gobble up one of our promising planktons they will find a way. If I was Jamal Lewis or Max Aarons I might feel a bit sad that Liverpool or Barcelona were turned down but I’d also want to know why they didn’t want me enough to try harder. If Newcastle can afford Lewis, Liverpool definitely could have done. If Leicester City can get James Maddison, Barcelona have the chequebook large enough to be able to choose whoever they want from the Carrow Road dressing room.
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If the truth is that Barca only wanted Aarons on loan it would have deprived City of both the player and the money he is worth this season. For the club to succeed they need one or the other.
It’s not about if Norwich City sell players it’s about what they do when one goes. It is possible to make millions in the transfer market and progress as a club. Southampton have shown the way. They’ve sold so many players to Liverpool in recent years that the Saints’ training ground is probably on the Friends and Family list on the phones at Anfield. Yet Southampton remains a stable Premier League club.
Webber and Daniel Farke deserve great credit for the way they have turned Aarons and Lewis as well as James Maddison into highly sought after talent. Ben Godfrey and Todd Cantwell could be next.
It’s worth pointing out that all of those players were already at the club when Webber and Farke arrived. Some fine recruitment work has clearly been going on behind the scenes for several years but it’s taken skilful, delicate management to get them to where they are now. It shows how much time and effort goes into creating a Max Aarons and why getting value for money when they go is essential.
The real test for Norwich City will be unearthing more talent to replace them. That’s what the dungeon at Norwich Castle is for.