After the always enjoyable orgy that is the festive footballing calendar (in fact, there are a few days left – Man City’s game at The Emirates will be their fifth in seventeen days) comes, even more reliably, the opening of the transfer window.
For a new institution, the January transfer window inspires an incredible amount of apathy. For the most part, January is much like any other month in England’s top flight. Nothing much happens, and then on the 31st Sky Sports go mental about a few people changing clubs and a few people hinting at it but then not bothering.
Here are some predictions for how this year’s window (day) will play out.
Arsenal might get rid of Manuel Almunia, for a nominal fee, and replace him with Vitto Manone, already on the books. Manchester United will, in all likelihood, leave well alone.
Numerous smaller clubs, like West Bromwich Albion, Bolton Wanderers and Liverpool, will have a quiet time of it seeking loans and making noises (similar to those likely to issue from Messrs Wenger and Ferguson above, but ringing even less of truth) about the lack of value in the market.
Aston Villa and Everton will hopefully make a couple of useful signings, possibly with Stephens Ireland and Pienaar being used as makeweights.
So far so same.
The interesting cases will, as ever perhaps, be Chelsea and Manchester City. These cases, though, will likely be especially interesting this year as arguably will be those of Inter Milan and Real Madrid who are in relatively equivalent positions.
Both Chelsea and Inter won their leagues and domestic cup competitions last season but are struggling this in 5th and 7th position respectively. Both City and Madrid are making good progress near the top of their domestic leagues, but both must feel (after trophyless seasons last year) that they may need to augment to overcome the perennially victorious rivals currently sitting above them.
What makes this an especially interesting opening in the market for each of these clubs is the impending implementation of UEFA’s Financial Fairplay Regulations. These regulations don’t fully come into force until the beginning of next season, when the clock starts ticking on the clubs’ break-even deadlines and their €45 million of leeway. However, transfer fees are usually paid over the duration of the player’s contract. Thus, a £45 million Edin Dzeko on a five-year contract worth £120,000 per week will still cost £11 million in 2015, which is the last year and almost one third of the leeway. That’s a dangerous equation for a club that has spent around a quarter of a billion pounds in the last two and a half seasons.
Similar equations will most likely be being made at the San Siro, the Bridge and the Bernabeu just now too and Platini’s balls are likely to be part of them all. These have received much media speculation of late, with numerous column inches being devoted to asking what would happen were these big guns to flout the rules. Would they still be allowed into the big bucks competitions if they have to buy themselves into them?
Hopefully not, obviously, but we will surely find out from the actions of those in charge at Manchester City, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid at least how seriously they think UEFA are: if they buy they think the rules are balls, if they don’t they’re scared. That’s the sort of thing that the type of people in charge of those clubs can usually be relied upon to discover before the rest of us. Hopefully they’re disappointed, and the window closes on Edin Dzeko et al.