Transfer deadline mind games


Check out any newspaper, or football website, and it’s the time of year when the transfer rumours reach fever pitch. I’m sure I read somewhere that Charlie George was being considered by a number of Championship clubs.

Looking at Arsenal, there are still many persistent rumours, mostly involving Nuri Sahin and Yann M’Vila, although there are others. We tend to blame the media for anything and everything these days, however, many of the whispers are simply tactics, and almost all relate to money.

First, there’s the player, generally via a wily agent. It doesn’t pay, in negotiations over contracts and money, to say nothing. It’s why we hear comments such as “there has been strong interest in him from a number of clubs in several of Europe’s top leagues.” In other words, “If you really want to sign my player, he’s in demand, which is why I’m asking lots of money for his new contract.”

Of course, when there is interest, clubs will pull the same brinkmanship tactics. It’s why you hear a club, when another side has been linked with a bid for a player, will never say, “Yes, we’re willing to sell him.” The tactics here are slightly different, and can go one of two ways. The first option is to say, “We highly value him, and we aren’t about to sell one of our best players.” In other words, we’re playing hardball and you’d better double the offer. The other tactic to drive up prices is to say, “Yes, there’s strong interest from Arsenal, but there are other clubs that have expressed interest.” In other words, pay the cash, because others are interested. Perhaps they should simply put them on ebay.

Another interesting tactic is one employed by clubs in negotiations with their players, and one we may be seeing with Theo Walcott. Walcott, as we know, is in the final year of his contract, and we still have no idea whether he’ll stay, be sold, or leave on a free at the end of the season. But now Arsenal are being linked with Sevilla winger Jesus Navas, a ready-made replacement for Walcott, should he leave. Sometimes the club is behind these leaks, as it’s a way of negotiating – “We’d love to keep you, but if you go, this is the guy we’re buying as a replacement.”

Sometimes the imminent approach of deadline day brings the deals to fruition, and occasionally we see insane amounts of money being spent on players that are nowhere near their value. Andy Carroll springs to mind, as the club that sold him for a ridiculous £35 million, which was his value to them, now say he’s not worth that as they allegedly attempt to buy him back.

But it goes to show that players in the news go for big money. Carroll was having a decent season when he moved, and we need look no further than Robin van Persie and Alex Song to know that an outstanding season puts you on the radar. Sir Alex Ferguson is notorious for buying players that have excelled the previous season – a recent example being Dimitar Berbatov who had a great year at Spurs, and is now fifth in the pecking order at Old Trafford behind van Persie, Rooney, Chicharito and Welbeck.

There’s no guarantee, of course, that a player will continue their form, or their run of good health. But the merry-go-round of players continues. Those of us old enough to remember football in the late 60s and 70s can probably name the team for several of those years, as they rarely changed. Players spent entire careers at clubs. This very rarely happens today, and somehow we seem to secretly enjoy the change of faces around the leagues, and everyone checks out the latest rumours of who is moving. While there are hundreds of rumours out there on any given day, only a small percentage actually happen, although we don’t hear about the rumours that were accurate but deals fell through, whether it be due to agents’ or players’ demands, or disagreements over valuations. We hear that the main stumbling block to the Sahin deal is Arsenal’s insistence on being able to buy the player at the end of the season should they choose to. Whether or not this is true, it plays in to those rumours, with Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho saying he doesn’t care if he goes to Arsenal, Liverpool or Spurs – in other words do the deal I want, or we’ll do a deal with someone else.

Transfer gossip is always entertaining, although there is now action on the field to distract us a little, and the signs are already encouraging that it’s going to be a season where the result of every game is a mystery before kick off, which is what makes the league the best in the world.  And why, loathe it or love it, we’ll all be watching the news on deadline day to see who bought, who sold, how our club did, which was the most ridiculous waste of money and which was the saddest over-reaction of the day. Without the involvement of Harry Redknapp, it might just be a little quieter, but it’s great entertainment nonetheless.

Award-winning writer, editor and photographer from England currently living in Canada. Several published books do date, and thousands of articles/photos have appeared in major publications around the world on a range of subjects from science to sport, music to news. Involved with football as a club board member and league president, referee and referee assessor and course instructor.