Inside a transfer....from managers, players, agents and the media
You need to delve deep into the workings of the transfer window to appreciate the murky world that lies beneath the glossy surface.
While those excitable Sky Sports News presenters like to give he impression that the transfer scramble is a glamorous jamboree for all involved, a different perception prevails for those trying to do business this month.
The window for player trading is up and running once again and with clubs allowed to sign players up to an 11pm deadline on Monday February 1st, speculation is set to dominate the soccer agenda for the next few weeks.
We have spoken to some of the key figures working on transfers this month, as we look to shed some light on a lucrative period of business for all involved.
“When it comes to trying to finalise deals, it’s like stepping into the wild west with gangsters at times.” Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew.
Pardew has first hand experience of trying to get deals over the line during a transfer window and his experiences emphasise the culture managers and owners are operating in.
“We had occasions at Newcastle where we felt a deal was about to be completed and then the agent would change the currency we were working in,” Pardew told the Sunday World.
“Suddenly, euros become pounds and that can add several million on to a deal.
“You could avoid dealing with certain agents, but that isn’t always a productive idea. You are bound to want a player at some stage who is represented by this guy.
“You have to keep options open and try to work around the personality of the agent.
“You tend to work out what makes them tick, what they respond to. You have to have tactical plans to get a deal over the line. It isn’t always enjoyable, but it’s part of the business.”
Pardew has vowed to be active in the transfer market in this transfer window, with his negotiating skills set to be tested in a month when he looks to bolster a squad that is challenging for a top six finish in the Premier League.
For the managers at the wrong end of the table such as Newcastle’s Steve McClaren or Sunderland’s Sam Allardyce, the eagerness to try and save their club’s Premier League lives makes transfer deals all the more despertae.
In the cut-throat world of Premier League football in 2016, managers who get the best out of the transfer circus tend to prevail.
“You normally watch transfer deadline day on TV and it’s a bit of fun. To actually be a part of it and make a move that day is quite surreal.” Republic of Ireland striker Kevin Doyle, who moved to Crystal Palace on transfer deadline day 2014.
Doyle was one of the last gasp deals completed in the final hours of the 2014 summer transfer window, as he completed a loan move from Wolves to Crystal Palace and like so many of the last minute movers, the transfer failed to deliver success.
The truth is that when managers, clubs and players make big decisions on a transfer in the final hours of a window, there is a far greater chance of it ending in disappointment.
Who can forget Chelsea’s decision to splash £50m on Fernando Torres in January 2011, Andrey Arshavin’s expensive move to Arsenal a couple of years earlier and Juan Cuadrado’s last gasp move to Chelsea last January.
They were a trio of transfers rushed through in the final moments of the transfer window and each proved to be costly mistakes.
Republic of Ireland stars Aiden McGeady (above) and Darron Gibson may be among those following in Doyle’s footsteps and complete a transfer window move this month, as they look to secure moves from Everton that could bolster their hopes of appearing at Euro 2016 next summer.
Yet history suggests that a mid-season transfer is no guarantee to a brighter future.
Instead, it is normally a sign that a players’ career is falling off the rails.
“Ninety-nine per cent of agents are acting in the best interests of their clients but there are a few who behave like wild animals. They get a sniff of blood, or a sniff of money in this case, and are ferocious in trying to get it.” West Ham co-chairman David Gold.
They are words that emphasise the challenges of dealing with agents at a time of the year when they hold all the aces.
“The current setup of a fixed period for player transactions is a necessary evil of the game,” Gold tells us.
“The alternative is a free-for-all where clubs could sign players all year around, and that would create permanent instability.
“I would like to see is a way of bringing down the curtain on the transfer window before the season starts.”
While the agents will claim they are looking after their players, many in the game believe some are looking after themselves, with a transfer proving to be a much more lucrative transition than a new contract for their star name.
That much was evident as agent Aidy Ward became a high profile figure in the media as he pushed through Raheem Sterling’s mega money move from Manchester City to Liverpool last summer.
Many in Ward’s own profession suggested his inflammatory statements in the media damaged the reputation of his fellow agents.
However, the end target is the same for all.
A healthy cut of any transfer bolsters the bank balances of football advisers who have long since become millionaires in their own right.
AGENTS FEES PAID (Oct 2014-Sept 2015)
1. Liverpool (£14,301,464)
2. Manchester United (£13,881,814)
3. Manchester City (£12,429,380)
4. Chelsea (£11,961,206)
5. Arsenal (£11,928,584)
“What is written in the newspapers about transfers not true. Only the players know, the clubs know. The media cannot know.” (Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal).
If you spend any time in the curious world that is Twitter, you get a vibe that some of the public genuinely believe the collective media “make up stories” to sell newspapers and get clicks on websites.
While some ‘journalists’ who build their career around a healthy Twitter following need to churn out transfer gossip on a daily/hourly basis to promote themselves, genuine reporters look down on the those modern day charlatans with scorn.
If you put your name to enough stories that are shown to be complete nonsense, your reputation will be quickly shattered, so it is not in the interest of any reporter hoping to enjoy a lengthy career in his profession to follow such a path.
Transfer stories appear in the media via a variety of sources;
(i) Private media briefings from clubs officials (Sadio Mane’s links with Man Utd last summer came via this route).
(ii) Managers or club owners informing their chosen contacts in the media of some imminent business.
(iii) A player himself leaking the information of an imminent move.
Agents also use the media to leak information at timely moments and that is where the story can get a little clouded.
When the story emerged claiming Sergio Ramos (below) “had decided to join Man Utd” last summer, an agent may well have leaked that information to the media in a bid to secure his client a pay rise at Real Madrid.
Using links with a club – and especially Man Utd in recent times – has become a tried and tested route to unsettle a player.
The end result is either a lucrative transfer or a pay rise for the man in the centre of the media storm.
There is no doubt that some journalists get played by agents looking to stir up a whirlwind of interest around their player during a transfer window.
Yet the notion that the media fabricate stories to sell papers is just nonsense.
All involved in a January transfer window are on trial, with the verdicts passed on the winners and losers when deadline day has passed.