As a boy I sold our pet rabbit, Schwarzenegger, for the princely sum of a cola-flavored Push Pop and a second hand copy of Golden Axe for the Sega Megadrive. It was a remarkably 80s transaction, and one that I was mostly happy with. Yes, there was a bug in the game that meant the axe wielding Dwarf would occasionally chop off his own legs. And yes Schwarzenegger was actually snatched from his new home by an owl, but all in all it was a successful piece of salesmanship.
But when it comes to the art of the sell in Premier League football, there is one man who puts my pet exchange very much in the shade. Outstanding selling is quite the achievement in a sport that now determines success as much by the players bought in as the trophies won, leaving the business of sales strangely forgotten.
Usually, at this time of year, we are gleefully scrutinising every lump of cash that is swapped for lump of footballer – but this year, it has been the outward-bound transactions of Jose Mourinho in particular that we should be paying attention to.
David Luiz departing for Paris St Germain for £40 million is, by any standards a stunning piece of business. Even if we ignore the chortling wags who pointed out that you wouldn’t swap post-World Cup Luiz for a roll of smashed Polos, it is still a hefty sum for a player that Mourinho never considered to be an immediate pick.
David Luiz unveiled by PSG… pic.twitter.com/V9DmTIKl3d
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) August 7, 2014
Now he’s also picked up close to £30 million for Romelu Lukaku, with Mourinho on more that one occasions questioning the forward’s commitment to the hard yards required to become a Chelsea first teamer. Lukaku, built like two bears welded together and with a fairly reliable eye for goal, will most likely do well at Everton. But to be part of the Mourinho family you have to run through all the walls, not just the ones that won’t leave brick dust on your Gucci slacks. So off goes another fringe player, and in comes another bag of cash weighty enough to buy Jose a gillet made from rubies and kraken beaks.
Add this to the £37 million he prized from David Moyes’ sporran for Juan Mata (again, not fancied) and the £18 million he got for Kevin de Bruyne (again, questionable attitude) Mourinho has brought in over £100 million for 4 players who would have been sat on the bench playing thumb wars with Jon Obi Mikel.
Unlike Manchester United, who are yet to sell the dead wood, and Southampton who have sold all the wood, Chelsea have sold smart, freeing them up to be one of Europe’s few top clubs who have strengthened both the quality of their squad and their compliance with Financial Fair Play.
He makes me think that a broken 16-bit beat em up and novelty confectionary were not, in fact, a great exchange for a beloved family pet. I’m sorry Schwarzenegger. I know you won’t be back.