Sunderland look to be paying over the odds for Steven Fletcher, but TEAMtalk's Michael Graham feels it's a gamble the Cats are right to take.
I suspect that since Sky Sports broke the news of Sunderland agreeing a fee in excess of £12million for Wolves striker Steven Fletcher, many an eyebrow has been raised in disbelief.
That is, of course, perfectly understandable. Taken on face value alone, Fletcher is a player who is rarely flamboyant or eye-catching. He doesn't command many headlines and, despite perfectly respectable personal goal tallies in the Premier League, two of his three seasons south of the border have ended in relegation.
There isn't much about that which screams 'push the boat out'.
Personally, however, I have always found the concept of 'value' in football a difficult one to gauge. Judging a player's worth can not be likened to a jeweller carefully appraising a diamond for aesthetic appeal and quality and then valuing it according to market trends and industry standards. Given the diversity of football, such a generalisation can not be made. A key player in one system or squad can be obsolete deadwood in another.
The question that needs to be considered therefore is not one of 'what is Steven Fletcher worth?', but 'what is Steven Fletcher worth to Sunderland?'
As a Black Cats fan, I suspect I'd be pretty apoplectic about the prospect of spending such a figure on Fletcher if, for example, Darren Bent was still at the club. When you have a reliable goalscorer in your team, your priorities lay elsewhere. Sadly, that is not the case now and it hasn't been for quite some time.
At present, the options for Martin O'Neill in attack consist of the injury-prone duo of Louis Saha and Fraizer Campbell and the untried and inexperienced Connor Wickham, Ji Dong-won, and Ryan Noble. Quite how the Black Cats have got themselves into this mess considering that in the last four years they have had, at one time or another, the services of Bent, Asamoah Gyan, Danny Welbeck, Nicklas Bendtner, Djibril Cisse and Kenwyne Jones to call upon is anyone's guess, but that is the unenviable position in which they find themselves.
The reality is that Sunderland have a fundamental need to find a definitive and lasting solution to their striker problem. There can be no repeat of the Gyan situation where a foreign import with a name that soothes the ego fleetingly performs yet refuses to commit. There can be no more stop-gap solutions in the form of single-season loan signings such as Bendtner, Cisse and Welbeck. The seemingly endless procrastination has to end, even if it comes at a cost.
With that in mind, Fletcher suddenly starts ticking an awful lot of boxes. He has proven he can score goals consistently in the Premier League, for starters. In fact, during his Wolves career, he boasted an impressive record of having a Premier League goal for every 170 minutes he spent on the pitch. At the age of 25, it is likely he still has his best years ahead of him, too.
Perhaps just as important, however, are the guarantees Fletcher can give Sunderland about his willingness to commit to, and settle in, the north east. For many alternative targets, geography could be a big hurdle to overcome. It certainly wouldn't be the first time.
There will be no such concerns over Edinburgh native Fletcher, though. For a club that still bears the indignant scars of high-profile departures that were not based upon football decisions, the value of that should not be underestimated.
But ultimately, it always has to boil down to football, and football isn't just a matter of buying the most talented players you can for your money and throwing them together. There needs to be an element of pragmatism involved.
A video compilation of Fletcher would not dazzle anyone. It would show a collection of unspectacular goals knocked into the net from close range. Dazzle is not something Sunderland lack, however. With Stephane Sessegnon, James McClean, and the set-piece prowess of Seb Larsson, chances are not at a premium on Wearside. What is lacking is precisely what Fletcher provides - a reliable and efficient penalty-box presence capable of converting those chances into goals.
I won't sit here and try to pretend that £12million - or whatever the total cost of the deal ends up being - is not an inflated price for a player of Fletcher's record. Better footballers have been acquired for less this summer and as the transfer window nears its conclusion, there will be plenty more examples to come.
Sometimes, however, a player comes along at precisely the right time who uniquely satisfies the exact requirements of a club. That may just be the case with Fletcher and Sunderland. He can offer not only the goals they need, but the stability and commitment to the cause they crave too.
I certainly hope that proves to be the case, anyway, because the price tag he'll be carrying round with him will ensure he has nowhere to hide should he fail to deliver.
Michael Graham - follow him on Twitter at @Capt_Fishpaste