Last week, the Premier League voted to close the summer transfer window before the first game of the 2018/19 season. The decision comes following a summer in which several high-profile players cemented themselves to the sidelines in hope of securing moves away, something that inevitably affected managerial plans, team selections and results during the first three weeks of the new season.
Closing the transfer window early does create a leveller playing field and reduce the confusion during the opening weeks of the campaign. But there are positives and negatives to everything in the world of football. Football FanCast discuss the pros and cons of the latest Premier League rule change…
There is a reason the two richest clubs in the Premier League, Manchester City and Manchester United, voted against shortening the transfer window despite not making any signings later than the end of July this summer – in the grand scheme of European football, it leaves the English top flight at a significant disadvantage until the rest of the continent ratify the change as well.
First and foremost, ending the transfer window before the first game doesn’t actually solve the problem it’s designed to, because foreign clubs will still have another three weeks of potentially whisking away players – it wouldn’t, for example, have had any bearing on Philippe Coutinho’s arduous transfer saga during the summer. Of course, the safeguard is that Premier League clubs won’t want to sell knowing they can’t replace, but we’ve seen this summer how frankly outrageous the money can get and some chairmen will surely take the risk should a ridiculous offer come along.
But there’s also a major disadvantage on the recruitment front, and especially in a World Cup year. Foreign clubs are now in a situation where they can demand much greater money from Premier League clubs much earlier in the summer; the threat being that if an English team don’t agree a deal, they still have three weeks to float players to potential suitors elsewhere. That puts incredible pressure on Premier League teams and leverages heavily towards the sellers which might, if possible, remove transfer fees even further from reality than they are currently. It will also make the Premier League the best place to drum up interest; if you agree a £50million deal but let the deadline pass, you’ve the set the price-tag for the rest of Europe for the next three weeks. That doesn’t put English football in a particularly esteemed light.
Likewise, Premier League sides will have far less time to sign players also desired by clubs across Europe. There will be just 25 days between the World Cup final next summer and the close of the transfer window in the English top flight; some of the stellar talents to emerge from international football’s top competition will inevitably pass the Premier League by. And for all the concern over how the current situation affects managers preparing for the new season, I’m sure most would like the option of revising their squad after three games of evidence to go on rather than having no choice at all.
There was a brief lull, but it turned out we were in the eye of a passing storm.
For years, transfer deadline day was the most hyped day of the footballing calendar. It got silly, but it was also thoroughly entertaining. When Robinho joined Manchester City, or when Alex Ferguson smuggled Dimitar Berbatov out of north London in the back of an inconspicuous car, deadline day was at its harmless peak. Just a soap opera condensed into a day and providing some titillating fun.
But then it got boring. Deadline days came and went with only the tamest of sagas and midtable moves. Blockbusters were impossible as the biggest clubs had their houses in order, business was done early.
This year, with the market inflated and panic in the air, it became ludicrous again. Not just because silly money was being thrown about for middling players or because clubs were frantically attempting to replace departing stars, but also because of the fact that three games had already been played. Three games, that is, when some of the biggest clubs in the country were deprived of some of their best players – multi-million pound assets – all because another team somewhere in the world had whispered sweet nothings into their ears.
It seems so right that the transfer window should end before the season starts. It won’t get rid of the sense of panic, drama or even entertainment that deadline day can often bring, nor will it stop wantaway players from attempting their escapes. But it will stop the frankly ridiculous situation where clubs, the league and its worldwide fan base are prevented from seeing some of the best players until well into the season. And if three games doesn’t sound like a long time, remember that Chelsea won the league by seven points last season.
Of course, this is only a beneficial gesture if other European leagues decide to play along. If they follow suit and we have a Europe-wide deadline, this will sort all of the problems. If not, then English clubs will still have to endure bids for their best players for even longer, with no chance of replacing them if they leave.
Still, if you want change to any system, you have to take action. And the Premier League really should be applauded for taking that step, not constantly reminded of the very obvious downside to it.