For so many fans the January transfer window use to be a cause for hope. This year it’s been a damp squib. What could possibly be the reason?
Perhaps Sky Sports knew something we didn’t when they announced they would not be running their usual deadline day circus of reporters standing outside grounds speculating on speculative moves which are themselves the result of pure speculation. Did Sky Sports know this window would be so bloody boring? No of course not, but it feels that way.
Last January 26 permanent signings were made by Premier League clubs, taking in to account there are only 20 teams, that’s a lot of activity for a single month. By the end of the day we will likely see 13-14 tops with the figure currently standing at 10. What could possibly have caused this huge turnaround in the pace of business?
Financial Fair Play always gets a mention during the transfer window. In the summer when huge fees are splurged we ask is it working at all? But now in the January transfer window, we may ask is it working too well? It’s the go-to explanation for a quiet window. It makes sense after all on the face of it.
Manchester City spent £28 million. A sizeable figure indeed given Man City’s run-ins with FFP already. There was a brief period at the start of the January transfer window where Messi’s future at Barcelona looked uncertain and reports linked him to Chelsea. When BT Sport got the chance to ask Mourinho whether a deal was on he was blunt.
His reasoning? Money and FFP. Juan Cuadrado looks set to move to Chelsea, yet even this signing was off-set by the sale of Andre Schurrle to Wolfsburg and a loan deal for Salah. Man City and Chelsea are two clubs tip toeing around FFP as best they can to do deals. So surely FFP is the reason behind a slow January transfer window?
However this theory falls down a little when you look at Manchester United. Granted they haven’t signed anyone but they’ve been linked with Bale, Hummels and anyone else who will cost a significant chunk of change. It appears FFP is not a worry for United, their only problem seems to have been the availability of these players, or rather the lack thereof.
The thing with FFP is that it’s a good concept but in practise it makes it harder for smaller teams with big ambitions to take the next step while at the same time it solidifies the positions of bigger teams like United. So while Manchester City and Chelsea are big clubs no doubt, the revenue Manchester United generates as a business is still huge in comparison.
Now apply this problem to clubs like Southampton, Spurs, Liverpool and Everton. these clubs have squads that are capable of challenging for the top 4. Of course they need massive cash injections to them push on from top 4 to title challengers. But no matter how wealthy their owners are, the days of sinking £50 million into a striker (we’re looking at you Mr Abramovich) during January are over.
While the intention is good undoubtedly, it means owners of smaller teams can’t take on the risk of spending big to truly compete with the behemoths. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing for stability, there must be owners who see investing big in a squad and losing money for a couple of seasons as a calculated risk. But that is no longer an option, on the continent AC Milan are a perfect example. There owner Silvio Berlusconi has a lot of cash, but FFP prevents him from sinking money in to the club and halting Milan’s current malaise.
FFP isn’t entirely to blame. We are in a post-World Cup window that saw a lot of business being done as a result of performances in Brazil. Perhaps managers are quite happy with the squads they’ve assembled? FFP is effecting the January transfer window to some degree alright. But come the summer Madrid, Barca and United will spend big again and will continue to exploit their unfair advantage until FFP recognises this and changes.