Top European clubs now bullying transfer market ahead of schedule
Background photo: Wonker, CC BY 2.0
The summer transfer window remains months away but several deals have already been announced. Bayern Munich "will sign" Atletico Madrid defender Lucas Hernández for €80 million. The French World Cup winner joins the Bavarians at season's end. Real Madrid and Barcelona joined the fun and let's not forget Juventus reportedly entered into a pre-contract agreement with Aaron Ramsey. It's difficult enough for lesser clubs to compete against the wealthiest sides. Now, they can't even get a crack at players when the window opens. It takes influence to a new level.
When top clubs identify players early and close the deal before the window opens, their seasons are set in advance, not only saving them the money a competitive bidding process encourages but allowing them the competitive advantage that comes with having new players in pre-season training from day one. if the transfer rules can be detoured in this fashion, what is the point in having any? The season is not over yet and seven top deals have been announced.
- Aaron Ramsey to Juventus on a free transfer from Arsenal was the juiciest until Ajax sensation Frenkie de Jong agreed terms with Barca. The Dutch giants raked in €75 million.
- Jean-Clair Todibo joins De Jong at the Nou Camp on a free from Toulouse.
- Eder Militao leaves Iker Casillas behind to protect a still-to-be-decided keeper at the Santiago Bernabeu. Real madrid paid € 50 million for his services.
- Hernandez's €80 million transfer to Bayern Munich ranks second in history behind Virgil van Dijk.
- Next season, Bayern can field both French World Cup fullbacks. Stuttgart promised Benjamin Pavard to die Roten for €35 million before the tournament.
- Chelsea closed the deal for winger Christian Pulisic, enriching Borussia Dortmund to the tune of £58 million before FIFA handed down the Blues' transfer ban.
- Sevilla got in on the fun, landing striker Moanes Dabour from Red Bull Salzburg for €15 million.
Two trends emerge from these deals. First, clubs are going all out to get the brightest young talent around for top fees. Money is no object. Second, defenders are coming at a premium. The demand for skilled defenders now matches attacking players. Teams now build their attack from the back. Defenders must possess technical ability, which never comes cheaply.
Investing in youth and letting defenders play are both good for the game. Big clubs circumventing the transfer market to sign them isn't. These deals aren't transparent. They're negotiated through back channels by agents motivated by earning top commissions. Naturally, they steer their clients towards the money, tilting the playing field. Less wealthy clubs have little choice but to become feeders for the sharks. They must focus on developing youth talent, then hope they can win something before the predators snap them up.
In addition, while certain clubs garner further insurance against relegation, others face greater risk. Financial Fair Play already allows heavyweights to spend more than the rest. If the game's governing bodies don't clamp down on behind-the-scenes dealings, the only other solution is to revert to the time when transfer windows didn't exist. Open season on players still affords advantages to rich clubs but at least everyone has the same opportunity to approach stars. Sometimes, all it takes is one signing.to change a side's fortunes. Look what N'Golo Kante did for Leicester City.