The countdown is on for the next transfer deadline day with football managers up and down the UK scrambling to make those final additions to their squads in the hope they’ll yield rich dividends on the pitch.
Transfer deadline day has become something of a mini soap opera within a greater soap opera, with millions of pounds being lodged into bank accounts for that precious signature on a sheet of paper.
Sky Sports have been to the forefront in feeding the frenzy, giving an inordinate amount of coverage to the most innocuous of signings that surely must come as an embarrassment to even the players themselves.
In seasons gone by there was no greater sight in football than Harry Redknapp being interviewed outside his house on deadline day by eager reporters wanting to know absolutely everything, including what he had just ate for breakfast.
Alas, there is no more ‘Arry, the manager, to feed the insatiable desire of fans yearning for a smidgin of news on the transfer front.
Simply put, deadline day is the circus that keeps on giving: players up and down the country trying to sneak into training on the morning of deadline day without a camera being stuck up their a***; managers with phones glued to their ears; clubs’ staff glancing nervously at fax machines; anxious fans stalking the entrance to their team’s home ground trying to get a glimpse of a possible new signing, or a significant departure; or some other dramatic development like a swap deal – one hero speeding out of the training ground car park and almost crashing into his replacement. Now that’s the type of drama you want on deadline day.
And speaking of drama, Manchester United and Real Madrid fans won’t forget how David de Gea’s proposed transfer, from the former to the latter, broke down last year at the two hundred and eleventh hour. Indeed trophies are won and lost on deadline day as a result of clubs not getting their paperwork done on time. And you thought the pressure was on the pitch?
But as the next deadline day looms (August 31), you have to wonder is the transfer window old hat? After all, in four months’ time the window will reopen and a fresh breeze will blow through the Premier League and lower divisions, unsettling players once again and causing fans sleepless nights.
Sixteen weeks, that’s all it is before the window reopens. Why all the fuss? Fans of smaller clubs, the ones that are not deluded, will acknowledge that even if they stave off unwanted interest in their top striker or classy centre-back, they are eventually going to lose him, and there is not a jot they can do about it.
Everyone has a price, and if you’re a club with a debt to service and the bailiffs are loitering around your ground, the readies can’t come quick enough.
In fact, for the treasurer, the window can even be viewed as a curse. Of course, not for the fans though, who only want to see their prized asset on the pitch and not a name on a balance sheet.
The window is also likely to be a hindrance to players’ agents too. Yes, the people in football we love to hate. Okay, they’ll argue they have a job to do in the interests of their clients (footballers to you an me). After all, a footballer’s career is a short one, they’ll inform you, and it’s important they secure, for them, the best possible deal.
A footballer’s career is short. I accept that. But, come on guys, one major transfer deal and a couple of seasons in the top flight and he’ll never have to work again. And what’s to stop any footballer reinventing himself and getting a proper job after the age of 35, like working in a shop or a factory? Heaven forbid, they might even get to work in the same business as the fans who used to worship them.
Of course, there are thousands of players who play in the lower leagues and don’t earn a fraction of the wages enjoyed by their more illustrious counterparts. I wouldn’t for one minute begrudge them making a few bob from a transfer on deadline day, or any other day.
However, as I type this rant from a smoking keyboard, I’m sure there are football agents all over the world bandying about figures that could cause their calculators to seize up in a bid to land their ‘client’ the next big deal.
It’s part of modern day football and something we just have to live with. There were very few agents around in the days of Bill Shankly, Brian Clough, Matt Busby and their ilk.
Indeed, it would have been interesting to see how those iconic managers would have handled the modern day agent. I reckon they would turn in their graves if they heard Paul Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, received a reported cut of some £20 million for his part in that world record transfer.
Anyway that’s for another day. Let’s stick to the thrill-a-minute transfer deadline day that’s coming to a ground near you.
And may your team, whoever you support, land the catch of the day, or manage to hold on to your star player for another 16 weeks at least.
Pat O’Rourke, Pundit Arena