Think of all the stars in the Premier League. Who is coming to your mind? It’s probably the usual cast of characters. Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibarhimovic, Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa, Harry Kane, Alexis Sanchez, Kevin de Bruyne and a whole slew of others. But you would probably have to list off about 50 players before you even thought to name of a player who is more valuable to his club, or perhaps in the league, than any of the players listed above.
You read that right. The same Jermain Defoe who has been around the block and then some. The same Jermain Defoe who has had stints at West Ham, Bournemouth (when they were a league two side), Tottenham, Portsmouth, Tottenham again, Toronto FC, Tottenham a third time, and finally Sunderland, is currently the most valuable player in the Premier League.
Think about aforementioned list of players. You can put a price on any of their heads. If Real Madrid offered Manchester City £60 million for Sergio Aguero, they’d take it in a heartbeat. They already have Kelechi Iheanacho and haven’t played much worse without Aguero than with him. If Real offered Manchester United £150 million for Paul Pogba they’d probably consider it. That’s a £61 million profit on the £89 million they spent for him and frankly they don’t need him. They finished 5th in the league last season without Pogba; they’re currently in 6th with him.
But Defoe. At this moment you simply can’t put a price on Jermain Defoe.
A couple weeks ago West Ham tried to do exactly that when they offered Sunderland £6 million for the striker. Now, let’s be fair here, £6 million is extremely reasonable for an undersized 34 year old striker that has been around the block more than once.
But when West Ham made the bid to Sunderland, the Black Cats laughed at the Hammers, and frankly, I did too.
Because right now Defoe is worth so much more to Sunderland than any player could be worth to their team. At the moment, Sunderland are in last place in the Premier League, three points away from jumping out of the relegation zone. Through 22 games the Black Cats have scored just 20 goals. Defoe has scored 12 of them.
Translation: If Sunderland are going to have any chance at staying up, it’s going to be because of Jermain Defoe.
What does staying up mean? It’s hard to quantify. Last season Sunderland received £71.7 million at the end of the Premier League campaign. This season however is the first under a new and even larger TV contract and it’s not unreasonable to assume that the 17th place team will stand to make £90 million or more this season. If Sunderland fail to stay up, they won’t be able to take home that kind of money next season either.
Suddenly £6 million, or even £15 million doesn’t seem like that much money. It’s worth the risk of holding on to Defoe if that gives them a chance of bringing in another £90 million next season.
Without Defoe, Sunderland have no chance at that. There’s no way they’d be able to re-invest the £6 million West Ham would have given them into a striker that could carry them the way Defoe can.
Therefore when a team calls Sunderland to inquire about Defoe the price for him starts at whatever amount of money Sunderland stands to gain just by being in the Premier League next season. But even then that’s not a done deal. Sunderland have a very young squad. With another year of Premier League experience they may gel enough to be good enough to avoid relegation on their own. Staying up just this one year could spur them on to a run of staying up for another five. You simply don’t know, and that’s why you can’t sell Defoe this season.
Despite what you might think of him, Jermain Defoe has had a pretty successful career in England. He’s scored 156 Premier League goals. He won the FA Cup with Portsmouth. He scored a winner for England at the 2010 World Cup and has made 55 appearances for the Three Lions (though he’s only played the full 90 minutes for England twice).
Now, he can add a hypothetical Premier League MVP award to his career accomplishments.