Revealed: Sunderland’s approach to spending transfer fees under Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and the big budget myth busted
Sunderland’s hierarchy are willing to sanction fees for signings this summer - but only in the right circumstances.
National reports of a £1million bid being lodged by the club for popular loanee Dion Sanderson had supporters talking, with mixed views.
While some were pleased to see the ambition shown by the club - and indeed urged the club to reach Wolves’ reported £2million valuation - others queried whether such a large portion of the club’s transfer kitty should be spent on a defensive player.
But here’s the thing with transfer budgets - they don’t really exist in the way many think they do.
Generally, clubs don’t operate in the way that many football computer games would suggest they do. A manager isn’t usually handed a lump sum and is then allowed to spend it freely.
More often than not, it’s up to the management and wider recruitment team to put forward a case for a signing before those higher up the chain - the sporting director or chairman - sanction the deal.
There are still financial constraints of course, and there will be an overarching budget, but it isn’t as clear-cut and inflexible as is often perceived.
And that is certainly the case at Sunderland who showed their willingness to adapt in the January window.
While the fee to sign Ross Stewart was modest in comparison to some of the club’s other expenditures - the deal was reported to be worth around £300,000 in Scottish outlets - it was significant in the sense that the money was spent during a window in which very little cash changed hands in League One.
It showed that under the new regime, Sunderland won’t be afraid to spend money if they can see the long-term value.
And that will be the case in this summer transfer window, too.
Lee Johnson has previously spoken of ensuring that where money is spent, it is essentially viewed as an investment.
“You don't want to be frivolous and waste money,” said the head coach, speaking to a recent episode of the #SAFCUnfiltered Podcast.
"You want to know that every pound you're spending is effectively investing.”
Simply put, Sunderland want to know that there will be future value to the players they spend the money on.
And that’s where the judgement call will lie with Sanderson.
He will naturally help the side in League One and has the potential to grow, but £2million would place him among the most expensive third tier signings of all-time.
Sunderland will have to assess whether that would be a sound investment, or a slightly riskier one.
Spending a £2million fee would certainly be a statement of intent from the Black Cats and their ownership group - with majority shareholder Kyril Louis-Dreyfus suggested were ‘committed’ to supporting the club during a recent interview with talkSPORT.
"There is an ownership group consisting of more people than just myself owning the club, so it’s not really solely me that owns the club,” he explained.
"However, I would say that as an ownership group everyone is committed to support the club.”