Understanding how the transfer window works
(A large dose of realism required)
by Terence McGovern
The transfer window is upon us once more. This annual merry-go-round of sloppy journalism and internet speculation is eclipsed only by the immoral level of spending money not owned on things not needed that would make Paris Hilton Blanche.
It occurred to me yesterday that for the vast majority of football fans (Arsenal included) this period remains as much of a mystery as the derivative futures market. To put it more simply, they just don’t get it.
Most football fans are a happy lot who believe that when the transfer window opens their football clubs can use their available money to buy in players to strengthen key areas of their team and squad whilst offloading players that are deemed either to be not of the required standard or past a certain age.
If only it were that simple.
The best place to begin with this for Arsenal fans is to examine the vast array of complaints expressed over the last few years with regard to transfers out of our club. Vieira left for Juventus and despite him not being the player that he once was fans were rending their robes and covering their faces in ash. (Metaphorically speaking of course….well in most cases)
Henry departed for Barcelona and we all had that feeling that the supermodel girlfriend that we had assumed would marry us and live happily ever after had just packed her bags to move in with George Clooney. Alex Hleb and Mattieu Flamini soon followed and despite not quite having the same place in our hearts, they left us with the feeling that things just were not going to be the same.
However all these feelings of rejection and disappointment encapsulate the sheer stupidity of the football fans throughout the world. Of course it was natural to be unhappy that great players were leaving our club for pastures they perceived as greener but let’s get real here.
Arsenal fans complained that the manager should have done better and kept them. I have read dozens of sub-standard articles that preach the merits of these players and state that Arsene Wenger made the wrong choice.
Here and now Arsenal supporters need to realise that choice NEVER came into it.
The Webster ruling basically states that players under 28 when they signed their contract can buy out the remaining 3 years of their contract and that players over 28 can do so with the remaining 2 years of their contract. Did anybody ever wonder how players of Vieira’s and Henry’s standard only went for around £15 million? The answer is that they went for the remaining value of their contract. They dictated the fee not the club.
Arsene Wenger was powerless in these situations because the player wanted to go. Personally I believe that if they want to go, there is no point in keeping them as they will not perform to their best. All you can do is spend the money wisely when you get paid for them. Henry wanted out of London ahead of his impending divorce and also a shot at the Champions League with Barcelona. Vieira wanted to put his previous Serie A failure to bed and probably more money.
Hleb definitely wanted more money and without Henry, had no faith in the team. (Never the kind of guy to dig deep I guess). Flamini wanted a very serious contract off the back of one good year out of three. All of them had complete control over the decision to go or stay and all wanted to go. Wenger never had a chance with the exception of the case of Flamini and in all fairness I would have gone with Diarra ahead of him too. It was just unfortunate that the player turned out to be devoid of both loyalty and decency.
This brings me to my reason for bothering to write this. It struck me yesterday that two stories doing the rounds were classic examples of the points that I am trying make.
Firstly we have Gareth Barry leaving Aston Villa for Manchester City. Now I wont go into the history of his many attempts to transfer to a bigger club but the key point is that last year his valuation was £18 million and this year it was £12 million as he had 2 years and 1 year left on his contract respectively.
This I believe is where Arsene Wenger shows his strength as a manager. Martin O’Neill could have sold Gareth Barry last year if he dropped his asking price to say £17 million but wanted to keep the player in spite of logic. If we assume Barry was on £50K a week at Villa then the cost of the player for the year was £2.5 million give or take…..except last year it wasn’t. It was £7.5 million when you take the loss of transfer fee into account. That is £150K a week that Barry cost the club in real terms and I’m fairly certain that most will agree that he isn’t worth that.
Now Villa will have to replace his quality with only £12 million when they could have had £17 million and that £5 million could be the difference between an average player and a great one. Wenger would have taken the £17 million and bought 2 players of course but Martin O’Neill stuck his head in the sand and made a very bad call there. Players can indeed hold clubs to ransom in cases like this and the sensible solution is to get as much money as possible for the player and move on.
THIS is why Wenger keeps the squad younger than most. THIS is why he ties players on long-term contracts . THIS is why he is quite happy to improve those contracts even after only 18 months in some cases.
The value of the contract may well be the price he can achieve for the player when push comes to shove.
It is Arsene Wenger’s genuine understanding of the transfer system and contract dynamics that has made the club so profitable. His decisions will not always be popular but he will always make them based upon cold hard fact and cash unfettered by pointless emotion or delusions of sentimentality. It should be remembered that his habit of dictating sell-on clauses is clever in the extreme. When players are ungrateful to our club they will no doubt be the same with the next one. Bentley and Diarra have netted us almost £15 million from their subsequent sales which basically paid for Arshavin. When you consider this Wenger deserves a round of applause.
The second story which also has bearing on the need for fans’ realism and pragmatism during the transfer window is the tabloid rumour about Fabregas to Barcelona for £40 million.
NEVER!!! cry some fans. Inevitable in my opinion.
We have been quite lucky to get Cesc. A world class player who despite his tender age has been with us for some time. Now I don’t think that he is leaving this Summer or even the Summer after that, but leave he will and no mistake.
We have a few things in our favour at the moment in regard to this situation. Firstly Wenger has very cleverly tied Cesc up on a contract far too long to be bought out which puts us in the driver’s seat so to speak. Then there is the undeniable fact that Fabregas would probably have to spend a fair amount of time on the Barcelona bench given what they already have in the midfield dept. This would be unappealing to Cesc so we have little to worry about there. In fairness the £40 million tag was at least realistic.
The thing is that it WILL happen in a few years. It is a natural imperative for Cesc to return home. He is Catalan. Nou Camp is his home. It is THAT simple. I believe however, that he has plenty of unfinished business at Arsenal first and that he will remain loyal to the core to us until the time to return home arrives in a natural way. What we DO know is that Barcelona is the only club that he would ever leave us for and we cannot begrudge him that.
So this summer, if you find that you are unhappy with the business that Arsenal are doing, try to remember that sometimes Arsene has no choice in the matter and that many of the actions that he takes are to safeguard the future transfer values of players that he knows will leave at various stages over the next 3-5 years. It is actions like these that guarantee the future of the club by protecting revenue streams. He has been the only premiership manager to do this in a consistently successful manner. Say what you like about the man but he will never waste money.
He thinks with his head so that you can think with your heart.
Unlike football fans he understands future markets.
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