Manchester United's transfer window: Silly season in full effect
Background Image Via: Jonathan Kahn. CC BY 4.0.
Since transfer windows were introduced in 2002 to comply with European Commission on Employee Rights, the summer window has tended to be known as silly season with hundreds of different players linked with moves across the world - very few of which ever materialise. Previously, players had been able to transfer clubs at any time...
This summer, silly season has been taken to a whole new level, centring around one club; Manchester United. At time of writing the Red Devils had been linked to 90 different players since May 17th when the window for the 2019/20 season opened. The club had made just one signing at a success rate or just over 1%. But how have we arrived at a situation where one club can be linked with so many different players?
One likely contributing factor to this is agents. Agents exist to get their client(s) the best possible deal whether at their current club or a new side. In recent years we have seen many instances of agents touting interest from the Old Trafford outfit as a way of getting a new contract for a player they represent. This actually became an inside joke amongst United fans, who have become accustomed to seeing this happen with increasing regularity. Therefore it’s highly plausible, maybe even highly likely, that several of these links have come from agents looking to secure a new deal for a player.
In some cases, it can be the selling side that throws United’s name into the mix. Making it seems like there are multiple interested parties is a tactic many chairmen use to either get one club to finally cave in on a deal and pay the asking price, or to start a bidding war amongst the competition.
The last few seasons has seen United linked with moves for Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino, only for them both to end up moving elsewhere (coincidentally in both these cases it was to Liverpool) within days of United’s name being thrown in. It seems more and more common for this to happen with United. In this window, examples could include Tanguy Ndombele, Phillipe Coutinho and William Saliba.
All these stories have to come from somewhere and within the media, most journalists will take the news from a source so they won’t report it without feeling confident about its accuracy. But this is not always the case. In the past, it has been shown that Manchester United generate traffic to websites. So including them in a story automatically increases the clicks for that particular article.
Once readers are on the site you can hit them with the other stories, but it’s the Red Devils name that gets them there so linking them with a player is an obvious way to increase their revenue. Even beyond this, many reporters likely wonder whether they should include United amongst the allegedly interested clubs, but even if they don't, you can bet your bottom dollar that one media outlet will somewhere along the line...
However, United are not innocent bystanders whatsoever. Their part in the situation is potentially two-fold. On the first hand, the Old Trafford outfit let it be known in the media what type of players they were looking for this summer. This creates an environment where players who fit the descriptions advertised can be linked with United by another media outlet, thus giving the story credence and weight.
For example, United let it be known that they were looking for a new right-back. So far they have been linked with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Keiran Trippier, Thomas Meunier, Max Aarons, Elseid Hysaj, Denzel Dumfries, Mario Fernandes and Joao Cancelo. That’s eight different players for one position. Then add in a centre-half, a defensive-midfielder, an attacking-midfielder, a right-winger and possibly a centre-forward and it becomes easy to see how the links grow.
In addition, it’s also highly possible that some links have come from United themselves, a kind of ‘false flag’ story. The purpose of which would be to try and gain more negotiating power by making it appear that they have alternative options and can go elsewhere if the selling club doesn’t offer some leeway. It’s risky because the selling club may tell the Reds to do just that, thus calling United's bluff.
It had required all of these factors to generate such a situation, but even at the height of silly season, one club being linked with over 90 different players seems a little extreme. Is it the zenith of the craziness or just the beginning?