It's not unusual to have transfer speculation that obfuscates just how much a player cost. Already this summer we've seen papers making basic mistakes like failing to convert currency from Euros to Pounds and deals with undisclosed fees. When things like that happen, we usually turn to journalists close to the club who tell us that a deal was "approximately £8 million" or something like that.
In the meantime, you'll usually see journalists citing figures that are near each other. For that £8 million fee, you might see reports in the £6-9 million range (although even that seems pretty wide to me). That's how these things normally work.
The Adama Traore rumour has opened up some bizarro universe in the media in which you can see reports of a move costing anywhere from £4.2 million to £12 million. What in the world is happening here? Before I lead you too far, I want to admit something up front: I don't have an answer. Nevertheless, let's dig in a bit.
Piece of evidence the first: Barcelona's technical director/secretary
Robert Fernández is alternately described as Barcelona's "club secretary" and "technical director." He was appointed just a few weeks ago, but he is very clearly (regardless of his title) someone in a position of both power and knowledge at Camp Nou.
In a report from Spanish website Sport (yes, really) Fernández was quoted as saying that Adama "Tiene una cláusula de 6 millones." That translates to "he has a €6 million clause." Alright, that's pretty clear-cut. In pounds, we're looking at something around £4.3 million depending on the relative strength of each currency. If that is in fact a buy-out clause (and all Spanish players have buy-out clauses in their contracts), then Villa should be able to offer €6 million and ignore Barcelona and just come to terms with Adama himself.
Piece of evidence the second: The buy-back clause
There is reason to believe, however, that there is something wrong with that quote. If Adama's buy-out clause were in fact €6 million, once Villa paid that (or Adama paid it with money from Villa) Barcelona would have no further input in the deal. But one of the things we've heard from the very beginning is that the Spanish club wants a buy-back clause.
Perhaps a deal with a buy-back clause could be had for less (let's, for the sake of speculation, say it chops £2 million off of his price). If reports about Adama are true, he's unquestionably worth a £4-5 million flyer. Why haggle over a couple of million and risk Barcelona taking him back in a couple of years time? Just trigger the buy-out clause and avoid the buy-back clause altogether. He's a winger who came up through Barcelona's system. In three years he'll be 22. You're not going to lose money on that deal unless he literally loses a leg.
So the fact that we're still hearing about a buy-back clause makes me suspicious about the quote from Fernández. Maybe the "clause" to which he is referring is a deal between the team and player that, if Barcelona receive €6 million they will let him go with a buy-back clause. "We won't stop you. Go play first-team elsewhere, and if you're good you can rest assured that you'll be back with the best team in the world."
Or maybe the €6 million clause was just entirely a misquote.
Piece of evidence the third: The Mail
Alright, alright. The Mail. They're full of junk. When I talked about this conundrum with other SB Nation football writers, the immediate reaction was, "It's the Mail, ignore it." But I'm finding that hard to do. On Tuesday, they published an article saying that Villa were near to a £12 million move. That's almost three times higher than what Fernández (maybe) told us the release clause was!
Even better, in that very story, they linked to another story that they wrote that cites a "release clause" of £4.2 million! So even they thought there was a release clause, and if that were true, there is literally no way Villa would pay £12 million. So something had to have changed here. And on Wednesday evening, they ran another report that said the £12-million deal would go through on Thursday.
Obviously the Mail are sticking to this number, and I presume they have some reason to do so. What that reason is, I have no idea.
Piece of evidence the fourth: The Star
Gah. Coming back to more papers I don't trust. But the Star reported on Wednesday night that Adama was set to complete his move on Thursday. So far, so good. We're in agreement with the Mail. But the Star say that the deal won't cost £12 million. They also don't say it will cost £4.2 million. They don't even make the mistake of not knowing how to read currency signs, using Fernádez's quotes and saying it will be £6 million (instead of €6 million). No, they say £7 million.
So where in the hell did that number come from? Here's the part where I disappoint you and say: I. HAVE. NO. CLUE. Maybe the Star just randomly generated a number.
Piece of evidence the fifth: Everything else
So before the past week, we had yet another price circulating. €15 million. Just google "Adama 15 million" and you'll find tons of reports using that number. So maybe THIS is where the £12 million number came from. Except nope, €15 million is approximately £10.7 million. We're missing more than a million here. But hey, why not have another number?
Conclusion: This is dumb
How much will Adama cost? Is Fernández right? Is it the Mail? Do we trust the idea of a buy-back clause? Are the Star onto something? €15 million? I'm beginning to feel a bit like this guy.
This is literally one of the most confusing transfer stories I've ever dealt with while writing for this site. All signs point to this being a done deal, and yet nobody can even come close to agreeing how much it costs. I'm open to ideas from you below.
I'm also open to a more passive approach: it's not my money, and if the transfer happens, who cares? If Randy Lerner thinks he can pay for it (he seems to) and if it makes Villa better (it does) there's nothing more to it than that. Let's all just hope this guys signs, and maybe someday we'll get a reliable number.