1979 was the year the football transfer market was turned on its head. One Trevor John Francis had just spent a year on loan with North American Soccer League outfit Detroit Express from Birmingham City, when the striker was subject of to one-million-pound offer from Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest. The striker will be forever etched on football folklore, not only in England, but across the world.
Fast-forward almost 40 years and that same market has become a landscape of inflation, exaggerated market value and mind-blowing agent fees. The notion of a defender being part of such a staggering rise in rapidly astounding market however, would in previous years have been reserved for only the pinnacles of their field.
When Rio Ferdinand made the switch from Leeds United across the Roses divide to Manchester United in 2002, the England defender became the most the most expensive British player in history, with the former West Ham United centre-back regaining his title as the most expensive defender in world football.
For a fee which The Telegraph reported to finally conclude at around £33.3m, that tag has been repeatedly smashed by the likes of Thiago Silva and David Luiz – twice – in recent years, but in this season’s summer alone on multiple occasions.
Leonardo Bonucci, Kyle Walker, Bernard Mendy – to name but three – now all have price tags of £35m+ attached to their rather expectant selves. It is refreshing to see the other level of defender value in the current financial climate. Harry Maguire looks an absolute steal for Leicester City at £25m and future England centre back. A player for just a fifth of that fee, however, is already making an impact in the West Midlands.
Ahmed Hegazi, recruited by West Bromwich Albion during the post-season on loan from Egyptian Premier League side Al Ahly, has already seen the 26-year-old has assimilated into life in England with aplomb – despite his one calamitous blot on his start, versus Stoke City last weekend.
That error will be a vital learning curve nonetheless. Scoring on his debut for the Baggies – remarkably just his second career goal – West Brom remain unbeaten into the international break, but more importantly fits Tony Pulis’ mould as a goal-scoring centre-half, at 6’5.
Hegazi’s positioning has been exquisite, and his aerial ability is, obviously, his biggest asset. His reading of the English however, belies that of an individual with so little top-level experience across Europe.
In a market of growing absurdity in financial terms, players of pedigree are still readily available and at a relative, despite what the footballing world will have you believe. In the case of not just Hegazi then, that reality is a decidedly refreshing outlook.