Monday 19 February 2018

Comment: Early window closing may leave clubs on the outside looking in

14 of the 20 Premier League clubs have voted in favour of closing the transfer window before the season begins.
14 of the 20 Premier League clubs have voted in favour of closing the transfer window before the season begins.

Miguel Delaney

From one perspective, it's easy to see why 14 of the 20 Premier League clubs have voted in favour of closing the transfer window before the season begins.

It forces all of those clubs to get their business done early, and means that business won't influence the first few matches in the way that has been so conspicuous at the start of this campaign. The football will be the sole focus.

Or, at least, it will be the focus in theory. Because, from the other perspective, it's just as easy to see why one club abstained and the other five clubs voted against the move.

This decision throws up a lot of potential complications, even if it notionally makes the start of the season that bit less muddled. It could actually make things worse.

For a start, it can only stop English clubs buying - and that is a more relevant point than anything when so much business is now done abroad and the game is so globalised.

This new regulation just can't work as intended until the deadline is more continentally standardised.

Many figures from European clubs like Juventus's Giuseppe Marotta and Monaco's Vadim Vasilyev might have already spoken that it's a "wise" and "great decision", and that they want their leagues to follow suit, but the reality is that - as of the current situation - it hands their clubs a massive advantage against the Premier League.

The English boardrooms have been weakened in that regard, unless their strong move actually encourages other leagues to follow, something that is not guaranteed.

There is of course a fair argument that it was going to take one of the big leagues to make this plunge - to start to change the market - but it is still a big risk.

To throw up one potential problem in a transfer window that has become so much more fractious this year, it could allow bigger foreign clubs to string their English counterparts along; to leverage the very regulations against them.

They could promise English targets or English-based players a deal, only to then wait until the Premier League window closes, and then not end up signing the player.

There would also be even greater pressure on English clubs to sell before they can buy from abroad, something that isn't always so convenient in complex and delicate negotiations.

You only have to look at the problems Leicester City have faced this window in trying to buy Adrien Silva from Sporting Lisbon right up against deadline, having sold Danny Drinkwater to Chelsea.

IRONY

Given the fact that one of the roots of this decision is players and teams getting destabilised by other clubs, there is an irony in how it can't actually stop that for the first games of the season when it comes to the biggest destabilisers.

The Barcelonas and Real Madrids and Paris Saint-Germains will still be able to dangle their interest over English-based targets after the Premier League window closes, and still be able to make the kind of offers that are impossible to turn down - only at a period when the players are then impossible to replace.

There's also a potentially bigger problem, beyond the competition with big clubs from other leagues.

There is an argument that a window that closes sooner actually encourages - or even necessitates - tapping up, something that has again become so commented upon this summer.

As one agent said when asked, "how else would you be expected to get everything done in a month?"

It really does squeeze everything into what could be a chaotic period, especially with the World Cup ending close to mid-July next year.

The weeks after that are set to be frenetic, and not really conducive to the kind of calm start the Premier League seems to want.

Also, what of the final preparations for the new season? With the window going right up to the Thursday before the campaign starts, all business is going to be transfer business.

Some of the thinking behind the window initially closing at the start of September rather than the end or midpoint of August was that it allowed a period of grace for managers to assess their squad.

Many might say that any coach or club worth their value should sufficiently prepare, and that it puts a healthier onus on wider structures and staff, but it is still a fact of the game that nothing exposes how a team works like competitive football.

A supreme manager with an excellent backroom could have gone into the new season thinking he made all of the right preparations only for a league match to show that something in his side just doesn't work; that the chemistry is wrong; that an area needs a signing and that the only way to solve it without buying is with the kind of tactical restructuring that the squad just isn't built for.

That is still something of an intangible, though.

The tangible reality is that there will be a point in August when foreign clubs can buy off the Premier League, and Premier League clubs can't buy at all - something that could create far greater complications and unintended consequences than the current situation.

Independent News Service

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