With less than a week to go before the beginning of the new season, clubs are finalising their preparations and getting their squads ready for the start of a long campaign. It has been an interesting summer in the transfer market, with Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City spending big money, with others like Arsenal, Everton and Blackburn spending very little, or yet to spend at all. More than ever this season has highlighted the tough financial times for most football clubs, which is clearly evident by looking at the number of top international players who at this time are still struggling to find a club.
A lot of very good players were released at the end of last season, many like Paul Scholes and Edwin Van der Sar to go into retirement. Others like Owen Hargreaves and Jonathon Woodgate proved too much of a burden with their long term injury problems, and players like Matthew Upson and Thomas Hitzlsperger could not afford to be kept on, with their high wage demands, after their side had been relegated. According to statistics, less than a quarter of those released at the beginning of the summer have found new clubs.
Some of the quality on offer, are very good international players who would surely add a lot to any Premiership or Championship side. Thomas Hitzlsperger, Matthew Upson, Sol Campbell, John Carew and plenty more are still available. These are experienced internationals, who would add quality and strength in depth to any team. So why aren’t they being snapped up?
This summer must have come as a shock to these players, who usually would have been acquired on a free very quickly. It highlights the lack of money around, and also reflects the unrealistic demands that players have these days. Many of these players will not have been snapped up because despite being available for free, clubs simply cannot afford the burden of their astronomical wages. If they lowered their estimations, surely they would have been taken by many of the Premier League or Championship sides. In particular players like these would have been of great benefit to a side like Everton, who are on a tight financial budget and have been unable to spend over the summer. Also one of the Premier League’s new sides, Swansea, Norwich or QPR would greatly benefit from that little bit of Premiership experience, an old head who has been there and done it before.
There is still a few weeks before the transfer window closes, so some of the players available may be signed over that time. Jonathon Woodgate has gone to Stoke on a pay-as-you-play deal, no doubt it is a gamble for Stoke, but if he can remain fit, he will prove an invaluable signing for Tony Pulis, bolstering their defence alongside Ryan Shawcross. It appears that that type of contract could be the key for a lot of the other injury prone players yet to find deals, players like Owen Hargreaves and James McFadden could benefit from finding a club who could offer them that. The rest of the talent available will simply have to lower their expectations, if after all they just want to play football.
There is no doubt that the rule limiting the size of squads to 25 is still having an impact, with clubs looking to reduce the size of the squads before they bring anyone else in. However, you have to say that the problems facing the available players must rest firmly at their own feet. They may be facing a tough time, but if they didn’t have such unrealistic demands, and simply wanted to play football they wouldn’t be in this predicament. Take Hitzlsperger, he was offered a deal with Sunderland earlier in the summer, but was advised to hold out for a better deal, now with less than a week to go before the season, he is without a club and is unlikely to get anywhere near the terms Sunderland were offering.
As the transfer window nears its close, it is clear that these players will have to swallow their pride, stop their greedy estimations and lower their expectations, if they want to be playing anywhere this season.