x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

As things heat up it is time to close summer transfer window sooner

The balance of power has swung decisively away from football clubs and towards players since the 1995 Bosman Ruling.

A shorter summer transfer window would have allowed Cesc Fabregas to get kicks in a little more peace and quiet with Barcelona.
A shorter summer transfer window would have allowed Cesc Fabregas to get kicks in a little more peace and quiet with Barcelona.

One by one, the summer's most tedious transfer sagas have failed to produce movement.

Cesc Fabregas remains at Barcelona, Luis Suarez at Liverpool, Gareth Bale at Tottenham Hotspur and Wayne Rooney at Manchester United.

For now.

What would Jean-Marc Bosman make of all this?

Ever since the Belgian changed European football by bringing about out-of-contract freedom of movement in 1995 with a ruling in his favour by the European Court of Justice, the balance of power has swung decisively away from football clubs and towards players.

Increasingly, contracts have become barely worth the paper they were printed on.

If a player wanted to leave a club he – or, more precisely, his agent – would find a way to make it happen.

To counter this, Fifa introduced the two transfer windows.

Implemented in 2002/03, the main objectives were to improve stability at clubs and reduce the influence of agents.

It is safe to say it has failed on both counts. If anything, the opposite has happened.

Players and agents, armed with the power of the Bosman Ruling, have wreaked financial havoc on their clubs, who in turn have become more unstable than ever.

This summer, it seems some clubs are fighting back.

But only a few, and certainly no thanks to the transfer window.

While Barcelona, Manchester United, and at a stretch Tottenham and Liverpool, have been able to resist the temptation to cash in on stars eager to leave, elsewhere big fish continue to use the murky waters of the transfer window to swallow smaller fish.

The time has come to rethink the format. Barring unlikely radical changes such as returning to the old system, or banishing the winter transfer window, there remains the reasonable option of fixing the summer one.

Fifa officials are nothing if not blinkered, but even they must now see the summer transfer window's most obvious flaw: why does it shut two to three weeks after the start of most domestic European seasons?

The remedy is equally obvious.

At a minimum, set the summer transfer cut-off point no later than a particular league's opening day.

More logically, why not have the window run for the duration of July only?

Early resolutions to these transfer dramas would ensure clubs are not held for ransom by disgruntled players and their agents until it is too late for an orderly transition.

As things stand, the summer window deadline harms all but the most powerful of clubs.

And managers hate it. They often complain that losing major players late in the window, even to an inflated fee, does not give them enough time to find a replacement of similar quality.

Of course, transfers will still take place near the end of an earlier window, or worse still, on deadline day.

However, having a finalised squad by the start of August will at least give managers two to three weeks before the start of the season in which to adapt and prepare their teams.

At the same time, the extra weeks would give new players more time to bed in at their clubs.

Above all, it would reduce the need for clubs, resigned to losing a player to a rival, from playing politics.

Manchester United again said, on Tuesday, that Rooney will not be sold to Chelsea.

Still, would David Moyes have considered selling early to a rival his own team is facing a week before deadline day?

A July window would at least eliminate the need for delaying tactics.

Meanwhile, Suarez has treated his contract, club and fans with such contempt that Liverpool's owner, John W Henry, has also been forced to play hardball, and who can blame him?

He had no option but to block the transfer of Liverpool's best player to Arsenal, a direct rival for Uefa Champions League football.

And, according to reports in Uruguay on Wednesday, Suarez himself said that he intends to stay at Anfield. Suarez later distanced himself from those reports.

Tottenham's chairman, Daniel Levy, has shown in the past that he is perhaps the Premier League's best negotiator, and was certainly not going to be bullied by Real Madrid into selling Bale for less than a world-record fee.

Hanging on to these players would be a rare success for club owners … but for how long?

The transfer window has two-plus more weeks before it shuts and anything can still happen.

Even if he stays, what is to stop the non-cup-tied Suarez angling for another move to a Champions League club in the January window? And who is to say there won't be yet another twist in the Bale, Rooney or Fabregas sagas?

A transfer window starting on July 1 and ending on August 1 is unlikely to reverse the balance of power back towards the clubs in any meaningful way, but it just might - as its original purpose intended – improve their stability.

It may even restrict the Machiavellian scheming of players, agents and big clubs to one, almost bearable month.

akhaled@thenational.ae

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