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Rising transfer costs and the transfer window

by The Supercoach on Sep 19, 2011

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Samuel Eto’o has become the highest paid footballer in the world. That is if reports surrounding his salary at Anzhi Makhachkala are correct. The current figure being bandied about is 20 million Euros per year, which, if true, appears not just obscene, but also unsustainable. The Eto’o case is an example of just how financially out of control world football is.

For the record, I have no problem with players making large salaries. They spend years honing their skills and their careers can be ended at any time by a freak accident or single challenge. If a team is prepared to offer them 185,000 pounds a week (the rumoured weekly wage for Samir Nasri at Manchester City) then they have every right to take that money.

People will also point the finger at player agents, saying that they attempt to raise the price of their player and engineer moves not for the good of the player, but for the good of their own bank balance. For all the bad that comes with football agents, there can be no doubt that they are a necessary evil in the game.

For every superstar player with an agent that’s trying to engineer a lucrative move, there are hundreds, if not thousands of youngsters who are trying to make it as a professional. For these players proper representation protects them from clubs taking advantage of them.

Ultimately, it’s the clubs who make the decision to pay these ludicrous amounts of money to players and if they set up a wage structure that is unsustainable, then it’s their own fault.

My favourite story concerns Seth Johnson on his transfer to Leeds in 2001. According to Wikipedia (a gospel of truth),

“In his personal terms negotiations with Peter Ridsdale (then Leeds Chairman), Johnson and his agent agreed in advance to hold out for £13k a week, but Ridsdale's opening offering was in the region of £30k. When the agent balked, Ridsdale increased the offer by several thousand.”

Now everyone knows what happened to Leeds, and the struggles they have endured, but ultimately, it was the club that made those choices.

Clubs have their own wage structures and ceilings that they adhere to and if they make decisions that lead to financial ruin, it is ultimately their fault.

One thing that I’m sure no one will refute is that the cost of players is rising. While transfer fees and wages are often not disclosed and variable due to additional payments or bonuses, the general consensus is that a pound, euro or dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to.

For me, one reason is the transfer window.

General inflation and rises in the cost of living mean an ice cream costs more now than it did three years ago, so it stands to reason that the cost of footballers will rise too.

However, I can’t help but feel that the transfer window system is driving these costs, transfer fees in particular, even higher.

Imagine the situation, you realise that you need to sign a new striker, but you only have a limited amount of time to do it. The other parties (selling club, player agents etc) are able to play on the fear that comes from the prospect of having to go three months without the required player.

Three months might not sound like a long time, but for the top clubs, competing in up to four competitions, three months is an extremely long time. Seasons have been ruined in a shorter amount of time.

By drawing a line in the sand on when transfers can be made, the transfer deadline creates an atmosphere of fear, forcing buying clubs to pay more for targets, anxious and aware that if they don’t get them by August 31 or January 31, they have to wait three or four months.

I still support the idea of teams having a registered squad of 25 for leagues and cup competitions and players being cup-tied, but I feel that clubs should be able to bring players in all year round. If they’ve left room in their squad for the player, then why should they not be allowed to add to it?

The way I see it, clubs are businesses, and most business will break the rules if the potential benefit outweighs the potential punishment. Clubs still talk to about players to clubs and the players themselves in periods outside of the transfer window, and tapping up does occur.

By getting rid of the transfer window, the continuing rise of the cost of a player probably won’t stop, but it may slow down.

Do you agree with The Supercoach that the transfer window should be scrapped? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.