Now that the transfer deadline has closed and that inconvenient international break is out of the way, this weekend was the first chance for fans to catch a glimpse of the squad that they are either blessed with or lumbered with until the transfer window re-opens in January. You got a chance to evaluate whether that new Albanian left back looks like a bargain or if the Somalian under-19’s goalkeeper you signed 30 seconds before the deadline closed was a stroke of genius or a mad rush of blood to the head.
In total, a record-breaking £1.4billion was splashed out by Premier League clubs over the summer on new acquisitions. Even by English footballs warped and ridiculous standards, that is a lot of cash. For that money, you and I could afford to pay for over 155 million months of Netflix (or about 4 months of the full Sky Sports package). However, the most startling thing to remember is that the figure, monstrous as it is, could have been much, much more had some of the more high-profile transfer sagas come to fruition.
In 1995, a Belgian (and bang average) midfielder named Jean-Marc Bosman changed the face of football forever. The European Court of Justice ruled that clubs no longer had to pay transfer fees to sign players whose contracts had expired and the days of the “one-club man” were all but demolished. Ever since then, contracts have been essentially rendered useless and “player power” has ruled supreme. Or, at least, until now. Rather refreshingly, the most recent transfer window suggests that clubs are attempting wrestle back some sort of control over their most valued commodity – the players.
In recent years, if you were a disgruntled footballer looking for a move to a bigger club (or a lesser club who have offered to triple the size of your jacuzzi) then there have been several tried and tested methods of getting yourself that “dream” move. These tactics have included:
#1 – The Sulk
Made famous by Nicolas Anelka. “The Sulk” is a simple tactic… you sulk. Whether it’s around the club, on the training ground or even on the pitch, you simply show that you are not happy and borderline depressed to anyone that will notice: the manager, your team-mates, the ladies who make the food in the canteen etc. In fact, you are so upset that the very notion of lifting your overpaid manicured feet to run around chasing a ball seems a tiresome one. Ultimately, your sulking efforts start to affect the group and the manager has no choice but to let you go.
#2 – Handing in a transfer request
A slightly more official and mature approach to wanting to leave but still a nightmare for clubs to contend with. This is often seen as a last resort as it is guaranteed to make the fans turn on you. According to Opta: there is approximately 18 seconds between a transfer request being handed in and your effigy being burnt in the city centre by obese, green-tattooed football fans wielding pitchforks. The reason the handing in of a transfer request is so unpopular is that it completely undermines the concept of a contract. Football fans who are stuck in a dead-end and contractually obliged job struggle to grasp the notion that you can just simply ask to ignore the pact you signed with your employers.
#3 – The Interview
In this day and age, when your quotes will be seen around the world quicker than a celebrity sex tape, the media is a powerful tool. For this tactic, all you must do is simply pick a journalist you trust, get them to ask about your future and then give an answer which will pour petrol on the already smouldering transfer speculation surrounding you. If you are smart you combine phrases like “I love this club, the fans mean the world to me” with opposing statements such as “if an offer comes in for me then we will see what the future holds”… leaving the fans confused and torn between getting your name tattooed or re-igniting that effigy.
#4 – Going AWOL
Going absent without leave is the most basic and unsubtle attempt at forcing through a transfer. It’s usually a last resort and is almost admirable for its unabashed simplicity. This is a tactic that is much easier in the summer when clubs’ players return to their homes and are scattered all across the globe, making them harder to track. If you are South American you simply head back to the beach and enjoy the high-life without a care in the world. Then, you ensure a few photos of you “accidentally” wind up on Twitter wherein you are surrounded by bikini-clad women, drinking out of a coconut and carrying several extra pounds of flab. Fans resign themselves to losing you but take solace from the fact that with your new lifestyle you won’t be the same player next season (only for you to then turn up at your new club in August with muscles that Jean Claude van Damme would envy before walking away with the match ball).
#5 – Remove your current club from your Twitter and Instagram bio
The most 21st century and childish way of making it clear you want to move on. Jordon Ibe, born into the Twitter generation, removed all evidence of Liverpool Football Club from his social media when he was left out of a matchday squad by Jurgen Klopp in his final season at the club and he is one of many similar examples. The other option is to hit ‘like’ on a few posts from the club you wish to join or any posts linking you with a move, sending their fans into mass hysteria.
In the words of @DonaldTrump… Sad!
Ordinarily, any player who pulled one of the above-mentioned stunts would ultimately get what they wanted. Their clubs would put up a bit of a fight and release a statement that the player was “under contract” and they had “no obligation to sell”, when really that was all just a ruse to get the transfer bid up to an acceptable level before the inevitable deal a few weeks later. But not this time around. This summer the clubs realised that getting another season out of your best player is ultimately worth more to you than a few extra million in the bank.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the owners of football clubs around the world met up prior to this summer in a dark back alley somewhere and unanimously decided that they would no longer be “selling clubs”. There are plenty of reasons for clubs showing more commitment to hanging on to their star players. Perhaps, clubs have begun to realise that certain players are irreplaceable no matter how much money you receive. When Tottenham and Liverpool sold Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez for astronomical figures, the theory put forward by pundits and fans alike was that the clubs had received a good price that could be re-invested back into the squad. In reality, both clubs replaced two world class players with a handful of lesser ones and their team was diminished.
Also, it is no coincidence that a record-breaking transfer window has coincided with a record-breaking TV rights deal. The clubs are receiving so much nowadays that quite simply, they don’t need the money. Not even £140million in Liverpool’s case. When clubs can afford to turn down those sorts of figures it makes negotiating with them nigh on impossible, even if you are Barcelona.
And whilst Liverpool, Man City and Barcelona fans may be disappointed that they didn’t capture their main transfer targets, they should also rejoice that, finally, the clubs seem to have fought back in this transfer window against the ridiculous rise of “player power” in recent years. There seems to have been an accepted notion in the last decade or so that you can’t keep a player “if he wants to go”.
But it turns out – you can.