London Chessboxing: The Murky Calculus of the Coming Modric Transfer Saga

DON'T BLINK DON'T BLINK DON'T BLINK DON'T BLINK DON'T BLINK (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

By way of starting, let me ask a question, see how much traction this gets:

How much money is avoiding a protracted summer transfer saga worth?

I mean that in the following way: So let's say Levy values Luka Modric at £40M, and had decided not to take a penny (or farthing/ha'penny/half-dragon) less. To my mind, there are many ways of coming to that number, all of them fraught with difficulty. Here are three that I thought through:

1) You hold out for all £40M from Real Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain or whomever and get it at the last minute. By then you've played a whole preseason and at least two Premier League games with this cloud hanging over the situation, the effect of which...well, who can say. Assuming you haven't bought a replacement yet (and really, you couldn't have, as that would indicate that you WERE intending to sell, regardless of your threats), you've got to go do that, as well. You're the desperate one now, but do you overpay? Won't that dent the £40M - as well as the hard-nosed reputation - you've worked so hard to build? What does that brinksmanship cost? And how does that cost (ephemeral as it may be) weigh against actual pounds sterling?

2) You let Luka go for a little less than the £40M you were gunning for, figuring the loss in actual millions can be made up in other places, such as in negotiations for a replacement and value in other areas of the market. However, there are other costs as well: Your reputation as a hard-ass is tarnished, and has put other players on notice that you can be held to ransom. The hits you might take later on in other contract disputes and dealing with wantaway players has a value, too, but how do you put a price tag on it?

3) You cut your losses, take the £30M Florentino Perez has put on the table and walk away. If you're Daniel Levy in this situation, you have decided that the Spurs evolution you've overseen - the hallmark moment of which must be the firing of Harry Redknapp and subsequent installing of Andre Villas-Boas at the helm of the first team, along with the opening of the Bulls Cross training ground and work on the NDP - is worth more than the demands of a single player, i.e. that the loss you've taken in the transfer is nullified by less quantifiable gains in momentum and esprit de corps. No one individual is bigger than the club. But as we've discussed at length here on the site, Modric's value cannot be pinned to any one stat, or even a single number, really: When you place a valuation on a player like Modric, who has been integral to the identity and success of the club for years beforehand, how much do money do you ask for in risking the one person who really made the whole enterprise tick over? After all, the success of the club is ultimately measured in results on the pitch, and the known quantity of Modric's contribution is inversely proportionate to how much that contribution is worth in cold, hard cash.

Really, the underlying difficulty here is one of assigning value. A transaction such as a transfer of a player from one club to another has a hard, bottom-line monetary value, but it also costs (or collects) vastly different kinds of coins: There is a cost to morale, plus or minus. It costs preparation and familiarity, plus or minus. It costs momentum, plus or minus. And those more ephemeral payments ultimately make the accounting surrounding the Modric situation profoundly difficult. Friends, I'm just a lowly fan, and I'm terrible at math, and I need to help me understand: How do we count the cost? And when is enough, enough?

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