It’s hard to remember a time before the transfer window. Things were once simpler in many ways. There was one transfer deadline, when it passed there were no more deals. Easy...
It has now been 10 years since we have had our transfer deals conducted in two periods, one in the summer and one for the month of January. Yet, even though we are a decade in, the transfer window still has its detractors and probably always will.
In truth the January transfer window does have a few obvious flaws that continue to rear their ugly heads. This January has been no different.
It seems that the current transfer window system hits the smaller clubs the hardest. Once upon a time a club would operate with a relatively modest squad, knowing that if an injury or two were to befall them then a few loan signings could fill the void. But today even the poorest of clubs know that they must put together a squad capable of getting from the end of August to the start of January. A squad fully equipped to deal with any injuries or setbacks that come their way.
If you’re Chelsea or Manchester City then this isn’t a problem. You can have a wealth of highly paid international talent waiting in the wings should they need to be called upon. If you’re a club who are surviving week to week like Portsmouth or Plymouth Argyle then you don’t have the surplus wage budget to keep a strong set of reserves for a rainy day.
There are extended windows when it comes to lower league teams loaning players, but since the rules are so strict on how many loan players you are allowed this is still a fairly limited option. Belts are being tightened at football clubs all over the country and the money simply isn’t there to house a big squad.
But of course the one obvious flaw with the January transfer window is the panic buying. The summer window should remind you of a stroll through your local Waitrose, browsing the finest things at your own leisure. Or so I’d imagine anyway. The January window however resembles your local Tesco Metro when there is heavy snow forecast. It’s full of shoppers, the shelves are bare but you know you can’t leave empty handed.
For most clubs money can’t be spent on frivolous purchases, but somehow, it is. Players are brought in for the here and now but come the summer they are surplus to requirements once again as more permanent reinforcements can be sought. It means that players are bought without there being a proper space in the team for them. They are simply brought in to build up the numbers or cover a position that has been hit by injuries.
If a team were to sell their best striker in January they would generally be unable to replace him as top quality signings are hard to come by in the winter window. They would buy a player to plug the gap for now and another in the summer to truly move forward. No player wants to be used to simply plug a gap. It can slam the breaks on a promising career in no time flat.
Adam Johnson’s move to Man City is a prime example of this. A big move for a player who maybe wasn’t the perfect fit for City, he was just the best option available that January. Now his development has been stifled and he is trying to find his feet again with Sunderland.
And the panic buying is no better for the clubs than it is for the players. Let me paint you a picture, you’re Liverpool. It’s the 31st of January 2011 and you have just sold Fernando Torres to Chelsea. You’re £50million up but you have no strikers. Time is running out. What would you do?
What Liverpool did was buy the best players they could at the time. The window, as previously stated, induces panic buying. There is a gamble involved as you don’t have much time to plan and you could be left with a multi-million pound mistake sat in your dressing room.
As time ticked away on that transfer window of 2011 Liverpool spent £22.8million on Luis Suárez. Despite his numerous drawbacks it was a good bit of business and it is hard to argue the fact that he is now one of the world’s very best.
That same evening Liverpool also bought Andy Carroll for £35million. A player who spent most of his time either injured or on loan at West Ham (where he was often injured). He was later sold to West Ham at a £20million loss, he has since spent most of his time injured. In truth, injuries aside, Carroll rarely looked like a good fit for Liverpool, particularly once Brendan Rodgers took over and enforced his brand of football on them.
And that’s a perfect example of what can happen. Bargains are there to be had. But you run a massive risk of spending big money on a player who doesn’t quite fit the bill.
As of this writing there are just two full days of the window left and Newcastle have had to give in to Yohan Cabaye and allow him to leave for PSG. They have two days to find a replacement and it will be nearly impossible to find an adequate one. And so the mistakes of previous windows threaten to be repeated. Good luck Newcastle.