Understanding how the transfer window works

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.

Terence McGovern

34 Replies to “Understanding how the transfer window works”

  1. Excellent post Terence. I don’t agree about Hleb – I think he wanted out of the EPL as he was being kicked too much. Skilful players need more protection than EPL referees offer.

  2. I agree, excellent post. I’ve always wondered why I was hearing certain players getting extensions even though they’ve only just signed for the club, like Sagna, I think.

    When it comes to transfers, I’ve usually had 100% faith in Wenger to come out smelling like roses. And he does, hence why we’re one of the few clubs that make profits every year.

  3. this is the first summer in 12 that wenger is under pressure , he now has not got the full backing of the board and he definitely has not got the full backing of the support, the ball is now in his court and if he doesnt get it right then the board will step in because for one thing the empty seats in the grove will tell them the money is not been spent by the fans and if the board don’t see the money coming in then expect them to do something about it,
    because at the end of the day the board are only interested in what money is coming into there stadium. over to you arsene

  4. Terence, This is the most sensible article I have read about the Arse’s transfer policy in a very long time and I wish all Arsenal fans could read and understand that in many cases Wenger has no choice and frankly has done and contiues to do an outstanding job in terms of transfers and what is best for the Club.

  5. and Terrence according to you the shareholders absolutely love Wenger. So who were those people at the shareholders Q&A recently that tore him to bits over his mis-management?

  6. They are nobodies Mason, like you only less important. A minority of minor shareholders made asked a few dissenting questions.

    Insightful and elucidating stuff Terence – thanks for that.

  7. Mason I meant REAL shareholders and not the ones that have a couple of shares either for their novelty or sentimental value.

    Whilst I respect that some Arsenal supporters like the idea of owning part of the club and I would certainly respect those that were to fork out £10,000 per share for that, those who have their shares of old even if only a few should be well aware that the value of their holdings has increased exponentially and should be thanking the manager.
    There may be a few however that only have 1 or 2 shares and are loath to trade them and as such feel no benefit and thus no gratitude for their windfall.

    I would dispute that those people in question ‘tore him to bits’ and indeed his responses should have shamed them. Either way they played right into his hands and thanks to their ignorance and general bad manners, Arsene Wenger’s position at the club is even more secure.

    Isn’t that great Mason?!

    On top of that I feel that I have to point out to Mason that the only backing that the manager actually needs resides in the boardroom. The rest is a bonus from the terraces and if the match against Stoke is any guide, the manager has it in spades.


  8. Mason: you state ” he definitely has not got the full backing of the support”. What support?

    If you mean people who write to blogs, claiming to be supporters, then maybe so. If you mean people in the stadium I would say that he has got the support of 99% of them. So in a sense your statement is true, but nevertheless misleading.

    Now you might dispute my 99% – I base it on the fact of having been a silver member through the past season and having been to most matches and having sat in virtually every part of the upper tier, and having been to several of the main Arsenal pubs before games. Thus I have met and spoken with a random selection of people in the ground, or in pubs before going to the ground. I generally end up talking to some of the people near me in the ground, and of course I overhear their comments, their cheers etc, and if there are any boos I hear those.

    So Mason, on what basis do you make your assertion?


  9. Terence – Nice piece. Just one thing I’d like to add re: Fabregas. I think that you are 100% spot on in your evaluation of Cesc moving to Barca. At the present time he would not be 1st choice and this might actually hold back his development. Something that the idiots need to remember though is that Cesc staying for the immediate future is tied to Wenger being at the club. If Wenger leaves as a small, very vocal minority seem to want to happen at lease half the squad will put in transfer requests or instruct their agents to find new club’s for them. Admittedly this would result in the idiots getting their wish for more transfers in as any new manager would have to start building a team almost from scratch.

  10. Mason – Once again you let the facts get in the way of your misguided argument. Arsenal have over 40,000 people on the season ticket waiting list. I am a red remember and struggle to get tickets for games. If 20,000 season ticket holders gave up their tickets and half the waiting list refused the offer Arsenal would still sell out every league game.

    I agree if the above happened it would get the boards attention (as well as sending the press into orgasmic delight) but Wenger would not get the sack. Personally I think that Tony’s view that 99% of match attending supporters back Wenger is far to low.

