Stuart Pearce is convinced Premiership clubs are being asked to pay too much for potential.
In the week when Aston Villa have forked out £9.65million to land England Under-21 striker Ashley Young from Watford, Pearce's Manchester City side will face up to the other highly talked-about youngster in this transfer window.
Although Gareth Bale is expected to be in the Southampton line-up visiting City in the FA Cup fourth round tomorrow, it is by no means certain the 17-year-old will still be at St Mary's once Wednesday's deadline has passed.
Bale has been courted by Tottenham and Manchester United, with Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger also expressing his admiration for the Wales international while distancing himself from making a firm bid.
The asking price is thought to have reached £10million, an incredible sum for a player who has yet to make 30 senior appearances.
And, while Pearce is among those who marvel at the youngster's talent, he feels fees for players of potential are too high.
'You are paying £4million in player value and £6million for the potential,' observed Pearce. 'In my opinion, you are talking about prices that are too high.
'We have watched Gareth, as have many Premiership clubs. He has caught the eye and has the potential to go on and become an extremely good player.
'But I would put him slightly behind Ashley Young because he has not played in the Premier League.'
Although it appears inevitable Bale will leave Southampton, if not this month then in the summer, Pearce believes the player must recognise the benefit to be gained from regular football before he quits to join a bigger club, where he may spend most of his time on the bench or in the stands.
'Players are not stupid,' he said, recalling his formative years as a non-league star with Wealdstone. 'They have seen lads go to big clubs with squad rotation and know they will have to sit out matches.
'The experience of playing matches is invaluable. If I had come through the ranks at a professional club, I would have played a fraction of the games I actually did between the ages of 16 and 21. There is no substitute for playing first-team football.'
Pearce will recall Joey Barton for tomorrow's clash, while Trevor Sinclair misses out through suspension.