“Jérémy Mathieu is a physically imposing defender who can play at centre back or left back,” reads the FC Barcelona statement announcing that the club has acquired the veteran Mathieu’s services. At 30-years-old, the Frenchman “is a fully developed defender both physically and technically.” If you read a bit of another kind of (non-soccer-related) defensiveness in the statement, it may be because in paying £15.8m Barcelona makes Mathieu the most expensive defender in history over the age of 30.
Mathieu doesn’t have to travel far. He’s played the last five seasons in Valencia, making 126 appearances. Barcelona has made some big moves this summer, adding five players–perhaps most notably Luis Suarez of World Cup biting fame. But what’s got Europe talking about the Mathieu deal is the outsize release clause Barcelona has put on him–£40m. A release clause, in European soccer, is the minimum amount a team seeking a player would need to pay to acquire him. For example, if another team bid £39m for Mathieu, Barcelona has a right to reject the offer, whereas if it were a £41m bid the club would need to accept. It’s a large sum for a 30-year-old in a young man’s game. As usual, whether something is a good deal for the money depends on how much money you have.