THE JANUARY TRANSFER WINDOW: WHY HAS IT BECOME SO ANTI-CLIMACTIC?
The transfer window is often a time of excitement for football fans where blockbuster transfers happen left and right, seeing top level players swap their allegiance to a rival or even try a new challenge in a foreign league.
Fans eagerly await for their team to make some business that may further the club positively and these seismic events that impact the world of football mostly reside in the summer transfer window. Whilst the summer transfer window may have people glued to their screens, the January equivalent is a different story.
January is often a time of desperation for clubs due to the grueling Christmas schedule usually resulting in an abundance of injuries and depleted squads. This is why the resulting window is in place, so that additions can be made to either help an injury crisis or finding reinforcements that may help a team reach its season target.
The glaring problem with this transfer period is the severe lack of quality or signings that will get the neutral off their seat. Of course there have been exceptions to this over recent years with the likes of Bruno Fernandes moving from Sporting Lison to Manchester United for an initial £47 million and Virgil Van Dijk making the £75 million switch to Anfield in early 2018. Whilst these transfers were certainly blockbuster and have produced two of the best players in the premier league, moves like these are few and far between.
The reason for this is that, as mentioned above, January is a time for desperation. Both the selling and buying club knows this and this affects pricing and activity tremendously. The selling team will understand that a team interested in one of their players needs to plug a temporary hole, thus causing the price to skyrocket for that individual often delaying or ending any possible negotiations until the summer.
This year, Premier League clubs parted with just £84.2m on January deals compared to £230m a year ago; A coronavirus pandemic has seen European clubs tighten their transfer budgets; One agent saying: "£25m+ transfers will become the exception rather than the norm". Financial revenues from all but a few streams have dried up: gate receipts, corporate entertaining, advertising, and sponsorship to name a few.
Another reason for the obvious lack of quality deals at the start of the year is the fact that it comes at the halfway point of a season. The question arises, why would a club sell a player that is important to their plans when the season isn’t over? It is this question that solves the mysteries of the boring window as players that do end up departing are, in most cases, role players or players that are replaceable. These moves sometimes are regarded as ‘panic deals’ where a team is so urgent to get in a replacement that they end up settling for a player of lower quality to fulfil that role.
As seen in recent years, the present state of transfers is in the air due to the impact of Covid 19 on the finance of football. Many clubs have been drowning in debt over the last 12 months meaning splashing the cash on big money transfers simply isn’t an option. Instead, football directors and transfer chiefs are making use of loan deals to bolster their squads. The most common deal nowadays has become a loan with an option to buy at the end of it, which allows teams to see how that player performs before they decide whether to use some funds to make the deal permanent.
Overall, the January transfer window will never match its counterpart in the summer due to a variety of reasons such as the length of player contacts, a club’s willingness to sell and more recently, the impact of Covid 19 on transfer activity.