‘World Cup winning midfielder Alan Ball would be worth at least £100m in today’s market’
The record-breaking midfielder changed the face of the modern game and would be one of the most valuable player in the world today
World Cup winning midfielder Alan Ball would be worth at least £100 million in today’s transfer market, according to author David Tossell.
Ball was the youngest of the celebrated England squad that lifted the trophy in 1966 and scored more than 180 league goals in a playing career spanning 22 years.
The midfielder was on the books of Blackpool, Everton, Arsenal, and Southampton, as well as others, before making his name in management, most notably with Portsmouth and Manchester City.
Ball broke the transfer record twice as a player, first leaving Blackpool for Everton for £110,000, and then to Arsenal for £220,000 in 1971.
“He would certainly be up there – you look at the influence for all the teams he played for,” Tossell told Goal. “Everton bought him because they’d just won the FA Cup and they needed that extra X-factor, and they saw Alan was the player that could do that for them and they broke the transfer record for him.
“Arsenal, similarly, they’d won the double but thought if they were to progress as a team they needed another player and went out and broke the transfer record for him. His first two big transfers were both records and you’d imagine today it’d be the same. Certainly, if he was on the market now you’d be looking in the £100m mark in today’s prices and I’m sure he’d worth every penny.”
Ball was handed his first England cap by Alf Ramsey in 1965 in a 1–1 draw with Yugoslavia and went onto establish himself as a crucial member of the Three Lions set up, used in a variety of midfield roles. Such was his energy on the pitch, Ramsey used Ball in a wide role during the 1966 World Cup final and was arguably the most impressive performer during the game.
The effervescent midfielder has been revered by those at the top of the game, something which Tossell elaborates on throughout the book. Tossell, five time short-listed in the British Sports Book Awards, draws on interviews with family, friends and colleagues, including Sir Geoff Hurst, Kevin Keegan, and Matthew Le Tissier, to explore Alan Ball legacy on and off the pitch.
“[Kevin] Keegan, another icon of English football, who has played with so many great players, said Alan was the best player he ever played with, and he didn’t play with him until Alan was in his mid-30s at Southampton,” Tossell added.
“He had nothing but respect and admiration for him for the way he trained, the way he approached games, and his vision – such a skilful, thoughtful player who knew what he was going to do with the ball before he received it, and that was what was so impressive to Kevin.”
As well as his success at both club and international level, Ball pioneered a number of commercial aspects of the game, fronting a marketing campaign which saw him become the first player to don a pair of white boots.
“At that time, everyone was wearing black and never really thought about doing anything else,” Tossell added. “It started with a marketing director at Hummel, who were trying to break into the market by doing something different. He’d seen hockey players doing it – wearing white boots – and decided to give it a go. He went around different shops and got very little interest and realised he needed someone to be the front man to it, so they approached Alan. They said: ‘Would you be interested?’ They offered him £2,000 a year, which players wouldn’t even lace their boots for these days, and he said yes.
“The first game in the season was the charity shield, which was going to be on TV, and they didn’t have a pair of white boots which Alan wanted to wear or which were good enough, so it was Hummel’s idea to take a pair of his own boots, Adidas boots, and get them painted.
“So, they sent them off to a factory up in Yorkshire and told them to put as many coats of white paints on the boots as they could because they needed Alan running out in front of the TV with white boots on. They got the boots to Alan about an hour before kick-off and they were delivered down to Kings Cross station and rushed across to Stamford Bridge, and Alan wore them. He wore them for quite a while because he couldn’t find white boots which he liked. It’s interesting, if you look at pictures at Alan wearing white boots in the early days you can see the bottom of the boots were black, because the grass and the mud had wiped the paint off of the boot – the bottom half is black and the top was white.
“The reaction was extraordinary – Hummel said they’d sold very few boots up until then, and the phones went absolutely crazy on the Monday morning after people had seen him on ‘Match of the Day’, especially in the Liverpool area. They were selling tens of thousands of pairs into the shops in Liverpool because people wanted to get hold of the boots that they’d never seen before.
“A legend was born! He only wore them for two years but made such an impact that everyone still has the image of Alan Ball and the white boots, hence the name of the book!”