Why Premier League clubs are right to close the transfer window earlier
Paul Clement bristled. His Swansea side had just drawn with Southampton on the Premier League’s opening Saturday and, rather than the point gained, the press conference at St Mary’s centred again on Gylfi Sigurdsson’s protracted move to Everton.
Clement, a likeable, effusive manager, was frustrated. Not with the player or even the club chasing his services, but instead with the awkward mechanism on which Swansea’s preparation had become snagged.
“There's frustration here and I'm sure Southampton are frustrated too," he said. "That's why I think if the window is shut before the season starts, everything is sorted out and we can get on with the football. At our managers' meeting at the Premier League, we spoke about it [closing the window earlier]. The majority of clubs are in favour but maybe all of us have to be for it to go through. It could happen next year.”
Change on the horizon
In a change which could be implemented as early as next year, English clubs would be prohibited from buying players after the season’s start
Just over 48 hours later, Clement appeared to have his wish. On Monday night, it was reported that - at a meeting scheduled for September 7 - the league’s clubs intend to vote in favour of shortening the transfer window. In a change which could be implemented as early as next year, English clubs would be prohibited from buying players after the season’s start - albeit with the caveat that their players could still be sold to foreign sides. It’s clearly an imperfect solution, but it’s an improvement.
At the crux of Clement’s irritation, one presumably shared by most of his peers, is the uncertainty bred by the current system - and Sigurdsson is the perfect example of that limbo. A vital component in Swansea’s 2016/17 survival, the Icelandic midfielder is of critical importance to a side who are expected to struggle again. If he's sold, he will need to be replaced. More importantly, that replacement will have to be integrated into the side without the benefit of a pre-season and with little opportunity for experimentation.
In effect, although Swansea’s season has officially begun, what they are as a football team remains a fluid concept. For the sake of harmony and progress - and with the window shutting in just over two weeks - there's an impression that the club are being pressured into accepting a lower bid from Everton. Targets will have been identified and due diligence probably run, but transfers still take time.
Agents' increasing influence
While it’s not possible for a player to physically move between September and December or February and May, that hasn’t made the modern footballer any more committed
The window in its current form is 15 years old. Introduced in the 2002/03 season, it was established with the aim of protecting clubs from the swell of activity generated by the market. The expectation, naive as it sounds now, was that by creating two isolated periods in which transfers could take place, the uncertainty generated by agents throughout the season would be minimised. Squads would be more harmonious, seasons wouldn’t be interrupted by predatory clubs, and power would - to an extent - be reclaimed by the coaches.
That didn’t happen. Agent intereference is inarguably at an all-time high and, while it’s not possible for a player to physically move between September and December or February and May, that hasn’t made the modern footballer any more committed. More clandestine, perhaps, and more political, but certainly not more respectful of a contract.