Football’s transfer windows are a bore

Rejoice, European football’s summer transfer window has closed.

What a relief.

Until someone invents a better system or wins a major legal

challenge against the current one, both of which may never happen,

the ugly process of football clubs trading players like cattle

during a few designated months each year is here to stay.

Which doesn’t mean that we have to like it. Transfer windows are

a bore, among the most repellent aspects of the football industry.

Here are a few reasons why:

THE MONEY: With the exception of Manchester City, where

financial logic seems to have taken a lemming-like leap out of the

window, the era when European clubs were prepared to break the bank

for players and splurge beyond all rhyme and reason seems to have

been tamed or, at least, is on temporary hold until European

economies pick up again.

European football governing body UEFA likes to think that its

campaign to curb silly spending is forcing clubs to be more

reasonable. Maybe. UEFA certainly showed mettle in excluding

Mallorca from the Europa League because of the Spanish club’s

financial woes, which included reported debts $79 million. But UEFA

has not been as tough with other far more famous clubs with far

larger debts like Barcelona or Manchester United.

Although spending by European clubs is generally down,

indecently large amounts of money are still changing hands for

players. That clubs should be compensated for players they found,

trained and nurtured is undoubtedly reasonable and an important

source of revenue for some of them. But that top footballers carry

such outsized price tags is absurd. The estimated $538 million that

Premier League clubs spent this summer surely would have done more

good had it gone on training young players, better facilities or

lowering ticket prices.

”It’s a rat-race with no winners,” says Theo van Seggelen,

secretary general of the players’ union FIFPro. ”It is a

ridiculous thing but we have to live with it.”

How sad is that?

THE TIMING: It is irritating and untidy that the transfer window

remains open even after competition in leagues around Europe has

resumed. French clubs, for instance, were already four games into

their season when this transfer period closed on Tuesday. That

overlap between the business of football and action on the pitch is

unsettling. It distracts from the sport and leads to situations

like that of Jose Manual Jurado. On Monday night, the 24-year-old

midfielder scored the first goal in Atletico Madrid’s 4-0 defeat of

Sporting Gijon in the Spanish league. The next day, he moved to

Schalke in the German Bundesliga.

It would be better if such transfers were concluded before

European seasons resume. That would ensure that the focus stays on

football when competitions start and not on the silly sagas about

which players might be leaving for a fat check.

SILLY SAGAS: Rule No.1 of the transfer window: Believe little or

nothing of what you read in the newspapers. Buy two different

papers and you get two different versions of which player might be

moving to which club, why and for how much. The constant

speculation keeps journalists in business but is an almighty

bore.

You can’t trust players or managers, either. After moving,

players will trumpet how happy they are at their new club and claim

to be fulfilling a long-held dream, when really they just came for

the money. And managers will complain about other clubs trying to

poach their players even as they do the same thing.

Players moan that their managers won’t let them move. Managers

moan that players who want to move are acting sulkily because they

can’t get their way. None of this makes football look good.

THE VERDICT: Transfer windows are a necessary evil. Clubs need

to recruit players to replace those others who retire, move

elsewhere or simply aren’t up to scratch. And it does make sense

that the trading of players is limited to certain periods of the

year, so that clubs can build stable teams and compete without

having to worry whether a player will quit midseason.

Even so, that doesn’t mean that we have to like it.

Now, back to the football.

John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The

Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org