€90 million is van Dijk type money. De Ligt type money. Koulibaly type money. Not Harry Maguire type money.
Leicester City are, clearly, charging by square inch of skull
Ninety million pounds for Leicester's Harry Maguire. Say the words. Run your tongue over them. Gargle them in your mouth. Now spit. What do they taste like, those words? That concept? It's a peculiar flavour, isn't it? An odd texture. Ninety million Great British pounds for perhaps the quintessential Great British centre half: a big hefty northern lad called Jacob who heads footballs like he eats chip sarnies and eats chip sarnies like he heads footballs. He fucking wolfs them down, basically.
This is nothing against Slabhead, let me be clear. He is an excellent defender. He's also really good at moving the ball and at carrying it out from the back, too, even if he does resemble a bank vault tumbling down some stairs when he runs. This is no slight on him.
At the World Cup, in particular, he was marvellous and there was a unique, perverse kind of joy to be gained from the realisation that opposing nations had simply no idea what to do in response to this unearthed Easter Island head in tap shoes.
But ninety million pounds. There is something about that figure that is just completely preposterous. And this is in a transfer window during which everyone has watched, mouth agape, as a 19-year-old João Félix has moved from Benfica to Atletico Madrid for £113 million after a single season in their senior team.
Maguire is a top-four standard Premier League central defender and established England international. And yet. And yet...whether it is symptomatic of the over-inflated fees for English players, or lack of top-quality centre-backs, or the multiplying factor of Maguire being both of those, or none of that at all, £90 million for Harry Maguire seems, no, is, utterly ridiculous.
Former Crystal Palace fullback Aaron Wan-Bissaka moved to Manchester United a week ago. He has, to his name, 42 senior professional football appearances, is yet to play for England and was signed for £50 million. You'd have to argue much of that fee was directly proportional to Wan-Bissaka's considerable promise, but then again he has been signed to play in a position where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer already has Diogo Dalot, a 20-year-old who himself cost £19 million and was purchased for his own apparent promise last summer.
Apparently, nothing makes sense in this dystopian football marketplace, least of all the price tags.
Maybe it's just Manchester United then, the club willing to spend princely sums on pauper players with no apparent plan or motive. This is the team, after all, who bought Fred for £50 million and let the infinitely superior Ander Herrera leave for free with the Brazilian still floundering. The less said about the acquisitions of Alexis Sanchez, Angel Di Maria, Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marouane Fellaini and Morgan Schneiderlin the better.
All are, or in most cases were, good players. All cost eye-popping amounts. None of them can be argued to have been anything close to resembling a success at Old Trafford.
Specifically, maybe it's the desperate need to recover from the succession of poor centre half signings the club has made over the past few seasons that is fuelling the Maguire bidding. That murderer's row of Chris Smalling then Phil Jones then Marcos Rojo then Eric Bailly then Victor Lindelof. I mean, it's gradually getting better, isn't it? They're gradually getting closer to being able to name a single world-class defender on their teamsheet. Remember when they had two of them at the back together for the best part of a decade?
Why don't their signings stick like that anymore?
In fairness to Slabhead, he would be more of a success than those names at United. He would command the backline, help get the best out of the very occasionally plastic-bag-blowing-in-the-wind stylings of Victor Lindelof, who is otherwise quite good, and play for the club at a consistently high level for the next six or seven seasons. But for £90 million you just need more. You need far more than that. You should be lifting a team. Completely elevating them. Unfortunately, Maguire doesn't move the needle that much. Add him to their starting XI and they go from challenging for the fourth spot in the Premier League to... challenging for the fourth spot in the Premier League. This is United. Fourth or better used to be a given. it used to be a basic requirement.
£90 million is Virgil van Dijk type money. Matthijs De Ligt type money. Kalidou Koulibaly type money. With all due respect to Harry Maguire, and Harry Maguire's bonce the size of Jupiter, he is not close enough to players of that calibre to warrant that fee. If reports are to be believed, De Ligt turned United down and Napoli aren't selling Koulibaly for anything less than his release clause, somewhere in the £110-120m range. You don't need me to tell you van Dijk isn't moving anytime soon.
But there are world-class centre backs out there available for far less. The £70 million United actually bid for Maguire would almost certainly get them French World Cup-winner Samuel Umtiti from Barcelona, or even tempt Inter Milan into parting ways with their best player, Milan Skriniar, the kind of defender that brick walls dream about wanting to be when they grow up. Roma's Greek international Kostas Manolas was available for half the Maguire bid. He has gone to Napoli. As was Bayern Munich's Mats Hummels, who has now moved back to Borussia Dortmund.
Unfortunately, it is now very clear they are willing to pay over the odds for a very good, but ultimately not great, centre-back. If they had any bargaining power before in the market (they didn't) this it has now vanished in a puff of smoke. Even so, there is still scepticism abound that they will actually buy Maguire for the amount being touted.
Partly because they still have Axel Tuanzebe, who is already brilliant and could develop to be even better than Slabhead, ready and waiting to start games for them in the Premier League.
Partly because Ed Woodward will hear Shkrodan Mustafi is available from Arsenal for a knockdown price of £30 million and partly because I genuinely think he will consider buying him. Thoughts and prayers, United fans. Thoughts and prayers.