  11. Marc I half agree with you – Fabregas has said as much but he later retracted that his future was entwined with Wenger. I don’t see half the team running for new ground when Wenger leaves though. I imagine Wenger will state his intentions to the board 9that he will finish after this or the next contract expires) and allow the club to make a smooth transition.

    It then depends on a number of factors, not least who the replacement is, but 50%?? Way too high for me. We might lose 2 or 3 but I imagine no exodus or starting from scratch.

    Perhaps you meant if he left suddenly but I really cannot see that happening. I am confident about next season. Even if we were to fail to win anything I am sure will right be up there and challenging.

    re Fabregas I agree with Terence he will definitely go at some point and hopefully win us a staggering amount in the process. The thing is though 4 years from now Wilshere, Ramsey, JET and so many others will be amazing players and we will HAVE to sell some established players to allow the new guard to become starting 11 players.

  12. brilliant,Terence…i stumbled upon this just by chance but i think u’ve clarified a lot of those doubts that i had about the amazing transfer system n Arsene’s shrewdness..he’s awesome…in Arsene i trust!!..always did…n will continue to..the present Arsenal is his work and he’s such an impressive man in charge..waiting to see what happens in the window now…should be really interesting..

  13. Any answers Mason? No. Excellent piece TM – yet another insightful and genuinely educational blog. This is unquestionably the place I shall come in future. I used to be Arseblog first and ACLF 2nd but whilst Arseblog can be funny he slags off Arsenal players. I prefer people who support the team. So the first promotion of the close season goes to Untold Arsenal.

  14. Jonny Neale – I was basing my argument on Wenger getting the sack in the next year or so. I am sure that when Wenger eventually goes (I and hope that day is a long way off) he will actually have input into his replacement.

  15. Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Tony just got promoted!

    I have just seen the ranking box on the righthand side of the blog(for the first time because I’m not that observant really) We are now just outside the top 10 at No. 14.

    One more push guys and this place will be threatening the big boys!

    Opps I just had an Aston Villa moment! 😉

  16. Awesome article TM & at the right time…

    n as we all say ‘In Arsene, We Trust.’.

  17. Cesc is young and seems to be very cosmopolitan. There is a possibility that he’ll call London home if the football turns out well. Talented people go to places like NYC and London to make great of their names. The distance is also closing in very quickly. Soon there’ll be more Catalans who want to join Cesc at Arsenal and he may think to himself “why not build my own great legacy here instead of going home be being forever a small child of Catalonia?”

  18. I’ve just got to add my voice to the chorus of approvals. This is one of the best blog posts I have ever read. This is the sort of thing real Arsenal supporters should be writing and reading rather than the lazy negative carping that usually characterizes the typical Arsenal blog.

  19. Thank you everybody for the positive comments. I greatly appreciate it.
    Cheers! 🙂

  20. You deserve it Terence, really.

    Tony, I’ve said it before – but you’ve really built something here, thank you.

    What happened to Consolbob? On holiday I hope.

    Anywho, cheers! To all my ‘Untold’ Arsenal friends.

    Well, you’ve been ‘told’ now.


  21. Like one of Shava’s blasts past Reina at Anfield, this post is simply astonishing Terence. Simple, but deadly effective. Well done.

  22. Very nice insights on the transfer process. It showcases the calibre of Arsene when it comes maximising value for the palyer and the club. Not many clubs can boast of managers with such quality.

  23. Its a very good write up, however i think you should write about the big time mistakes the club and Manager has made also. I’m a big fan of le boss, but he definately has his weaknesses, And all this rose tinted stuff makes it look as if there is nothing wrong. But it isnt all rosy is it? I know there are too many blogs with this Negative attitude, But there are too many blogs with this ‘there is nothing wrong’ attitude. And that is surely not the case.

    Good website by the way. keep up the good work.

  24. wow if you say like this,then why real madrid use 50++ million to buy kaka, instead of just paying his remaining salary, maybe like oni around 20million in 3 years? or the webster ruling oni appear to england football club?

  25. haha, even so then why wenger only make a 3 year contract to arshavin? isnt like he going to play 1 years then he going to pay his remaining 2 years salary, then he can go anywhere he want? why dont sign a 4-5 years contract to arshavin, because the policy of 30yo player only can be offer 1 years contract? thats why we lost pires, player over 30 may be slower than they use to be, but that still better than some newbie right? i cant rmb how many times drogba ( 32 )has been sink arsenal past few years.

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