I KNOW we’ve been out of the Premier League for a while now, but have things really changed so much?

The top flight has long been swimming in cash to the point the clubs just throw it at things, and then still make a loss.

But the fee paid out for Alex Chamberlain, well, it has just left me dumbfounded.

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, it could be as much as £15m.

A decade and-a-half ago, that amount of money took Alan Shearer from Blackburn to Newcastle – a world record at the time which got you the best centre forward of the day.

The fact that Arsene Wenger was prepared to pay so much for a 17-year-old with just over a year’s pro experience, in a position where Arsenal are hardly lacking, underlines the fact that football is eating itself.

Last January, Andy Carroll went from Tyneside to Merseyside for £35m – that was insane enough in itself, but the Chamberlain move is something else.

I don’t blame the kid for moving and any cries of the move being bad for him or of him and his dad being greedy are wide of the mark. After all, who wouldn't do the same in their own line of work?

Back here though, Saints have never been big spenders.

It looks like after 10 years we have only now bid an amount which surpasses our transfer record for £4m for Rory Delap – which itself was double the previous record for David Hirst.

But the rate at which transfer fees have increased since Saints first dropped out of the top flight has left my head spinning a little.

Rupert Lowe did great business getting (a then) gargantuan £8.1m for the late Dean Richards and the £7m for Peter Crouch, less than a year after paying £2m for him, wasn’t shabby either.

But his highlight had to be getting a deal then worth £12.1m for Theo Walcott, aged 16 and not yet a full professional.

If the player had been so minded, he could have held on and Arsenal would have paid perhaps just a few hundred thousand quid via a tribunal.

We could all say (and many do) a lot of things about Lowe’s tenure, but he certainly knew how to squeeze cash out of potential suitors.

(At this point I should also point out that the Walcott deal was later renegotiated down to around £8m when the next board of directors were trying to stave off administration and the club needed a quick injection of cash).

But how Cortese has got a guaranteed £12m plus a potential £3m more, I’ll never know – not least because I can’t see why any of the big clubs need to spend that amount of cash on what can only be described as fantastic potential.

I wish Chamberlain well, I really do. I just don’t understand the money being thrown around.

To be quite honest, it is all a little bit distasteful when held up alongside the ‘austerity’ the remainder of society is going through.

But, that’s football. It’s not a business.

It’s a bubble. A bubble which has long defied predictions of a burst and currently shows no sign of stopping its inflation.

And while that continues, the money thrown about in the top flight will only continue to to make the rest of us watch agog.

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