Everywhere you look at the moment, people are fretting over transfers. Will van Persie still be here next season? What about Walcott’s contract? Or Song’s? Will M’Vila arrive, or Giroud, or maybe some other stars that we so desperately need? And what about the clearout? We still haven’t got rid of anyone from that long list, surely we need to be getting on with it?
None of this is new, of course. The summer is long, and awash with transfer speculation (and idle fantasy) in the press, where every morsel of truth, half-truth or downright untruth is stretched over many days as undeniable EXCLUSIVE fact by journalists desperate to fill the column inches normally reserved for on-pitch action (and the musings of insufferable tools like Joey Barton). Everything is analysed in greater detail, so little is there to focus on, and we all suddenly become experts in the lives of players whose league we never even watch.
My recommendation? Breathe.
The season starts in exactly 64 days, the transfer window slams shut (isn’t that the phrase they use?) in 77 days. The window doesn’t even officially open for another 16 days, although deals can of course happen in the run up to July 1.
July 1 is also another important date – the final of the European Championships. We are currently being treated to a highly competitive and entertaining tournament, or to put it another way, the complete opposite of the World Cup from two years ago – practically every game so far has been a belter. But it won’t last much longer – we have five days left of the group stages, and then all of a sudden only seven games remain. Before you know it, we’ll be sitting here wondering how it flew by so fast. Group stages are so busy and engaging that it is only when they end that you realise the tournament as a whole is nearly over.
And then, we have a month and a half of absolutely nothing. Sure, there are pre-season friendlies, but let’s be honest – they mean nothing, and should be treated as nothing more than a barely mentioned footnote. I categorise the pre-season tournaments in the same way, with the added frustration of how people warp the results to their agendas. If we win one, it’ll either be ‘proof we’ll win a real trophy this season‘ or ‘the only thing we’ll win this year‘, and vice versa if we don’t. It is tiresome, because too much is read into games that are arranged purely to work on fitness and a few new training ground practices.
That period is going to be painful, and all we will be able to talk about is transfers, contracts and speculation, so let’s not waste the actual football that is going on at the moment by focusing on it now.
Besides, for all intents and purposes, transfer business shuts down during the tournament, and not just for the players involved. Of course, club officials and agents will be talking, but very little gets finalised because of the chained nature of so many transfers these days.
A lot of people assume that buying players is much like in any simulation game – offer enough to club and player, and assuming he wants to join you, it all clicks into place. But it isn’t anything like that – clubs are often reluctant to sell until they have a replacement lined up, and the selling club of that player are likely to be in the same position. Often you can have three, four or more transfers inextricably linked, and if just one of those players is unavailable (for example, at the Euros), the entire chain is held up, or even broken.
This happens even more now, because of the arbitrary squad limit placed on clubs – they know that signing a player means another one has to be moved out, which puts them in a weaker selling position, so they do business in pairs, intertwining previously unrelated chains of transfers. It is complicated.
There are exceptions, particularly with younger players, who may not need to be directly replaced as they were not yet crucial cogs in the selling team. But the bigger players rarely move without all clubs involved have an accommodation or replacement plan, and right now, many of those players are busy playing for their countries, where they are often expressly banned from entering into any negotiations of any sort. In short, it is the slow period of the summer, so a lack of activity should not be cause for alarm.
Just enjoy the football – it won’t last much longer.