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sbo After a long drawn out summer, Virgil van Dijk did not get his move to a bigger club. But he got that transfer for Christmas in the form of a move to Liverpool after flirtations with Chelsea and Manchester City along the way.

Virgil van Dijk went for a hefty, record setting fee of £75 million. Fans of other clubs reacted in various ways, but Chelsea fans’ go-to was to say Cesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen were cheaper together than one Van Dijk.

That is missing the forest for the trees. Transfers – coming and going – need to stay in the context in which they happened, not in hindsight. Virgil van Dijk is a known quality right now, and (was) perhaps the best defender not already on a top-six Premier League team.

Meanwhile, Cesar Azpilicueta was a relative unknown when Chelsea bought him. He came from Olympique de Marseille, so it is not as though he came from a tiny club. But Marseille were not and still are not what they once were. Azpilicueta was a signing that prompted more questions than answers in England.

He came for pennies, and fans were fine with that because he was only expected to be depth. In fact, it took him most of his first season and part of his second to lock down a starting role. Since then he has not looked back and has proven to be a bargain. But being a bargain in hindsight does not mean that his price tag can be used as a talking point now.

The same goes for Andreas Christensen. He had no professional experience when he joined Chelsea on a free transfer and landed in the youth system. He had occasional appearances until he went on loan to Borussia Monchengladbach. At the time, that loan seemed incredibly ambitious and few predicted Christensen would get minutes, let alone lock down a role as quickly and with the frequency the young Dane did.

So saying Azpilicueta and Christensen cost less disregards the circumstances in which they joined Chelsea. They were unknowns and are bargains only in hindsight, but not at the time – which is why the argument against Van Dijk is somewhat odd. sbo

The same logic works in reverse when speaking about Romelu Lukaku, Mohamed Salah, and Kevin De Bruyne. All three are some of the best in the Premier League right now, but Chelsea were right to sell them when they did.

Lukaku had good loans at Everton and West Brom before that, but it was clear his chances would be limited with Chelsea having just signed Diego Costa. Unfortunate? Yes. But at the time his sale made sense, as much as fans would have liked for him to stay.

Salah, meanwhile, was absolutely languid during his time at Stamford Bridge. He simply did not look like a Premier League-caliber player. His time in Italy was more fruitful, but few Chelsea fans would have seen that transfer news in the summer and agreed that he would be arguably the favorite for Player of the Year now. Again, at the time the transfer made sense. Only in hindsight does it look poor.

De Bruyne was much the same. A good spell in Germany was rewarded by a chance with the Chelsea first team. He squandered it at every chance, and Chelsea sold him. He suddenly exploded and then got a transfer to Manchester City for a fee that looked crazy at the time. Only in hindsight does it look like a mistake on Chelsea’s part. That is football.

So as the transfer window approaches and players move for various fees, keep in mind every argument has to be made in context. Some players prove to be bargains in time; others prove they are just what they are worth. But using hindsight from one side and context for the other does not work. Always keep football in context.

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