Last summer I wrote an article which cautioned against the extended pursuit of ambitious targets at the expense of more realistic ones. Unfortunately, I fear West Brom have stumbled into that trap in their pursuit of Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson.
Currently, the move seems to be stalled with a £20 million bid on the table while Middlesbrough are reported to want a fee in the region of £30 million. Gibson is thought to be keen on a move to a Premier League club possibly with one eye on the England World Cup squad but given his family ties with his current club, he is unlikely to rock the boat to achieve it.
While the move remains stalled the £20 million budget is in effect frozen and no other deals are happening. The opportunity cost of this might be debilitating for the Baggies who do need to strengthen across a number of positions. Pursuing Gibson is looking increasingly silly particularly given that ‘Boro’s insistence on the fee was well known from the outset.
Here are five moves Albion could have made with the £20 million which are arguably smarter, unfortunately, the suggestions I am about to make have already moved elsewhere but for the purposes of the article to demonstrate what can be done with the money.
Buy a left-back
One thing Albion have not done this summer is land a left back, in particular, long-term target Charlie Taylor who joined Burnley for £5 million. The improvement in the squad that this would leverage is probably greater than that of signing Gibson for four times that amount.
With a natural left-back on board, Allan Nyom could be deployed at right-back. Craig Dawson would be freed up to play in his natural position and with the addition of Ahmed Hegazi, it could be argued no further defensive reinforcements were required.
If the further defensive cover was required a utility defender like Marc Wilson could easily be acquired for less than £2 million.
Buy a central midfielder
The departure of Darren Fletcher to Stoke City leaves a gap for a central midfielder, some would argue that it is an opportunity to find a more dynamic box to box player than the ageing former club captain.
Here my green eyed envy is turned in the direction of Watford who have signed Will Hughes from Derby and the somewhat more defensive talents of Nathaniel Chalobah from Chelsea for a combined fee of just £13 million.
Buy a striker
Albion desperately need an alternative to Solomon Rondon who had to shoulder too much of the work load last season. The addition of Jay Rodríguez is a welcome but another target man would greatly help the Baggies’ cause in the coming months.
It is easy to spend the whole £20 million on one striker. However, with Rondon still on board, Albion have the opportunity to take someone a little bit raw, a new comer to Premier League and ease them into the side without putting undue pressure on them to hit the ground running. This opens up a host of up and coming talent from Europe that would be available for considerably less. Former Utrecht hotshot Sébastien Haller, who scored 15 league goals last season, has moved to Bundesliga club Frankfurt for less than £7 million.
Buy a winger
Under head coach Tony Pulis the team is heavily dependent on attacking down the wings an additional winger would be welcomed. Sam Larsson who spent last season tearing up the Eredivisie for Heerenveen is rumoured to be on the move to Celta Vigo for as little as £6 million.
Buy another centre-back
The list of potential candidates must reach double figures and many of them would be available for a lot less than £20 million quoted for Gibson. Tomas Kalas was available on loan from Chelsea this summer but he has since returned to Fulham on loan in the Championship, despite rejecting offers from Premier League clubs.