As the dust settles on what was, for the most part, an unexciting transfer window, many footballs fans will be disappointed that the greatest pantomime of the season (Deadline Day) failed to live up to expectations. Big money moves were few and far between, limited to one or two clubs that have hit the panic button as they struggle to keep their Premiership head above Championship water. Unlike other years in which exorbitant transfer fees were paid to acquire below-par players, e.g. Andy Carroll to Liverpool £35m, many clubs were satisfied to just play the cards they had been dealt at the start of the season. Although this January’s total (£127.8 million) was more than double what was spent in January 2012 (£60m), clubs , for the most part, were not as trigger happy as years gone by.
The majority of the transfer activity was circled around three of the twenty Premier League clubs. Liverpool, Newcastle and Queens Park Rangers contributed over 50% of this transfer window’s spending, with the latter giving out more money than Marty Whelan on Winning Streak. It is interesting to note that both Newcastle and QPR were also amongst the top spenders in January 2012, making up two of the top three, yet find themselves firmly in a relegation battle. Chelsea, a club tainted with financial flops due to a trigger-happy owner, were relatively quiet by their own standards, along with free-spending Manchester City. Dan Jones of Deloitte commented that clubs have been a lot more controlled during this window, despite the increased broadcasting revenues they will receive next season (50% increase from £20m to £30m).
As the recession continues to impact on all aspects of our lives, perhaps clubs are finally waking up to the reality that they too could find themselves victim to the financial mire that has beset businesses throughout the world. After all, one could argue that football has now become 51% business and 49% sport. Traditionalists says that a good team makes for a great club, yet one could argue that financial salvation is the true barometer of success in modern football, e.g. David Moyes at Everton. Balancing the books has become just as important as notching up three points on a Saturday. In January 2011, a whopping £135m was spent on deadline day. This is more than 2012’s £30m and 2013’s £35m put together. Managers, with Harry Redknapp the exception, are becoming more financially astute. Keeping a club out of the proverbial ‘red’ is a skill that Arsene Wenger has perfected throughout his managerial career, and despite eight years without a trophy, it is clearly what makes him untouchable at the Emirates.
The overindulgence and gluttony of years gone by seems to have boarded a plane, and set up shop outside well-lubricated clubs in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, case and point Willian’s £34m transfer to Anzhi Makhachkala. It is clear that the inflated transfer fees and wheelbarrows of cash that clubs in Qatar and Russia have to offer is unsustainable, yet the pockets of the oil-rich investors pulling the strings are extremely deep. Luckily, it seems that English clubs have begun to take note of the impending financial-footballing-doom and have begun to change their ways. This new-found financial astuteness was exemplified in Tottenham Hotspur’s decision to pull the plug on a move involving a long-term target of theirs, Leandro Damiao, as they refused to give into Internacional’s inflated demands. Instead, they seemed satisfied with more economical purchases, such as the £1.5m acquisition of Lewis Holtby, a young player with a huge future in the game.
One has to note that although clubs are not as carefree with their money as in the past, wages are still on the increase. This, of course, is also unsustainable, yet a reduction in transfer fees is the right move in combating a certain financial disaster. Many owners still find themselves in a race against time to keep their clubs in the ‘green’, yet it looks like they are finally starting to take a move in the right direction. People say that money can’t buy happiness. 47,805 people in the Etihad Stadium in Manchester would disagree.
SPORT IS EVERYTHING. Richard Barrett.