Young Trafford: England U21 Goalkeeper James Trafford Joins Burnley for £14m

The fee could rise to £19m with add-ons
14:00, 04 Jul 2023

Burnley have agreed a £14 million fee rising to £19 million with add-ons for Manchester City goalkeeper James Trafford. The transfer has raised eyebrows due to the fact the 20-year-old has just 78 appearances to his name, all coming in League One. 

On the surface there is nothing wrong with that. Trafford is the England under-21s goalkeeper and he is currently away with the squad at the European Championships in Georgia. He is clearly a talent of immense promise. Pilfering a player who has excelled in a lower league is often a smart strategy for a newly-promoted Premier League club.


There is a financial arms race for the biggest names, particularly with Saudi Arabia entering the market heavily. The Saudi Pro League is snapping up a lot of the veteran names that would usually drop down to a smaller club to prolong their English top flight careers. 

The major issue isn’t the target, a player good enough that City have included a buy-back clause in the deal. It is more the eyebrow-raising fee involved that has got tongues wagging. You could argue the £14 million cost price is simply a reflection of the “English tax” teams are said to pay in the Premier League. An extra premium to secure domestic players due in part to the importance of cultivating homegrown talent to meet squad regulations.

But even allowing for that, paying a possible £19 million for a player without even some Championship experience feels like a tipping point. The money changing hands has even led some fans to point out the parties involved. Burnley are managed by Vincent Kompany, a distinguished player under Guardiola at City. Some have alleged there is something improper in the deal because of this connection. The fee obviously benefits City as they make their summer moves while also keeping them on the right side of Financial Fair Play. It also hands Burnley a promising player with City in the fairly risk-free position of being able to buy him back if he hits elite level.

There is nothing to suggest anything actually improper has taken place here it must be pointed out. It is quite possible this move was merely completed to snare a player with a bright future before his fee increases further. Trafford was entrusted with 45 of Bolton’s 46 league games last season, having played 33 the year before across spells with Wanderers and Accrington Stanley. Coupled with his increasing importance at international age group level, it seems a safe bet that a big move was on the horizon for him. 

Given the fact Ederson is rooted to the spot in terms of being City’s number one and Stefan Ortega is an incredibly capable deputy, the Etihad path was blocked. It is far better that Trafford learns his trade at Turf Moor, even if it ends up being as first reserve. The door back to City is open but for now the Manchester club have secured a hefty fee and Burnley have landed an emerging talent.

There is a natural scepticism among football fans, which has likely led to people citing this as a case of friends helping friends. If Chelsea or Manchester United had signed Trafford for a similar fee, people would have bemoaned their cash-flashing and moved on. If Burnley had overpaid for an England youth international from another side, equally people would have merely commented on the fee and gone about their day. At the end of the day, this is highly unlikely to be some sort of corporate deception. It is quite simply a club paying a premium for a player with the potential to reach the very top. In football as much as life, you have to speculate to accumulate.

Suggested Searches:
The Sportsman
Manchester United
Manchester City
Premier League
Sportsman HQ
72-76 Cross St
Manchester M2 4JG
We will not ask you to provide any personal information when using The Sportsman website. You may see advertisement banners on the site, and if you choose to visit those websites, you will accept the terms and conditions and privacy policy applicable to those websites. The link below directs you to our Group Privacy Policy, and our Data Protection Officer can be contacted by email at: [email protected]

All original material is Copyright © 2019 by The Sportsman Communications Ltd.
Other material is copyright their respective owners.