Before the introduction into European football of ‘registration periods,’ more commonly known as ‘transfer windows,’ you may remember that players could pretty much come and go as they please, right up until the closing weeks of the season. However, times have changed and now, in England specifically, the summer window runs from the last day of the season right up until the 1st September. That’s all well and good; a long summer break to tamper with your squad and attempt, admittedly sometimes in vain, to improve upon the previous season. However, now is January. January in England and across Europe has it’s own mid-season transfer window. The question is why?
The debate has been had on frequent occasions since the inception of the transfer window, primarily instigated by the likes of Steve Coppell notorious for his dislike of the current system, instead preferring a ‘no restrictions’ approach to comings and goings of players. But surely the aim of the transfer window is to remove that constant, lingering feeling of doubt in the back of a manager’s mind as to whether his players will just jump ship at a crucial point in the season. In today’s market especially, it would be so easy for players to wake up one morning and decide enough is enough, á la Carlos Tevez you may recall, though he was disuaded from going anywhere most likely as a result of flashing dollar signs. Clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City with their gargantuan transfer budgets could just as easily spend the duration of the season raking in new talent as they spend the entirety of the summer on a mission to stockpile the world’s greatest players. It’s almost like the trading cards we all felt an ardor for at some point in our childhood, forever yearning for the final evasive glittering shiny card.
Let’s put all that into context, shall we? Imagine we are a fortnight away from arguably the biggest game on the planet: Manchester United vs Liverpool. Without transfer windows, a situation could so easily arise where a key player such as Fernando Torres, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard or Rio Ferdinand could be offered a small fortune every week by one or other of the aforementioned clubs, not to mention the omnipresent lure of European behemoths Barcelona and Real Madrid. Only in very special circumstances would a player, given the chance, turn it down. Maybe Steven Gerrard would be an exception to that but it’s beside the point. Big players could pack their bags and be gone before sunrise if they so chose. The club would be left stranded with no star man and precious little time to find a replacement and gel him into the side. It would be chaotic, and quite frankly, unfair.
So what exactly is the point of the January window? All it seemingly does is condense what was months worth of rumor and anticipation into a single, month long window of unease and uncertainty. It’s a hectic time and it is no wonder that in some circumstances over the past few years it has been a fateful turning point for so many teams going into the new year.
But is it right that the only windows of opportunity for strengthening are nine months apart? What if you get prolonged injuries mid-season? The impact, particularly on the weaker, less financially predominant sides such as West Ham, Wolves or Wigan could be forced into further despair at the bottom of the table. On the other hand, though, it is all too frequent that these clubs panic as they find themselves on the verge of relegation, albeit the best part of 5 months from judgement day, and spend money wildly on players who they don’t really need or indeed want, and players won’t turn out to be the savior they were after. The knock-on effect of this, of course, is a reduced budget in the summer where, should they survive, they could have spent it wisely, and calculated more expensive signings who would surely bolster their chances of ‘success’ the following year. You only need to look at previous January signings along the lines of Eric Djemba-Djemba’s move from Man United to Aston Villa in 2005, Newcastle’s big money move for Boumsong in the same year or City’s sweep for Samaras in 2006 to see where I’m coming from. No doubt there will be flops of a similar ilk in this window too, as there are every other January.
Sometimes, though, it is entirely necessary to strengthen. Indeed, you hear managers ramble on about the opportunity to add to their squad after Christmas, months in advance. Liverpool, for example, are in dire straits right now, and now they have the new, seemingly more competent and more well-off American owners, the time is right to splash the cash, perhaps. Though other teams, predominantly smaller teams, simply don’t have the money to waste that they think they do.
That’s why, after much deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that the January transfer window is nothing more than a traditionally ill-fated period of concern for managers and players alike. It gives clubs a false hope, an illusion that they can better themselves for the final rundown to the end of the season and more often than not, can be distracting and entirely favorable to the clubs with all the money, and in today’s market, we should be working towards a conclusion which, if anything, detriments the big spenders.
So what d’ya reckon, footy fans? January transfer window: fruitful, or just entirely pointless?