Mercato Mercato – Chelsea – From Mangala to Maguire: will Fofana suffer the curse of the most expensive defenders?

It may be because he knows the weight of the tag that Rio Ferdinand has been relatively lenient with Harry Maguire since joining Manchester United. Like the former Leicester defender, the former Red Devils defense boss was, for a very long time, the most expensive defender on the planet. From 2002 to 2014. From now on, this title, sometimes heavy to bear, rests on the admittedly broad shoulders of a Maguire who has collected more jokes than praise since his signing in Manchester. “You can’t say he’s a dead player, he was incredible with England (…). It’s the Manchester way of playing that doesn’t suit him“, defended Ferdinand again last spring.

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One can easily understand that, in the brotherhood of the most expensive players in history, indulgence is a shared value. Because they are some to have bent under the weight of a title very difficult to assume. At a time when Chelsea are ready to give the crown to Wesley Fofana for compensation of between 90 and 100 million euros, the former Stéphanois must know what to expect: the fate of expensive defenders, particularly in Premier League, is often dark.


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Maguire and Fofana during Manchester United – Chelsea

Credit: Getty Images

Mangala, Otamendi, Stones and the failures of City

Starting with that of Eliaquim Mangala. It was he who became the most expensive defender in history in 2014, succeeding the immense Rio Ferdinand. “It’s a pride“, he trumpeted in the columns of the Parisian a few weeks later. Bought 53.8 million by Manchester City, he will find it difficult to bear the weight of expectations in the Premier League. If he plays during the first two seasons, he does not convince the Kingdom.”You can’t give someone a brain. This is Mangala’s problem. He makes sometimes appalling decisions“, demolishes it Chris Sutton, consultant on the BBC. The arrival of Samuel Umititi at the Blues and Pep Guardiola at Manchester City will jointly put a big brake on his career in the French team and in club. Mangala will not be never live up to the record amount of his transfer.

Eliaquim Mangala during his presentation at Manchester City in 2014

Credit: Getty Images

Rest assured, he is not the only one in this case because the market has lost its mind for 6 years and the arrival of Guardiola in England. Of the 20 most expensive defenders in history, thirteen have signed in the Premier League and seven with Cityzens. The champions of England have long sought providential men and have very often been wrong. Arrived a year after Mangala in Manchester and for four million less, Nicolas Ottamendi was the dolphin of the French for an equally relative success. In 2016, it was John Stones who became the most expensive defender (55.6 million euros) in the world and if he too combined the matches, the English international, heckled by the press, did not really consolidate the City defense which remains the team’s Achilles’ heel.

The van Dijk exception

In 2017, the crown changed hands again. This time, it is Liverpool who decide to entrust their destiny to Virgil van Dijk against 85 million euros. Arrived from Southampton, in a transfer between English clubs which contributed to his incredible amount, the Dutchman becomes one of the best defenders in the world. He is, since Ferdinand, the only most expensive defender to have figured in this caste. Since neither Gerard Pique, nor Sergio Ramos, nor Carles Puyol, nor Giorgio Chiellini, nor Diego Godin, in their heyday, panicked the market.

Virgil van Dijk, the beacon of Liverpool

Credit: Marko Popovic

For years, the transfer window, boosted by a Premier League where money is flowing, has overvalued defenders who, with the exception of van Dijk and then Ruben Dias, have never been among the supreme references in their position. (Maguire, White, Stones, Aké, Mangala, Otamendi, Sanchez etc.). The reasoning even extends to the side of the full-backs with a Benjamin Mendy who has long held the prize of the most expensive left defender in the world without ever justifying City’s investment in him, just like Aaron Wan-Bissaka, right-back the more expensive in 2019 before a very poor experience at United at the moment.

On the side of the centrals, Maguire, who has become the laughing stock of the Kingdom, therefore succeeded van Dijk as if to recall the curse of the most expensive defenders. Again, the label is difficult to assume for a player who multiplies the approximations. Wesley Fofana is expected to take over for Chelsea. Good luck to him.

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