NBA blockbuster trades offer glimpse of football’s future…

Ian Watson

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Football following NBA’s path
Benaldo asks a great question about what is happening with transfer fees and I thought I would give a bit of an insight into where things might be heading courtesy of the NBA. If you think the Premier League pays handsomely you really should see how much the top boys in the NBA make.

Basketball is obviously very different in that there is one league paying the highest salaries where the best players want to go (there is money in Europe and China but nothing compares to the NBA), there are less players on a team and there are a finite number of teams with no relegation. They also have the college system where players are drafted rather than coming through the youth systems.

But…they also have this idea of fairness and of loyalty where they try and ensure that the best players are spread amongst the teams. They brought in a system where players could qualify for ‘super-max’ contracts if they stayed with their original team. This has been counter-productive where players now wait until they qualify for the highest contract and then engineer a move to their favoured club/city. More than that, they are now working with other players to make sure that they are also signed to the same team.

What this means is that it’s now unusual for teams to sign players to more than two years on their contract. They get shipped off in the last year of the contract with the team accepting that they are paying for a ‘rental’; Toronto won the Championship this year with a one year rental in Kawhi Leonard who has now moved to the LA Clippers and he himself has made sure that he signed along with another superstar in Paul George from Oklahoma.

I can see this happening in football with the top stars signing short contracts and moving around Europe/USA/China every two or three years with them getting even more money because the transfer fees are no longer part of the deal.
Paul Jones


…I read with interest Benaldo recalling Wenger’s suggestion that transfer fees could disappear “in the near future with top players only signing 2 year contracts with the principle of collecting massive renewal fees or simply moving on to another club willing to pay them the transfer fee (like Herrera I guess) when their current contract expires”.

Now, I am not a transfer specialist, but I identify modern football’s transfer spiral (post the Bosman ruling, obviously) in four phases: 1) pre-Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, 2) pre-Andy Carroll to Liverpool, 3) pre-Neymar to PSG, and 4) now.

Now, two of three mega transfers cited above occurred not due to some extraordinary TV rights deal, but the sheer will power to do and build something outrageous. Of course, this could only be possible with an absurd level of financial backing.

The third, of Carroll, is probably the first transfer which comes to my mind when I think of the ‘English premium’ for players. There may be some other striking, and earlier, example, so correct me if I am wrong.

What am I getting to? Predicting the next phase, of course.

Now, I disagree with Benaldo, who says it would take a bold agent to begin the process of players signing only two-year contracts. If I understand correctly, it is in an agent’s interest if his/her client changes clubs frequently, allowing the collection of some commission from every transfer. This commission is usually greater when it is a ‘free’ transfer. And a free transfer does become more likely if players sign shorter contracts.

Of course, shorter contracts are not good for clubs, as they must amortise the transfer fee over a smaller period, leading to higher transfer expenses in any year. Of course, this also leads to them not getting any transfer fee when players move on a free. And transfer fees are probably the greatest source of revenue for clubs outside of England and the elite European clubs.

Clearly, the agent and the club will be at odds in such a situation.

This tells me that the phase predicted by Wenger is unlikely in the near future. Most probably, a reluctant compromise of some sort will be struck, which is probably what we are nearing towards, with players now being sold more and more regularly when they enter the last year of their contract.

In the future, transfer fees will obviously be determined by the size of broadcast deals, which are expected to come down in the coming years. Second, the financial backing for clubs from external parties – quasi-sovereign entities and billionaires – is probably at, ore nearing, its peak currently, at least at the top end of the game. Surely there is no one else who can buy a club and top the spending power of PSG and Manchester City?

Investment in the ‘smaller’ clubs will probably continue, although this might reduce should broadcast deals start to fall.

As for the ‘English premium’, that will remain until the pool of quality English players increases. And that will not increase significantly until Premier League clubs field more English players. Which means PL clubs will continue spending ‘absurd’ money on them. This is a vicious cycle which will probably break when Championship/League One clubs can demand upwards of 30/40/50 million from PL clubs for an 18-year-old Englishman. That could either lead to even greater demand for foreign players or increased focus on grassroots football.

What I do know is that the transfer market has matured in the last couple of years, with goalkeepers and defenders commanding fees which are far closer to those of strikers/attacking midfielders.
Siddharth and his full-backs.


