After spending decade bouncing back-and-forth between England’s top two divisions, West Bromwich Albion has enjoyed four straight seasons in the Premier League, a run that nearly came to an end last season. Seemingly determined to avoid another close call, the Baggies have broken their club record transfer fee, albeit for a name few fans may recognize.
That’s because Brown Ideye, a Nigerian striker who helped the Super Eagles claim the 2013 African Cup of Nations, has spent his career in Switzerland, France, and Ukraine, though after three years as one of Dynamo Kiev’s main attackers, the 25-year-old may have popped onto a few radars. A fast, explosive, along-the-line striker, Brown scored 34 league goals over the last three season, half of which came during the 2012-13 season.
For $17.1 million, West Brom is betting the former Sochaux forward can replicate that production in England.
“Brown is a quality striker, and I’m looking forward to working with him,” head coach Alan Irvine said, via the club’s website,
“He’s a strong, quick, powerful player who likes to get in behind defenses and has plenty of Champions League and international experience.”
Most of that experience came before last season, when Brown was reduced to a substitute’s role. After Dynamo’s acquisition of Congolese striker Dieumerci Mbokani from Anderlecht, Ideye went from 25 starts to seven, with 12 appearances off the bench giving him little chance to replicate his 17-goal season.
It’s part of the reason why West Brom’s willingness to set a record for Ideye looks a little curious, though if you’re looking for silver linings, consider the striker’s goal rate. Whereas Ideye averaged 0.674 goals per 90 minutes in 2012-13, his rate only dropped to 0.627 last year. Perhaps his diminished role could save you a few million pounds in the negotiation, but if you liked Ideye a year ago, little about the striker’s 2013-14 numbers should change your view.
Technical director Terry Burton certainly hasn’t changed his:
“When I arrived at Albion the recruitment department flagged Brown up as the man at the top of their wish list.
“It is a fantastic signing because of the quality and the potential of the player.
“I can see that he really wants to be here and that he really wants to be playing in the Premier League.
“He’s a dynamic player who likes to get in behind defenders and he has the pace to do so.
“He gets himself into good scoring positions in the box and if there are opportunities then he will get on the end of them.”
All of which sounds great albeit clichéd, as if Burton is listing off a series of minimum requirements for a Premier League striker. If you’re paying £10 million for an attacker who isn’t “dynamic” or capable of finding “good scoring positions” in Ukraine, you probably shouldn’t be in charge of acquisitions in England.
Despite the flat rhetoric, Brown really could turn into a difference-maker at The Hawthorns. Saying somebody has “pace” sounds clichéd, but in Brown’s case, it’s true, even by Premier League standards. His ability to read defenses, get into those good positions, and score goals a variety ways made him one of the best strikers in Ukraine’s Premier League, when he played. Strong, standing 5’11”, Brown has the size to compete with Premier League defenders. Given how players have performed when making the jump from the Netherlands (Suárez, Bony) or Belgium (Benteke, Lukaku), it’s not unreasonable to assume a talented player moving from a league at a similar level could succeed, too.
Unfortunately, $17.1 million adds a lot of gravity to that educated guess, but joining a team whose leading scorers (Stepháne Sessegnon, Saido Berahino) tallied five goals last season, Ideye doesn’t have to provide an eight-figure return to have an impact with West Brom. Having a mere presence may be enough.
While the price makes this more of a gamble, there’s a lot of room for this purchase to come good.