Transfer season may be silly, but it's the loans that are maddening
The National staff | February 1, 2014
Michael Steele Staff
With the winter transfer deadline finally in the rearview mirror, The National's Adam Workman offers up a guest-blog looking at the vexing loan system.
After a fairly anti-climatic January transfer window closed in Europe last night, football purists in the game can stop harping on about how the entire concept should be scrapped, for another six months at least.
Everybody from Arsene Wenger to Andy Gray has bemoaned the mid-season transfer silly season that has come to define the fortunes of, in particular, the English Premier League. Their protests are slightly disingenuous: the majority of supporters get at least a perverse enjoyment out of the whole spectacle – and entertaining the very fans who largely fund the sport is the end-game here, lest we forget. But that's not even the biggest issue with the transfer system right now.
There weren't many genuinely pulse-quickening deals among the deadline-day activity, but one stood out in particular: Tom Ince's loan move to Crystal Palace. Why do the rules of the game allow a top-tier team to acquire the services of any player from a lower-league club (in this case, the Championship side Blackpool) without properly putting pen to paper?
Ince's contract expires in the summer, which will likely mean that the Eagles will be able to sign him up permanently for zero pounds and zero pence in transfer fees. With the lower leagues already financially stunted by the comparative might of the EPL, should that gap be allowed to widen farther by such lopsided tactics?
While the exact mechanics of many loan deals rarely fully make it into the public domain, the general modus operandi is that the player's wages will be paid by the club taking them on loan. But surely that's about the only benefit that Blackpool will see from this cockeyed abuse of the system. They lose the services of a key player – one who has been tipped for full international recognition, indeed – for the remainder of the season without any significant recompense. As the famed social commentator Beyoncé might put it, if you like it, put a ring on it.
The curious practise of loan deals between blue-chip clubs is also painfully open for debate. Multiple eyebrows were raised higher than those of the ex-Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti when the current Stamford Bridge incumbent Jose Mourinho sent Romelu Lukaku to Everton for a season. And why are one of the moneybags clubs of Europe, AS Monaco, only loaning Dimitar Berbatov from the EPL strugglers Fulham. The latter have also seen the troublesome playmaker Adel Taarabt temporarily head to AC Milan (the Moroccan was, confusingly, midway through a season's loan at Craven Cottage from QPR).
And we haven't even got into the Major League Soccer tradition of loaning out star players to the EPL once the American close-season hits – often those who have previously plied their trades in England.
For the good of the game, the loan system – and not the transfer window as a whole – is what requires a serious injection of common sense and modernisation.
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