Apparently Barcelona have just signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic for £40m plus Samuel Eto'o. Plus Samuel Eto'o? Until now I've nobly resisted the urge to huff and puff about this summer's transfer activity, but this one is priceless.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is 27 years old and has long shown great promise, but only recently delivered on the biggest stages. He has a suspect temperament, a bulletproof ego and a rare talent for irritating his teammates. Samuel Eto'o is 28 years old, and also a bit of a divisive character. As well as a three-time African player of the year with 2 Champions Leagues, 3 La Ligas and countless personal accolades to his name.
Ibrahimovic was the major disappointment in Inter's Champions League last-16 defeat to United last season, with Vidic and Ferdinand easily containing him over the two legs. Eto'o sliced open the United defence to kickstart a sublime victory for Barcelona in the final, and deliver the trophy to Catalonia. It completed a memorable season in which he was second top scorer in Spain, behind his strike partner Leo Messi.
Paying £40m to break that up is just bonkers. For all the crackpot posturing of Real Madrid, at least you could see the rationale - it was just the scale that seemed mad. This one's a complete anomaly.
It's shows how small differences in perception can result in such huge financial swings at the upper end of the transfer market. Eto'o may have only a year left on his contract, but at full tilt Man City would have paid £40m for him alone. Someone in the Barca camp has clearly become fixated with Ibrahimovic and pursued him 'at any cost'.
This 'at any cost' mentality has been the distinctive feature of the big hitters in the transfer market this summer. It's as if Fred the Shred has started giving summer schools in football investment - the fact of the purchase is becoming more important than the sense of it. Certainly, City seem intent on making marquee signings rather than building a team. So far they've succeeded only in mopping up the problem children of the Premiership, paying last summer's prices for players who have had disappointing seasons. And they've been snubbed by the real big guns - the more cash City throw at players to entice them to come, the cheaper they look. No such problems at Real, who are at least targeting the very finest - although £30m for a 27 year-old Alonso is a dubious call.
Thankfully, the big English clubs have been notable this summer for their scorn of the 'at any cost' approach. Ferguson and Benitez both explicitly refused to get caught up in an overheated market, Wenger is Wenger and Chelsea are proving themselves reassuringly unattractive to everyone except John Terry. It might be less fun now, but at least they've not saddled themselves with Franck Ribery for £70m.