Girls at grassroots
If you want a stronger England women’s team you need more girls playing the game. One of the reasons the US is ahead of England is because it’s far more socially acceptable for girls to play the sport over there, arguably sport in general. Investing in the WSL will help but it doesn’t remove some of the obstacles that prevent girls kicking a ball in the first place. The more girls playing on parks and playgrounds, the more grass roots clubs and leagues there will be. Increasing the quantity should gradually improve the quality. The interest is definitely there but attitudes from many other kids and adults mean some girls wouldn’t even want to try the game to begin with.

The fact that England can compete with one of the most dominant teams in sport is extremely encouraging and there is an opportunity to overtake them. Football being the undisputed national game here is an advantage that should be capitalised on. Girls would have to live in a bubble to not see someone involved in football. It makes sense that many would choose the sport and supporting that choice goes a long way. Saying it’s okay for girls to play football or not saying anything to discourage them is free of charge too.
CP, Cambridge


Ewah Woowah
Ed. Edward. Eddith? Mr Woodward. Good sir.

Kindly note that while Leicester have signed Tielemans, you are battling with Newcastle to sign a man whose surname sounds like a magician’s weapon during the Great Magician Wars of the 1300’s. He also only has 8 or 9 Premier League appearances. He might be good, but are we really about to pay over 30 million for him? Not that transfer fees mean much, but there are surely more options for that amount of money.

Another note. Chris Smalling is 6 PL appearances away from matching Vidic’s PL appearances. Yet, we seem nowhere closer to signing a center back because you, Mr Edgar Woody, don’t seem to realise that not being able to sign Harry Maguire does not mean there are no center backs available that are far, far better than our current crop of holograms playing at the back (except you, Lindelof, my captain.)

Bruno Fernandes is reportedly keen on a move and so is Ben Yedder. Why have we not signed them yet? Pay the fee. You cannot keep playing hard to get, when what we actually are is hard to want. Pay the goddamn fees for proven players before I have to watch Fred pass to Pereira who passes back to Fred who passes back to Pereira who then makes a long ball to no one while Rashford sprints into oblivion which he then decides to make his home.

Also, I have decided that you should bid for Alaba. Pay whatever they want, offer him whatever he wants, and stop me from having to watch our “player of the season” jog back after being so out of position that one might be forgiven for thinking he was a steward.

Look, Professor Woodward, we all know you’re an evil villain sent back from the future to destroy United, but how about you don’t do that? We are on the brink of long term mediocrity, but right now we are still in a position to stop that from happening . Stop beating around the bush, get deals done, and make me coffee.
Gaaavie, Bottom Rock, Kaapstad.


111 WTF?
I’ve lived in The States for 17 years now, but apparently the UK has changed beyond all recognition without me noticing. No, I don’t mean Brexit. Paul Murphy dialed 111?!? What bloody insanity is this? When did that happen? Why did no one tell me? (That complaint is aimed more at my family & so-called friends than at other Mailboxers, but still). I am bereft, I have no country.

I feel like Jarvis Cocker…”Mother, I can never come home again…” You people deserve Boris.
John, Chicago


Local team
Lucy, LFC: When I was living at my mum’s current house, I wouldn’t have needed to tell you that Cambridge United is my local team, as I could just about see the left corner flag at the Newmarket Road end from my bedroom window. However, since my move to Seville, my new nearest league club is now Plymouth Argyle, who incidentally were the last team I saw United play, the opening day of the season in 2014. Weird eh. The Chelsea thing is an inheritance from my Scottish father, who picked Chelsea when he moved down south because ‘he liked Pat Nevin and the top is a bit like the Scotland top’. Bloody plastics.


Just wondering if I could ask a question of the author of ‘The decorated dozen: The players with 30 or more major honours…’?

What I would love to know is if they came across any other players in their research who had won more but hadn’t played in ‘major leagues’ or in Europe? I’ve known this list for a long time myself but always wondered if there was someone who played in the League of Ireland or the TT Pro League or the MTN Ligue 1 Côte D’Ivoire who had won a ridiculous amount over a 35 year playing career etc. or something similarishly outlandish.

Please and thanks,


Can we get an XI of players who have not turned up to work? Tevez, Griezmann, Neymar would be a pretty deadly front three