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What’s gone wrong in the transfer market? In essence, everything.

by Sir Hardly Anyone

The transfer window slams shut (please note it never closes, but it always slams shut) on Tuesday, 31 August at 23:00 BST.

And currently rather a large number of clubs are getting rather worried for a variety of reasons.

The problem is that of financial projections – which basically means clubs going into  the transfer window with expectations of who they can sell, how much they can get, and how much they will then be able to spend as a result of the income, and drop in salaries.  

18 of the 20 clubs in the league are very aware that they have far less money available than they would have had in normal times, because of the virus (Chelsea and Man C are of course the exceptions). 

But worse, the PL clubs have come out of the virus seasons far better than the clubs in many other leagues.  In Spain, for example, Barcelona are said by many to be in very serious trouble, requiring a total refinancing of their huge debts to allow them simply to make the stage payments on past transfers (normally paid over four years) due in the coming month.  Even Real Madrid are said to be feeling the pinch.  And with Valencia also in trouble, that is the Spanish market shot to bits.   In France the TV deal fell apart.  That’s two markets in real trouble, and we haven’t even mentioned Italy.

The fact is, no one quite knows what happens if several clubs in a league all fail to make their stage payments at once.  The clubs owed the money will be dependent on it , and behind the leagues there is only one paymaster – the banks.

All of which uncertainty makes a lot of clubs feel very wary about buying any players – which is slowing the whole process down.

We can see how the transfer window in the Premier League has moved in recent years from this simple table

Summer Amount spent by PL clubs Number of moves Average moves per club (inc loans)
2017 £1.7bn 482 24
2018 £1.46bn 453 23
2019 £1.83bn 526 26
2020 £1.7bn 442 22
2021* £658m 273 14

Obviously we’ve still got 29 days to go in this window and so it is possible that the missing £1bn which would take us up to the average over the previous four years (£1.67bn) could be found.  But it seems very, very, unlikely.

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For that will require clubs to be able to shift the players they don’t want, first to get in some cash, second to make space in their list of 25 players, and third for English clubs to find eight home grown players to fit into those squads.  Just look at who Arsenal are tipped to be buying – there’s hardly a home grown name on the list.

And if the clubs cannot shift players they want to get rid of, (many of whom are on pre-Covid contracts) nothing can happen.

And yet the common consensus is that all of the major clubs need to move on at least four or five players each. Many of those same players understandably do not want to move on to less well-paid contracts, however, and so are digging their heels in.

It may even be a case where having money becomes a problem in itself, because such clubs will have created bloated squads, and this will deny managers the chance to refresh if they can’t sell. You only have to look at Manchester City. They would seem to be willing to move on quite a few players in order to buy in new talent from clubs willing to sell, but no one can take them at the fee City would want, or at the wages the players would want.

They could do an Arsenal and put the players out to grass, but that was really bad PR for Arsenal last season, and no one seems to fancy that.

And in the midst of all this, is the hilarious situation of H. Kane esq who according to the Guardian didn’t turn up for work today.  It seems he rather thinks he has an agreement that he will be sold.   The boss man, a Mr D Levy, of whom it has been said, disagrees.  Or so we hear.  Rumour has it that the Tiny Totts would like £150m.  Or more.

What all this tells us is what we already knew.  Many of the offers supposedly made by clubs for players are invented by journalists.  But many others are clubs just posturing in order to keep their own fans happy.   Aston Villa supposedly buying Smith Rowe and offering him £80k a week is one such.   The word is Arsenal had already offered him £100k and the number 10 shirt, when this thought first arose.  The transfer was never on.

Thus a lot of the transfers are not just invented by the media to keep their readers interested, some are invented by clubs, making pitches that they know will never come off, but which allows them to say, “we tried for this player.  His current employers then offered him a pay rise to stay.”

The fact is, everyone is playing games to try and cover up the disaster that the current window is looking like being.  Players will not move in order to get a lesser salary, when the alternative is seeing out their contract at the current rate of pay, and then moving on a free, which brings with it an even higher salary.  Would you?

This is, in fact, a transfer window like no other.

The 116 players coming to Arsenal part 1

The 116 players coming to Arsenal part 2

2 comments to What’s gone wrong in the transfer market? In essence, everything.

  • Michael

    Looking at Arsenal’s bloated squad, it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to trim it down come the end of August. Last year Ozil and Sokratis were unable to make the squad (for various reasons) and we might see a repeat of that scenario this season.
    Yes, the economic times are worrying. Roma couldn’t come up with 5 million more to seal the Xhaka move, Inter Milan having trouble buying Bellerin and so on. I pray we at least buy a new backup goalkeeper at a minimum before the start of the season. Dreams of a new striker or a number 10 may have to wait.
    Besides Bellerin and Xhaka, there are a number of players who need to leave. Runarsson, Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles, and Torreira are not happy and need to be shipped out. Cedric and Willian will not leave because they earn too much money and nobody will match their wages. Nketiah, Willock, and Nelson might fetch some needed cash, but we might still be hoping to keep them. Lacazette will be hard to sell for the right price.
    Look at our squad and then trim the number down to 25.
    Goal – Leno, Runarsson, Okonkwo, Hein
    Fullbacks – Bellerin, Cedric, Chambers, Tavares, Tierney, Kolasinac
    Centre Backs – Holding, White, Gabriel, Mari
    Defensive Midfielders – Xhaka, Elneny, Partey, Torreira, Azeez, Maitland-Niles, Lakongo
    Offensive Midfielders – Smith-Rowe, Willock
    Wingers – Saka, Pepe, Willian, Nelson
    Strikers – Aubamayeng, Lacazette, Martinelli, Nketiah, Balogun
    I count 32 names above and we need to trim at least 7. Good luck Mikel! Get busy, Edu!

  • Mikey

    @ Michael

    Off the top of my head I can tell you Onkonkwo, Hein, Azeez, Saka, Martinelli and Balogun are all under 21 so that’s six that don’t count in the squad of 25 without any effort whatsoever. Given Torreira will probably be on loan. Job done! Thank goodness we have professionals running the club who actually know what they’re doing………..

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