There are reports by British papers and Sky Sports that Manchester United want to buy Athletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann for £155 and Monaco wonder-kid Kylian Mbappe for £72m.
They already broke the world transfer record last summer when buying midfield maestro Paul Pogba for £89m from Juventus. And their total spending over the last few years since legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson retired has been astronomical.
However, it is safe to say that their last few seasons have been underwhelming at best. They have finished outside the coveted Champions League positions on multiple occasions and have only now just started to win trophies again under current manager Jose Mourinho.
We could question then, whether their current big money spending is about something other than getting results on the pitch. To buy one player for £155m seems a bit extreme. Could Griezmann make that much difference? Maybe. Maybe not. His resale value would certainly not be any higher, he’s 26 already and nearing his peak as a striker. Perhaps United could recoup the majority of his transfer fee with Griezmann shirt sales and other commercial ventures which the prolific Frenchman would bring.
But, there may be alternative reasons behind Manchester United’s mega spending. Let us turn to economics and signalling theory to explain their transfer behaviour.
Manchester United may be spending these large sums to signal their own quality. Because they’re are not as successful on the pitch at the moment, they may be worried about losing fans and, therefore, need to show off marquee signings to attract future generations to support them instead of their rivals.
Economic theory suggests that large firms make costly signals through advertising. Companies such as Apple and Coca Cola spend vast amounts of money on advertising to separate themselves from their lesser competitors. It’s not so much what their adverts are saying but the fact that they are engaging in multi-million pound advertisements that signal success. Could this be what Manchester United are engaging in with their marquee signings?
It’s difficult to say with any degree of certainty why United are spending so highly on individual players at the moment. It may just be that they are paying the market value for players … because it’s not just them buying footballers for insane transfer fees. The answer may be a bit of everything.