The summer transfer window is a thing of great joy, but it goes without saying that it is, as a concept, ludicrous. The idea that you can only recruit players for a couple of months does not surrender its logic to scrutiny. If you have to have a window – and you don’t – then clearly, it should end before the season starts, not a few weeks afterwards. Get your group of players together and stick with them for a whole season; you might be able to sell that as an idea. But the current set-up pleases no-one.
But my main objection is simply that ongoing transfer speculation was an important lifeblood of football culture and, by taking away the possibility of a transfer happening until the following July (the January deadline is, more often than not, a damp squib), it significantly reduces the fun we can have during the season.
July is a reminder of what it used to be like before this artificial discipline was placed on us. There is always so much to digest, so much to speculate about and so much that brings a tear of laughter to the eye. It’s wonderful. First up, there are all the comedy speculations such as Jonny Evans to Arsenal for £10million. THAT Johnny Evans? Are you sure?
Then there are the genuinely brilliant coups like Crystal Palace signing Yohan Cabaye. There are the thrilling but uncertain moves such as Georginio Wijnaldum to Newcastle United and that’s before we even get to the big-name transfers such as Bastian Schweinsteiger and Raheem Sterling. Then you’ve got the expensive mulit-million pound signings that, frankly, you’ve never heard of because he was out on loan at Villareal last season or played for a club that you could not successfully locate on a map.
But it doesn’t stop there. There are loads of low-profile transfers happening that often go under the radar until suddenly, at some point in September, you point and say ‘hang on, does he play for them now?’ They’re probably my favourite moves. I bet someone does that when Scott Sinclair turns out for Aston Villa, when Artur Boruc is in goal for Bournemouth, standing behind…hang on…is that Sylvain Distin in defence? It is. And who’s this, oh we’ve signed someone from Hoffenheim that I’ve never heard of for…for how much? Good grief. And what’s this? We’ve signed a man from FC Midtjylland? You’ve just made that up. Where the hell is FC Midtjylland? Is he any good? Can’t we find a local kid that is as good as someone from Midtjylland? No-one has a clue. But wait, see this bloke in midfield, he’s come from Barcelona for six million. Is that all? Well he must be rubbish then.
This is what transfers give us – an endless churn of possiblities. It gives us things to talk about, it gives us reason to hope and reason to despair too, as you realise that you’ve signed Samue Eto’o. Again. It’s always great fun to see fans of a club trying to persuade themselves that a specific transfer is a brilliant bit of business, just as it’s great fun to speculate about buying a star player from a club that has just beaten you. And an often overlooked extra joy is the transfer of players you grew to loathe disappearing from the books of your club and, more hilarious still, those who are sold without you ever realising you had signed them, because they’ve been out on loan in the Bulgarian second division for two years. It’s all good. It should happen all the time.
You might argue that the arbitary deadline leads to more hilariously irrational purchases as managers, confronted with a squad of lumbering no-hopers, desperately try to inject some life into the squad on the final day by buying a high-profile striker for an outrageous amount of money and yes, that is hilarious. But I’d trade that for the possiblity of the endless, season-long merry-go-round.
Knowing that you’re not stuck with the same players for the duration is a tremendous relief. Being able to move players on and recruit flesh blood is not just part of the fun of football, it’s part of the art and politics of management. It would also help calm the transfer market down. The desperation that deadlines impose inevitably drives prices up as so many leave their business until the last minute in a game of chicken. At least if you know you can buy Eto’o in August, sell him in October and buy him back in February and sell him again in April, you needn’t bid quite so much money in the first place.
I know people say the 24/7/365 transfer market favours the rich clubs because they can hoover up players throughout the season. But frankly, the rich clubs boss the market anyway. I don’t think we’d see a different top four next season if the transfer deadline was removed. The knowledge that a massive bid from one club to another for a key player could happen at any time keeps everyone on their toes. The romance and intrigue would be an ongoing thing, rather than a summer fling which leaves you with a nasty rash or, worse still, a bad case of Tyrone Mings.
Johnny writes novels here and rock ‘n’ roll blogs here