Tuesday 25 October 2016

Shut transfer window when season kicks off

Mario Balotelli was a late replacement for Luis Suarez at Liverpool this time last season but proved to be a costly mistake
Mario Balotelli was a late replacement for Luis Suarez at Liverpool this time last season but proved to be a costly mistake

There is now an unstoppable argument for shutting the transfer window with a firm bang before a ball is kicked in the Premier League season. The current arrangement has become a circus.

I think everyone has become more and more uncomfortable with the excesses we see when a window period is winding down and clubs are desperate.

The original intent was to prevent big clubs from raiding down the divisions during the season and cherry picking the best talent.

But since the big Sky deals, the top clubs now mostly look abroad and with the January window allowing in-season transfers, the whole point of the exercise has been overtaken by events.

Now, it has become a huge, media beast with no upside for the game. I can list plenty of negatives about the window but very few positives, if any.

People lose the run of themselves and agents make a fortune. In Liverpool's case, it cost them about £20m this time last year when they signed a footballer who doesn't play but does great marketing.

Mario Balotelli alone is a good enough reason to close the transfer window before the football gets under way.


The overlap with the actual Premier League season in August has become a serious distraction for managers and players which is having a direct impact on football pitches.

The obvious example at the moment is John Stones. José Mourinho has waged what I would call a media campaign to let the Everton defender know how welcome he would be at Stamford Bridge. Yet only last week the Chelsea boss claimed he did not like to talk about players contracted to other clubs.

I nearly choked on my breakfast when I read that one. John Terry has been in the newspapers talking about how Stones would be perfect for Chelsea and Gary Cahill has been at it as well. Why would they do that?

I didn't imagine that. It happened and I didn't imagine Mourinho himself saying that Stones was a great player and he rated him. We all know what that means.

I know some people will say that this is just the rhythm of the game; that the strong will always dominate the weak and that once agents are in the mix, there is nothing you can do to stop clubs trying to tempt good players with a better deal.

But at least they could stop it happening while teams are playing football matches. How can Stones give everything for Everton with his head turned by Chelsea? I don't care how strong-minded the lad is, he can't be fully focused on doing his job.

Some clubs have done their business properly and quietly this window. Manchester City are a good example and oddly enough, Liverpool too.

But I wouldn't see this as any great commitment to good practice and in Liverpool's case, they have been on both ends of the stick.

They had to fight off interest in Luis Suarez from Real Madrid and this year, all we've read about since the January window was Manchester City's willingness to hand Raheem Sterling a huge contract.

Everything is relative, however. I'm sure if you asked Southampton fans about last season's raid for Adam Lallana and Liverpool's deal for Nathaniel Clyne in July, they would see Anfield as the enemy.

I'm not suggesting for a second that there is anything that could or should be done about this. Big clubs want to remain big and grow bigger if they can so they will use the financial muscle they have to improve. That's the same in all aspects of life.

But they should close the window a week before the football starts and keep it closed.

At least then we could all talk about what's happening on the pitch instead of endless rumours about every decent player in the world heading for Manchester United.

Mind you, the way Ed Woodward has been doing his business, it wouldn't matter if you opened the window for the whole year.

With him master-minding deals, Manchester United would still find a way to miss their targets.

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