Monday 19 March 2018

John Giles: The Costa fiasco highlights why the transfer window doesn't work - it shouldn't be kept in its current form

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Diego Costa Picture: PA
Diego Costa Picture: PA
John Giles

John Giles

There is a delicious irony in the pursuit of Diego Costa and the response of many commentators in England who have been looking down their noses at Chinese money as if it is somehow less worthy than the Premier League’s.

Chelsea’s season could hinge on the next few weeks, although the latest indications from China are that he will not be heading there.

The situation is just another good example of why the transfer window doesn’t work and has never worked.

Many moons ago, when some bright spark in UEFA decided that the January transfer window would be a good idea, the whole point of it was to prevent big clubs preying on smaller fry during the season by stripping out their best prospects for relatively small money.

But I never imagined that I would be writing about Chelsea as the club on the wrong end of predatory offer, never mind that the offer would originate outside the traditional financial engine of the world game, Europe.

Clearly, there is a lot of money in China and rather than come and buy up every European club they can get their hands on, some very wealthy men have decided to bring the best players in the world to their front door.

The Chinese have invested in European clubs but from their perspective, it makes total sense to follow the lead given by Roman Abramovich, when he bought Chelsea and sprayed money around.

Time and circumstances have changed his view and Chelsea is now about turning a profit, the purpose of most things Abramovich turns his hand to.

But the Chinese are simply doing what the big clubs in Europe have been doing all along – and they are offering so much money that it is turning heads.

Nobody in Europe should complain about that. China has a massive population and can sustain big-time sport. Disposable income is rising and football can mop up a good deal of that.

I don’t see Chinese money destabilising the game in any more significant way that Abramovich did, or the oil money now powering Manchester City. Of course it’s bad for the game but that argument was lost a long time ago.

Football is the most unregulated game in the world because vested interests want it that way. At the root of it all is greed.

All Antonio Conte can do is to hide the raw frustration he must be experiencing watching the player who can give him the Premier League title acting up at exactly the wrong time.

That’s the destructive power of greed and it reaches its full flowering in the transfer window. I don’t see any logical reason to keep it in its present form.

All it does is provide the cream on top for agents who spend the year arranging creative and lucrative ways to get their players out of one club and into another. They can maximise the return in January, when talent is even more scarce than usual and managers desperate.

Should Costa go, Chelsea will do just what the Chinese are doing and go and offer a club more mad money to get a replacement striker, which they may not be able to find. Not many of them around.

All in all, it’s a big few weeks for Conte, who has handled Costa in the only way he could and stuck him in a corner of the training ground on his own, although the striker was back training with the squad yesterday.

After the defeat by Spurs, Chelsea went on to put three more points on the board but I’m not sure they can sustain another long run of wins without Costa or a replacement to bang in goals.

It really is a fascinating season for watching managers. While Conte walks a tightrope, Pep Guardiola looks battered by events and I found myself contemplating the unthinkable after Everton destroyed Manchester City.

Guardiola might not see out the season at the Etihad at this rate.

My greatest worry for him is that he doesn’t seem to have an idea what to do about his defence or any other part of his team, not unlike Arsene Wenger who will never see what the rest of us see about his team because he simply doesn’t understand defending.

Guardiola looked like a lost boy after the Everton game and certainly not the best manager in the world.

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