Twitter rumours, car window interviews, Daniel Levy. Sky Sports News, the yellow ticker, Jim White. Transfer Deadline Day. To many football fans, it comes in as the most exciting day of the year. It is to the football media what the Oscars is to the film industry. A blur of headlines, tweets and statements (mostly fictitious) which keep many of football’s hardcore fanbase glued to their TV or social media all day long. Today is Deadline day is – the pinnacle of the lunacy. However as money and media have continued to explode in their influence within football, Transfer season has turned from fun to farcical.
As a Spurs fan, Deadline day is supposedly our ‘thing’. It’s like part of the job perks in an advertisement to be a Spurs fan – ‘As part of this role, you can expect brave attempts to break into the Top 4, occasional world class player, excitement-filled transfer deadline days’. In the days where Harry Redknapp and Daniel Levy were at the helm, this was very much the case. The car-window interviews from Harry giving delicious scraps of information to the reporters became the stuff of legend. Daniel Levy’s ruthless reputation as a negotiator was equally famous (or infamous!). As well as this, we were occasionally treated to gifts such Rafael van der Vaart! How could we not love deadline day?
In recent years, Spurs transfer mayhem has subsided, as the men of fewer words like Pochettino and Villas-Boas have taken the reigns. However, the rest of the world has only just begun appreciating the madness as media sources like Twitter and Facebook become more and more prevalent. News is now available by the second in 140 character portions and who a player ‘follows or unfollows’ is now seen as paramount. A transfer is now only official when the club tweets a picture of the new recruit in the latest kit.
However, social media has its’ uses in this department, and it’s not the main cause of this new madness. The rise of social media in the Transfer circles has been mirrored in parallel by the vast increase in the amount of money in circulation. In recent years we’ve seen records fall by the way side as monster transfer fees have been paid out for some of the world’s finest stars like Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale. Clubs breaking through glass ceilings to bring in the cream of football’s talent has always been the case, but in recent times, things have changed dramatically. Let me first point the finger at Andy Carroll.
Before 2011, £35million could buy you a hell of a lot. That was the going quote for the strikers who were excelling, but fell just below the likes of Messi and Ronaldo. £35million could buy you an Aguero, or an Arjen Robben or a Wesley Sneijder – Players at the peak of their powers with proven track records, not a big young Geordie with a total of 41 top flight appearances (and 14 goals) under his belt. The risk ended up outweighing the reward for Liverpool and Carroll has since been moved on for a fraction of that huge price after underwhelming at Anfield. However, he can now tell people he is (as of this moment in time) the 41st most expensive player of all time. It’s worth noting that of the 40 transfers that have been more expensive, 20 have come in the time since then – the playing field has changed. Here we are four years later and Manchester United are on the cusp of signing a promising 19 year old French striker Anthony Martial (who has had a total of one full top-flight season) for a fee said to be between €55-80million. How can transfers ever be the same after this?
The fact that Martial was available for about half of the above fee just two months ago before he signed a new contract illustrates the madness further. United didn’t need a striker so urgently in July as they do in September – Desperation and deep pockets make bad bedfellows.
The meteoric rise in transfer fees has also been mirrored in player’s wages. It took over a century of football before footballer’s earned weekly wages in the region of thousands of pounds a week. At some stage in the early 2000’s, the £100k/week barrier was broken. In the decade that’s followed, many players have tripled that figure – most recently (allegedly) Kevin De Bruyne, who left quietly out the back door from Chelsea 18 months ago, only to arrive back in England now for a €60million fee and a hefty paycheque. It’s a sad thing to admit, but these ridiculous figures have been a huge contributor to the gradual loss of loyalty in football. Every day the game becomes more of a business.
Transfer requests and statements from agents (who have been the petrol on this transfer-frenzy fire) are now as common in the Sports pages and match reports. The result of this is in the early stages of a season is often a squad of unsettled teammates who aren’t sure who’ll be sitting beside them in the dressing room next week. Just look at the case of West Brom, Southampton and Man United, who’ve respectively had to live without Saido Berahino, Victor Wanyama and David De Gea all season amid transfer speculation – how can any team prepare with distractions like this?
There are numerous solutions being touted to alleviate some of this lunacy. The first and most commonly suggested, is the shortening of the window. I would ‘Slam the window shut’ as Jim White might say, on August 1st. This would give teams ample time to tailor their squad, while also leaving a degree of time before the season starts for the squad to gel. It would also rid us of this ridiculous problem of players spending the first month of the season sitting on the fence, which helps neither club nor the player.
The second chance I would make is a more drastic change – Players can only leave inside the last two years of their contract. Idealistic and unlikely? Yes, but very logical. At the current rate, contracts mean about as much as the paper they are written on. When the likes of United or Barcelona can roll up with a blank cheque, it doesn’t matter if the deal is 1, 5 or 10 years, the player is moving. If contracts were set to mean a little more, players, managers and even fans could feel a bit more at ease as to who is in it for the long haul.
So as another Silly season comes to an end, I; like many, will be refreshing Twitter all day, to see if Pato or Berahino has arrived at the Lane, or praying that Lloris or Vertonghen have remained there. But, like an increasing amount of fans, I’ll be relieved when it’s over!
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