Last summer’s transfer window seemed to be all about clubs not letting players leave, whereas this summer it appeared clubs couldn’t get rid of some players.
Last summer Liverpool and Manchester United denied moves for Luis Suarez and Wayne Rooney, respectively, whilst Tottenham appeared to be denying they would let Gareth Bale go, until Real Madrid finally guessed the figure Daniel Levy had written on the back of his hand, and he was off. This time we had Liverpool trying to do deals with a few clubs for Fabio Borini, but finding each time the player didn’t want to go. Manchester United looked to have the same problem with Tom Cleverly, until they managed to agree a loan deal after the deadline.
Yet again we were left with exasperating at the futility of it all. Why do clubs leave it so late to do their business? Why do we have the window still open after the season has begun? And why must we put up with the circus act which is Jim White on transfer deadline day? Not to mention, can clubs really continue to blow so much lucre in a desperate attempt to remain competitive.
Of course agents have a lot to answer for the late goings on as players are rarely involved in any of the negotiations. Hence the rather amusing, and for them slightly embarrassing, instances of players believing they are signing for certain clubs, only to find that deal hasn’t gone through and they must now declare their undying love for a replacement. Throughout the summer months media, both social and written, is full of rumours and counter rumours of which clubs are in for which players and once the dust settles you find so few of these rumours have any substance. In fact there are even twitter accounts who claim to be ‘in the know’ on transfers but it doesn’t take much research to discover whatever they do know is mainly fabrication. One classic example of this was the positive declaration that Lucas Leiva was talking to Southampton about a move, until the player himself replied scoffing at the suggestion, triggering an alarmingly fast back-track from the account.
One other aspect which has many shaking their heads is the sheer passion for which Sky Sports News seems to revel in the total sum paid by English clubs to secure the services of players, estimated to be £835m. That trounced last year’s record total of £630m. Manchester United were the biggest spenders this time parting with a whopping £152.3m, whereas Manchester City only spent £54.5m. Of course Financial Fair Play rules have begun to take their hold and this would suggest City’s reluctance to spend more. These rules are also used to explain United’s signing of Radamel Falcao on loan with an option to buy, rather than a permanent deal now. Falcao is a good example of how different things seem to be at Old Trafford since the days of Alex Ferguson. He is reported to be costing United £18m in wages alone for the year he is expected to be there.
I have already written about how important this season is for clubs to achieve a Champions League place. The TV deal is huge for the next three years and so clubs will fight tooth and nail to get in on the action. Manchester United appear to be spending big in advance of this revenue on the hope of gaining a top four spot, but they cannot ignore the consequences a second season without Champions League football could do to their balance sheet. With players like Falcao and Angel Di Maria in the side they have reason to be positive, however neither of these players plugs the gaps which have opened up at the heart of their defence.
New manager, Louis van Gaal has wasted little time in re-arranging the payroll files in the offices at Old Trafford, and one interesting move was to sell Danny Welbeck to Arsenal. Many Arsenal fans seem pleased to have obtained a player who has come in for a fair amount of ridicule over the last few years, but his departure puts in jeopardy an amazing stat United have every right to be proud of. Since 1937 they have had at least 1 player from their youth ranks in the first team. If Tyler Blackett makes way for Danny Blind this record would go.
Once again loan deals were prevalent throughout the window. Again I have made my views known on the loan system and I’m dead against it in its current form, as so many clubs abuse it. Equally, players seem to just be content to become victims of the system when they really should take the hint and leave permanently. Take Victor Moses at Chelsea, for example. Since he went on loan to Liverpool last season and now to Stoke City, his employer has signed Diego Costa and Loic Remy. What chance has he got of ever getting back into the Chelsea first team even if he has a blinding season at The Britannia? In fact, Chelsea still have 26 players out on loan at other clubs, including an extremely dubious ‘arrangement’ with Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem.
On the subject of players not wanting to move, it is easy to admire a player who decides to stay at a club and fight for his place in the first team, however if a club was prepared to accept an offer for him, you have to question whether he is wise to do this when he is clearly not in the club’s or the manager’s plans. There is always an uneasy clash with supporters too, when a player takes it upon himself to leave he is often accused of being a traitor, whereas if the club decides to get rid of him then this is often defended as the club “must know what they’re doing”.
Personally, I would shorten the window to make sure all clubs do their dealing before the season begins and that way fans aren’t put through the frustration of seeing a player play at least three games for their team, never to be seen again. An example of this in reverse is Hull City who, according to many observers, did very well in this window with the acquisition of players such as Hatem Ben Arfa, Michael Dawson, Gaston Ramirez and Jake Livermore. But as one wag observed, “Hull now has a team capable to competing in the Europa League four days after going out of the competition”. But it is apparent FIFA likes the window as it is, presumably adopting the same excuse they used to deny the need for goal-line technology in that “supporters love to debate these decisions in pubs”. The transfer deadline day certainly engenders much comment, but that is little proof the system works. Having said all that, according to some foreign correspondents it is only the English Premier League which generates such theatre with the whole thing, as many countries prefer to watch in awe of the goings on as their own domestic league gives it little credence.
Therefore I fear little will change, although Sky Sports News may do well to re-consider the whole concept of sending reporters to stand outside football grounds waiting for scraps of information, particularly as this seems to be a magnet for weirdos and those desperate to be noticed. The race to outdo the previous season’s window would appear to not only be the preserve of the football clubs themselves.