Restricting a Premier League club’s business makes little sense unless La Liga and the rest of the European leagues follow suit. It’s a stupid idea.
What purpose does it serve and how will it put an end to speculation surrounding a player of interest to clubs abroad? This rule change would have absolutely no effect on, for example, the Philippe Coutinho saga surrounding Liverpool and Barcelona. The Catalans would still be able to apply pressure on Liverpool once the Premier League kicks off.
In this situation, it’s unlikely to benefit anyone: Liverpool are hugely unlikely to sell Coutinho if they can’t get a replacement sorted before the season, so Barcelona would meet even firmer resistance than before. If, to look at the other side, Liverpool deemed the situation too poisonous to continue and then caved, it would be impossible for them to sign a replacement if the season has started. So who exactly is benefitting here? In both situations the seller and buyer are hardly in an ideal situation. What’s wrong with giving players and clubs more time?
The pressure on clubs in the Premier League would increase massively as well. The transfer window just gone was chaotic, probably more so this year than in previous years, and next summer this will only increase. With business especially difficult to conclude while players focus on the World Cup, it means you’re likely to see an increase in transactions once the final on July 15 finishes. That gives clubs around a month — possibly less — to do most of their business.
Sure, it would trigger Premier League clubs to get their house in order quicker than before, possibly lining up deals earlier than expected, but that’s only the dream scenario. In reality, moves can drag on and become protracted. Are we just meant to expect everything to run smoothly next season, simply because it, well … it has to? That’s a rather optimistic way of looking at it. What about the first few games of the season, when a manager may find out something about his team that he feels needs rectifying in the market? No chance. Tough.
And if you think the prices in this market are ridiculous, they’re only going to get worse next time around. Clubs, aware time is running out to get replacements in, are going to add on even more to their valuations of a player. It’s stifling.
What would you rather have, more time or less time? It’s a no-brainer — you’d want as long as possible to conclude a deal, especially in the shark infested waters of the transfer window, dealing with players’ contract demands and those pesky agents seeking their cut. Are we saying that matches being played while the market is open in August is a bad thing, it’s OK while the market is open in January? That’s a rather inconsistent way of looking at it. There’s distraction there too, but life goes on and the clubs deal with it the best they can.
The idea of a rule change, surely, is to improve a situation. All this seems to be doing is adding more pressure on a club to get a deal done and in turn, this could transfer to the player. The Premier League is presumably eager to avoid situations where players get uppity and try and force a move but from this standpoint, it looks as though such instances will increase as players watch the clock tick down to a cut-off point shorter than before.
It’s a gutsy move, that’s for sure. The Premier League has shown their hand but the rest of Europe are now in a stronger position than before. They could have waited and seen how the land lies before making such a seismic decision but they’ve left themselves sitting targets. What’s in it for European clubs to narrow their opportunities to sign more players? They will know that next summer, their Premier League rivals don’t have as much time as them. Once they’re prevented from doing business, that’s one extra party out of the way. Why put yourself on a level playing field when you’ve just been handed an advantage?
And why has this come about now anyway? The situation whereby players can move during the season has been around since the transfer window was created in the 2002-03 campaign — this is hardly a new phenomenon.
There’ll be chaos in the market as clubs scramble around for late deals before the big kick-off, all the while preparing for the long slog on the pitch ahead. Will managers be thrilled to have to combine finalising a playing squad as well as preparing for their season, and all the trials and tribulations that go with it? Can you really envisage every manager declaring how delighted they are with the new situation next summer? Unless they’ve had word this move is the start of a Europe-wide venture, it appears they’re cutting off their nose to spite their face.
The best solution for the transfer window? Scrap it. Give clubs a chance to add to their squads all year round, and go back to the old method of having a deadline in March. One of the perceived benefits was to decrease the gap between the haves and have-nots, preventing the big clubs from poaching players when they feel like it. It’s questionable whether it has been a success and this massive change suggests clubs were not happy with the model as it was. Why should they be restricted in what they do? It would be better if a struggling Premier League club could make a signing or two in October, if they’ve been unfortunate with injuries.
Change can be good, but it appears the Premier League has not thought this through.
Alex Shaw is General Editor at ESPN FC. He has written for national newspapers across the world for over 12 years. Twitter: @AlexShawESPN.