Swansea City wasn’t going to hold on to Gylfi Sigurðsson forever. In fact, it’s almost unbelievable that they were able to hold on for as long as they did. Perhaps it’s that Icelandic midfielders—or Icelandic footballers in general—don’t often garner much attention. Maybe it’s that on a club like Swansea, a player like Sigurðsson could thrive without much pressure. He could be left to his own devices. If they avoid relegation, he’s the hero. If they falter, it’s because there’s not enough talent around him.
Whichever narrative you wish to attach to Gylfi Sigurðsson, this much is true: Swansea City needed him to a desperate degree. Bigger clubs look at a player like Sigurðsson and see a cog in the machine; undoubtedly a creative and useful player, but not one worth building a club around. Swansea look at Sigurðsson and see not just a cog, but their core. He powers the machine, setting up what he can despite the lesser reinforcements that were so often surrounding him.
And without him, Swansea are in real trouble.
The Swans survived the relegation fight last season by finishing on 41 points—seven more than the third-worst side in the Premier League, Hull City. Sigurðsson would provide 13 assists. No other player registered more than three. Sigurðsson would add nine goals. Only Fernando Llorente, an actual striker, added more (15). And, Sigurðsson would start all but one of the 38 Premier League matches—yet he would still feature in all 38, coming off the bench against Burnley on August 13. That was the first match of the season.
The creative central midfielder was indispensable to a club like Swansea. And it was no more apparent than this past season with Sigurðsson taking a giant step forward. Manager Paul Clement did an admirable job after taking over for Bob Bradley. And it’s not as though we should expect Swansea to immediately fold or give up. After all, the Premier League season is only one match old. But it’s going to be a grind in the most stressful sense of the word.
£45 million is a nice chunk of change in a transfer market that has been bonkers since Day 1 this summer, but how’s that going to help Swansea? Several clubs that can spend £45 million on one player probably wouldn’t give a player like Gylfi much thought. Bigger clubs see that cog and think players of his quality grow on trees. But even if that’s not the case, bigger clubs will still be stable without a player like Sigurðsson. Swansea will not be.
They aren’t going to go out and spend £45 million on one player. They’re not even going to attract a player with that kind of price tag. For a club of their stature, they sure wish players like Gylfi Sigurðsson grew on trees. But the reality is far more grim than that.
The only hope once again is that there are three teams worse than their own. Between Huddersfield Town, Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle, I wouldn’t be surprised to see two of them go straight back down. Though over at Crystal Palace, Frank de Boer certainly has his hands full. Under the guidance of Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche respectively, sides like AFC Bournemouth and Burnley should remain safe.
On the flip side, we might even be underestimating how much worse off the Swans are without Gylfi. For three seasons, Sigurðsson took all of those first team chances and developed into the player he is today. A creative force. A set piece specialist. And, a player that Swansea City were seemingly unable to live without. They’ll soon find out that you can’t put a price tag on that.