Under his new £1 million-a-week deal it would take Lionel Messi just the summer break to be able to afford Andy Robertson. Cristiano Ronaldo, we must assume, has not been standing idly by. Always watching the little Barcelona genius, always aiming to be one step ahead, he surely must have drawn Real Madrid’s attention to Messi’s mega-contract and demanded they top it so he could make a counter-bid for the Scotland player.
Meanwhile at Manchester City, Pep Guardiola is assessing his close-season splurge. The coming campaign will be his second attempt to prove he’s the greatest manager football has ever known. He’s wondering if he can buy any more Monaco players or whether there’s a rule limiting the amount of pillaging one club can inflict on another, even if they’ve previously embarrassed the prospective purchasers in the Champions League. And he’s asking himself: “Who is this Andy Robertson?”
Guardiola has so far spent £200m and he ain’t finished yet. But £120m has gone on full-backs – Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo – and he’s concerned about value-for-money. Full-back is Robertson’s position. Seven weeks ago, he was opposite Walker in the Scotland v England World Cup qualifier at Hampden and looked every bit the equal of the man who’s cost City £50m, minus the arrogant strutting.
Meanwhile, back at the Bernabeu, Real are scrutinising their sums: “Should we really be splashing £160m on Kylian Mbappe – and by the way he’d be the first Monaco player we’ve taken – if this guy Andy Robertson only comes in at £10m?”
Finally, at Paris Saint-Germain, the proposed world record transfer is officially declared un canard mort. “Yes, we agree, £196m for Neymar is obscene,” reads the French club’s statement. “He’s a brilliant player but there’s too much poverty in the world. He could win us the Champions League but wouldn’t we be entitled to more for that money, the Nobel Peace Prize and a revived Jeux Sans Frontieres in perpetuity? But, really, the straw that broke le dos de chameau was Andy Robertson. Everyone’s talking about him. He’s the buy of the summer. The rest of us are just being ripped off.”
Okay, none of this is likely to happen and the wider world only started talking about Robertson last week. On Friday, an English broadsheet slapped “Exclusive” on their interview with Liverpool’s new recruit from Hull City. There was no real need to do that before because he was playing in an unglamorous position for an unglamorous club, having arrived in England from a seriously unglamorous footballing outpost.
Now Robertson has gone Big Four and Champions League. To a giant of the English game but unlike Manchester City one steeped in romance –and also one with a terrific Scottish-tinged back-story. Of course it might not work out for him at Anfield, although those of us who’ve been impressed with him for a while sincerely hope it will.
Robertson isn’t quite the most expensive Scottish player there’s ever been. Oliver Burke, pictured, cost £13m, Steven Fletcher and Matt Ritchie both sold for £12m and Ross McCormack carries an £11m price tag. But he’s occupying the loftiest perch of any Scot in the world’s so-called best league since Darren Fletcher was doing the unsung, in-the-opposition-faces dirty work for Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
These two are quite similar, aren’t they? Diligent on the pitch, quiet off it, completely unflashy. It would be a shock to discover Robertson has a tattoo, especially if it was a giant, hairy tarantula covering his back, in memory of his first club Queen’s Park, whose nickname of course is the Spiders.
On his Twitter page he writes in proper English with punctuation and uses polite phrases like “Thank you for all your help” and “The pleasure is all mine”. But anyone who thinks Robertson might be too nice to make it much further than back-up for James Milner doesn’t know how hard he’s worked to get this far.
The story was re-told last week. One headline went: “Andy drove a clapped-out Punto and used Asda vouchers but my old mate hasn’t changed a bit.” This was Aidan Connolly recalling their days at Queen’s Park, chugging along Scottish football’s roads less travelled for the amateur team for no money, after Robertson had made his debut against Berwick Rangers in front of a crowd of 372 and doubtless the obligatory dog.
That was in July 2012 which makes it a heck of a leap to where he is now, waiting to walk out in front of a sold-out Anfield for the first time, waiting for his Champions League debut, waiting to come up against his first ex-Monaco player. Factor in the classic, cruellest put-down a wannabe Scottish footballer can ever hear – “Sorry, son, but you’re just too wee” – and Robertson’s yarn is simply irresistible.
He was 15 when Celtic told him he was too small and timid to play at the highest level. Rejection took a while to overcome – nearly a full season. But, backed by his parents and Queen’s Park, he kept believing. He moved to Dundee United and his career began to rocket. Part of a swashbuckling young Tannadice side, he was fast-tracked into the Scotland team at 19.
On Twitter he allows himself the occasional exclamation mark, such as on the day he signed for Liverpool: “A boy’s dream has become a reality!” Meanwhile, Queen’s Park tweeted: “Hasn’t @andrewrobertso5 developed into a fine young man and an even better footballer #proud.”
The Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who’s brought Robertson to the club graced by Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, Alan Hansen, Billy Liddell, Ian St John, Ron Yeats and Peter Cormack, likes his story of setback, resolve, fight, prove ’em wrong – but no more than Bill Shankly would have done.
In a league which is terrible for fluttering eyelashes and swooning at the feet of foreign stars, squeezing out English players and banishing Scots completely, Robertson’s journey from football’s decrepit, windblown bowls to one of its greatest arenas should inspire all spiders to try, try and try again.