Love it or hate it, the January transfer window provides the mid-season thrills and spills which allow clubs to shake up their squads, push for the title or promotion or make that key signing in the battle to avoid relegation. In many ways, the window has been an interesting introduction and exciting part of modern football.
Since the introduction of the window system in England (under FIFA regulation) in the 2002/03 season, transfers have been limited to the twelve weeks over the summer period, and the four in January. Brought in to stabilise contract situations, the window system has proved to be largely successful. But the January edition has become a media frenzy – especially in the past few years.
While I would not argue that the current transfer system be abandoned for the previous free-for-all approach, there is a case to be made for the January window to be revised.
By Conor Carroll – @mrstability
And the principle reason for that? The astronomical transfer fees it attracts.
While clubs and players have benefited – Juan Mata to Manchester United from Chelsea for £37.1million, Daniel Sturridge (£12m) and Philippe Coutinho (£8.5m) to Liverpool are great examples – there have been some rather infamous signings as the short window came to a close. On deadline day – possibly the most infuriating media storm in sports journalism – transfer records have been smashed, and the players themselves have failed to live up to their megabucks billings – Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres, anyone?
The inflation of transfer fees has affected every club in world football. Couple this with the introduction of the home-grown ruling and selling clubs hold the buying clubs to ransom over transfer fees. They are never obliged to sell, so if a transfer is going to occur, they want a fair price and a bit more to let their man go. We saw this with the aforementioned Carroll and Torres moves to Liverpool and Chelsea respectively on the same day. Two deals that smashed records. Two deals that, had they been in the summer, would have cost significantly less. And two deals that spectacularly backfired. We saw transfer feeds inflated with the ‘Galacticos’ era at Real Madrid but even that doesn’t come near the January transfer window and the nonsense it welcomes.
Money is killing football, separating these professional athletes from their amateur compatriots in a level unlike any other, but it also brings us on to point two: the smaller clubs.
As a measure to make football fairer, FIFA recently brought in Financial Fair Play (FFP). The idea was to stem the growing tide of footballing mega powers with seemingly endless piles of money to splash on any player they like. Although it seems to have only really affected the big boys in France – with Monaco and Paris Saint Germain struggling to reach the heights their expenditure should dictate and being replaced at the top by two former giants in Lyon and Marseille at one and two respectively.
In England the situation makes for bleak reading. Despite being ‘punished’ for FFP breaches, Manchester City continue to spend big – although the summer signing of Eliaquim Mangala has failed to justify his massive price tag – and as such continue to dominate most teams in the league. Their £25million signing of Wilfried Bony highlights the issue at hand. In a season without a January transfer window, Bony’s move to the Etihad doesn’t happen, and Swansea, a much smaller side, keep their best player and best hope of pushing on in the latter half of the season. But that isn’t the case. The financial superpower has ignored warnings and restrictions and brought in one of the best goal-scorers in the league to boost their title defence mid-season.
Every big club is guilty of effectively poaching a big player from a small club, but when it falls in January there is virtually no time to find a suitable replacement. The club instead rushes into a buy, and the deal has a high chance of failing or being more expensive than they would have hoped.
There have been calls for a removal of the window system, or at the very least the January transfer window. The latter might not be the worst idea. The summer window is long enough and has enough twists and turns without a window mid-season to derail a club chugging along nicely in the league. It gives time to plan and prepare, and that work can be undone in a brief period in the January sales.
It’s time to stop with the transfer madness – that’s how we’ll find a level playing field.