James McCarthy is one of the best young players in Britain. The 22-year-old was arguably Wigan Athletic's best player in a season where they won the FA Cup. They were relegated, yes, but no reasonable person could possibly pin that on him. He looked to be a level above the majority of his teammates all year, and he was consistently at the top of his game.
McCarthy has also been a highly-touted prospect for a long time. He was probably the best teenager in the Scottish Premier League during his time with Hamilton, before he moved to Wigan. He's performed consistently well with lots of different midfield partners, in different formations, and has improved every season. He's also worked his way into a key role for Ireland, despite Giovanni Trappatoni's reluctance to play both young players and creative players.
In addition to all that, McCarthy is under contract with Wigan until the conclusion of the 2015-16 season. His wages are in the neighborhood of £30k per week, which are a bit high but still affordable for a team of Wigan's limited means and Championship status.
Basically, Wigan have absolutely no incentive to sell McCarthy at a low price. Even if he doesn't want to play in the Championship and prefers a move, Wigan can hold out for a huge fee because his value isn't dropping anytime soon. Even if he sulks, he's good enough that he'll dominate at the Championship level, then still have an additional two years remaining on his contract.
And yet, despite all of this, the entire world seems to be scoffing at Wigan's rumored £20m asking price. Why, because fans of clubs like Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal feel entitled to get any player in the Championship on the cheap simply because they're too good for the Championship? What about McCarthy's performances, career trajectory and contract situation suggests that Wigan should hold out for anything less than a king's ransom?
Personally, I'm not interested in seeing Tottenham pay £20m for any midfielder that isn't a proven world-class commodity. I'm more willing to take a chance on a young and up-and-coming player in a different position, like Luke Shaw, Bernard or Rodrigo, but I wouldn't be horrified if Daniel Levy paid up. McCarthy's a very good player and it's going to be hard for Spurs to do a lot better -- both in terms of immediate impact and potential resale value -- than they will with the Wigan star.
Perhaps Spurs shouldn't buy McCarthy, but don't laugh at their asking price. It's perfectly reasonable.