OK. Wow. That came out of nowhere, huh? In case you've somehow missed the bombshell transfer news today, Daryl Dike is headed to English Championship side Barnsley on a short-term loan deal. Yes, you read that right. Barnsley. For those who don't know, Barnsley (or 'the Tykes') are a club based in South Yorkshire. A few miles south of Sheffield, the club are often overlooked in terms of the wider conversation concerning Yorkshire based clubs. Clubs such as Leeds United, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday are much bigger in stature. You could be forgiven for not knowing a whole lot about them. It's a surprising destination for Orlando's shining star, but it could be the ideal fit. Dike will exponentially improve as a result of this experience. Experience that Orlando, and Dike, hope to benefit from:
“Daryl had a tremendous rookie season with us here in Orlando, one that helped lead our Club to the postseason and, on a personal level, be rewarded with multiple call-ups to the U.S. Men’s National Team,” Orlando City EVP of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi told the club's official website. “We believe this opportunity with Barnsley will present another step in his career, to not only develop in a new footballing environment, but to challenge himself in a new country and we’re excited for him to bring those learnings back to us here in Orlando.”
“Orlando has helped me so much in my career in such a short time, and working together to provide this opportunity for me is just another example of that,” Dike said. “I’m very grateful to have a deal that will be beneficial for both myself and the Club. I’m excited to continue my development and keep up my fitness while with Barnsley and look forward to bringing what I learn back to Orlando to continue our success here in MLS.”
As you can see, both club and player are very clear on this being a short-term, but valuable, gig. This will be an incredible experience for Dike. If there's a player in MLS more suited to the Championship, and the way Barnsley play I've yet to see him. Dike will learn a lot, and he will benefit from Barnsley's direct style of play. Whilst they are by no means the archetypal English 'long-ball' team, they do get the ball forwards quickly. They also create chances. Chances Dike will hope to profit from. The Tykes have scored a respectable 29 goals from 27 games (leaders, Norwich City have 35). They are reliant on the goals of Cauley Woodrow, however, who has 11. Barnsley's next highest scorer is, midfielder, Alex Mowatt on 4. You can see why this signing makes sense for Barnsley already.
Their style of play will also suit Dike. As I alluded to earlier, they get the ball forwards and create chances. With an 11.3 shots per game average, it's easy to see how Dike could thrive in this team. In their recent 0-0 draw with my Nottingham Forest, they recorded 313 passes; 204 which were played into the final third. They also outshot the home side, 6-12 (yes, we're rubbish but let's not dwell on that). In short Valerien Ismael's team aren't afraid to have a go. And they will create chances for Dike. Hypothtically speaking, if Dike goes there, scores goals and returns to Orlando... Then that can only be a positive thing for Oscar Pareja and his team. A little footnote here too; Barnsley are scheduled to face the likes of Brentford and Chelsea (FA Cup) in the coming weeks. He will have the chance to test himself against some quality opponents.
Now to the elephant in the room (and the reason OC Twitter is freaking out). The elephant being the reported $20m option to buy (see below). If this is indeed true, and it seems like it is, this is a very prudent insurance policy. Barnsley aren't likely to have the financial ability to close this deal if they remain in the Championship after this season (more on that shortly). That might seem a ridiculous thing to say about the 8th richest club in England. No, that isn't a misprint. Click here if you don't believe me. But, as in MLS, there are rules in the Championship.
In 2020 they posted a £3.2m (approx. $4.375m) loss for the financial year ending 2019, and prior to that they posted a loss of £0.2m (approx. $237,000). Most football clubs run at a loss, so why is this significant? Well, because of the rules I just mentioned. The EFL's (English Football League) Financial Fair Play rules. Clubs are not permitted more than a £35m (approx. $47.856m) loss over any three year period. So throwing a massive chunk of that at Daryl Dike, would be insane. The Covid-19 pandemic will have decimated Barnsley's revenue. It would be too big a risk. It's also not one they are likely to take, based on historical behaviour in the transfer market...
Now, I'd be remiss to not mention their exceptionally wealthy (est. net-worth $9bn) ownership group (International Investment Consortium -headed by Chien Lee). But that obviously doesn't mean a whole lot in terms of FFP, particularly during a pandemic. Despite this wealth, their record signing is still the £2m fee paid for Gjiorgji Hristov in 1997. And the new owners have been in place for 3 years now. Their current most expensive asset is £1.26m (approx. $1.72m) signing, Herbie Kane who arrived from Liverpool this year. So, yeah... Not big spenders. Don't expect that to change here. Yes, I know this may blow-up in my face. And, I'll own it if it does. But I'm that confident.
Now, this could all become irrelevant. Not likely, but it could. There is still the possibility of promotion. That could, emphasis on could, change things. Whilst promotion might be unlikely for the Tykes, the Championship is unpredictable in its nature. Barnsley are currently on a run of 5 games without a league win, and find themselves 6 points adrift of the play-offs in 12th place. They're not exactly flying, but they're by no means out of the running. It could happen. Hence the $20m insurance policy. If Dike goes there and fires them to the promised land of the Premier League, Barnsley would be in a position to sign him permanently. In which case, $20m for a second year rookie is exceptionally good business. Isn't it? That's not rhetorical. It is.
So... Don't panic.
*Statistics courtesy of whoscored.com