Liverpool might take a little stick if they do re-sign Tom Ince a mere 18 months after they let him leave Anfield, but they do at least deserve some credit for rectifying their mistake fairly quickly and cheaply.
Given the reports that they secured a 35% sell on clause when they let Ince go to Blackpool for £250,000 compensation, the total transfer value would only be around £4 million, and there have been plenty of clubs who have had to fork out far more to re-sign players they let go.
Barcelona have become the most renowned example of a side who have had to shell out large amounts to sign their former youth academy players. Given the fantastic success rate of La Masia, it's understandable that they ended up letting a few players go who turned out to be superstars, especially during the 90s and early 00s, when English club's financial clout made it easy for them to pick off the best prospects from Barclona.
The two clearest examples would be Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas. Both left Barcelona as youngsters, before eventually making their way back to Spain for significant transfer fees. Pique returned from Manchester United for £5 million, and Fabregas eventually followed from Arsenal for €34 million. It's not just English clubs who have made money from Barcelona's attempts to reclaim their players, as Valencia picked up Jordi Alba from their academy for a measly €6,000, before selling him back to Barca for €14 million.
This summer also saw Dortmund spend big money on a player who had previously been at their academy, as Marco Reus was bought for €17.1 million from Borussia Monchengladbach.
Mistakes can clearly be made with youth players, where their rate of development is hard to predict. However if you've already spent big money on a player, then you should be more aware of their talents. This makes Inter’s dealings with Adriano the most inexplicable transfer saga of the bunch.
Having spent over £6 million to bring the striker to the San Siro they sold a half share of the player to Parma the following summer for £4 million. Following Adriano's excellent form there Inter decided they had made a mistake and spent £13.5 million to buy back that half share again two seasons later. Even with co-ownership wranglings complicating matters in Italian transfers, it seems pretty clear that Inter made some poor decisions with Adriano, and they almost make Liverpool look like shrewd businessmen in comparison.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald