Jim White

Silly money on offer at QPR

Jim White

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Tony Fernandes is hoping to take QPR to the next level

Queens Park Rangers felt moved to clarify yesterday that they were not paying Manchester City £4 million for Nedum Onouha but something closer to £2.5 million. And, now that he is to wear the hooped shirt, the player will not earn £80,000 a week as widely reported in the papers.

You think they do protest too much. At what point, even in the crazed economics of the Premier League, even if they are paying him a paltry 75 grand a week, will it dawn on QPR and their owner Tony Fernandes that they have been royally ripped off?

Onuoha, remember, is a player who couldn't even get into Manchester City's 25-man squad for the first half of the campaign. This is a player who has clocked up a full 10 minutes of Premier League football in 2011-12.

He might be a nice lad, an articulate chap with a string of GCSEs to his name, with a lovely mum who was royally abused by the City hierarchy, but how come he had sufficient upper hand in his transfer to demand and get a salary approaching £4m a year? And this from a club with a smaller crowd capacity than Bradford City. Or indeed Darlington, who found themselves stumbling around on the very lip of oblivion this week. What sort of negotiations were these?

Well, they were negotiations in which a man close to the player is one and the same as the manager's adviser: one Kia Joorabchian. As conflicts of interests go, that is one humdinger, even if Onuoha's family and Joorabchian's camp say he is not acting for the player in this transfer window.

I am not a great believer in conspiracy theories. For me, those responsible for flying into the Twin Towers were operatives of Al Qaeda, Princess Diana was killed in a tragic accident and when he was filmed bouncing cheerily across a lunar landscape, Neil Armstrong was on the moon, rather than in a warehouse in Wyoming. But when it comes to anything involving Kia Joorbachian, I'm inclined always to believe nothing is quite as transparent as it should be.

If you want to know how much QPR are over-paying Onuoha, compare his transfer to that of Gary Cahill. Now unlike Onouha, Cahill is a current England international. And when Chelsea came calling, he assumed that he would be joining the realms of the super rich. He and his agent demanded £100,000 a week. Chelsea, however, seeking to bring their wage bill in line with UEFA's impending financial fair play regulations, told him they were not going to go above £50,000.

Cahill, sensing he might miss out on the chance to join a Champions League club and anxious to further his career, capitulated. After all, on two-and-a-half million a year, he is not exactly facing the soup kitchen.

QPR, on the other hand, who have nothing like Chelsea's resources, look set to fork out the wages of Croesus to a bloke whose potential has remained largely untapped at his previous employer. This despite having all the cards in the negotiations, despite being able to offer a perpetual reserve first-team football. In truth, they should have been able to sign him on half the money he was on at City, simply because they could give him his purpose back.

You wonder in all this what Fernandes is doing. He is not a stupid man. He has made a lot of money in a number of businesses. He knows his way around a pound note. Yet, here he is, waving through something that if it occurred in the City of London might be seen as something approaching insider trading. Except, unlike the City of London version of the trick, there is absolutely nothing illegal in what Joorabchian has pulled off here. Nothing illegal, but something utterly, completely and totally unsustainable.

The moment you start paying silly money for non-marquee talent is the moment your business model goes up in smoke.

It is not as if the precedent is not there in football history. It is known as the Seth Johnson effect. Johnson was a journeyman player with Derby County who suddenly found himself immersed in the madness that was Peter Ridsdale's Leeds United. He went into negotiations for a contract and found himself offered a figure so wildly beyond his expectations he was obliged to sit down when he heard its extent.

What subsequently happened to Leeds United? Well, the regime that sanctioned such insanity has long since moved on. And this week, the club agreed to sell its best player to Norwich City. They couldn't afford to keep him, apparently, even though he was on nothing like the money Johnson was paid 15 years ago.

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