Yesterday, Plymouth Argyle signed George Cooper for an undisclosed fee on a three-year contract. Let that sink in for a minute.
Maybe that fee was not as large as we think, or maybe it is, but this feels like another step in the culture shift at Home Park. From top to bottom, the DNA of the club is changing under the leadership of Simon Hallett.
The arrival of Ryan Lowe last season was a statement of intent that the club followed up on with good signings and, eventually, promotion. Against the odds, stand-out loanees George Cooper and Ryan Hardie have now returned to Argyle for the upcoming season.
But, while this felt like a big moment for Plymouth Argyle going forward, for the club this just made financial sense. George Cooper is 23, was a success in this system last season, had an interest in returning to the team and was available at a knock-down price.
If he has a good eight months with the club, he resale value will far exceed what Argyle paid for him. If he follows that up with another good six months it will increase further. There’s always an element of risk in any transfer signing, but when you’re bringing in a player who was such a crucial component of a promotion-winning team the previous season, surely you can feel confident that they’ll be successful.
Though Hallett himself is unlikely to have a direct hand in this transfer at all, this move is the embodiment of the sort of transfer dealings he wants to become the norm. Much like Peterborough, he believes the club should strive to achieve a return on investment on their signings.
He intends to end the days of signing a player, making a success of them and watching them walk away for free. Ruben Lameiras, Sonny Bradley, Graham Carey.
If a sensible offer comes in which meets the club’s valuation, like it did with Freddie Ladapo, the club will allow the sale, take the money, and reinvest it in the squad to restart the process.
The inverse is true. If the club identifies a player who can be a success in the system, is young, and is available at a cheap price or for free, the club should make that investment with one eye on recouping that transfer value when the player is sold in the future. Just like the Peterborough model. Just like the Brentford model.
The signing of George Cooper is just another example of this. Would the club have chased Cooper if he were at the end of his career or not transfer listed? Almost certainly not. The club are not investing in Cooper just because he improves the team. They’re investing in him because it makes good financial sense. They signed him with an eye on selling him in the future.