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 of ?60 million (US$79
million). But UEFA has not been as tough with other far more famous
clubs with far larger debts like Barcelona or Manchester
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 350 million
pounds (?424 million; $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
”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
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 exact 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