Commentary: Don’t expect football clubs to splash big bucks this transfer window

SINGAPORE: The 2019 to 2020 English Premier League (EPL) season finally finished on Sunday (Jul 26), a full 11 months after it kicked-off.

A three-month suspension from March to June due to the coronavirus outbreak was responsible for the delay – the EPL season typically ends in late May – and also means that the 2020 to 2021 season will start on Sep 12 rather than in August.

Advertisement

Advertisement

In previous years, the time between the season start and end is marked by the transfer window a period of intense wheeling and dealing of players. By now, the rumour mills would already have been working overtime to speculate the movement of players between clubs. That is hardly the case this time around.

THE IMPACT OF COVID-19

The global spread of and disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic means that this summers transfer window, which opened in England on Jul 27 and will close on Oct 5, will not reach the frenzied heights of previous years.

READ: Commentary: There's good reason why football clubs shouldn't be allowed to spend excessively

Advertisement

Advertisement

Fewer big deals are expected. Clubs around Europe are still dealing with the financial effects of leagues being suspended and then restarting in empty stadiums as in England, Italy, Spain and Germany or cancelled outright as in France.

Last summer, these leagues, collectively called “The Big Five”, spent 5.8 billion euros (US$6.8 billion) on players, a rise of 1.1 billion euros from the previous year.

A fall in transfer activity is almost certain this transfer window with the question being of just how much.

With millions of jobs disappearing around the continent, there is uncertainty as to whether fans – when it is eventually deemed safe for them to return to the stadiums – and sponsors will return in the same numbers next season.

READ: Commentary: As the EPL kicks off, be prepared for a very different second half

Many clubs have sent staff on furloughs and asked others to take pay cuts.

Newly-crowned English champions Liverpool have been sounding a conservative note when it comes to the coming weeks. “It's just not likely that it will be the most busy summer in the world," Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp said in July. “How much can you spend if you dont know how much you can have? That is exactly the situation."

READ: Commentary: The new era of English football belongs to Liverpool

Other members of the European elite such as Bayern Munich have echoed calls for clubs to become more rational in the transfer market.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp AFP/GEOFF CADDICK

“In the past 10 years, with these ever-higher, ever-further, ever-faster sums for player transfers and player salaries, football has shot a long way past the goal,” chief executive of the German champions Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said in June. “We have to find better solutions in Europe.”

A BUYERS MARKET

But, just like property investors can find value in the market, clubs that have funds and the financial wherewithal to stomach more expenses will have options.

“Its definitely a buyers market – whoever has the money will set the tone for the rest of the clubs,” leading South American agent Matias Lipman told media.

“So far, its been really difficult for the market to get moving. Some clubs still dont know how much their budgets will be affected by the pandemic. Like in any other industry, the smaller clubs need the bigger clubs to start spending money. Until that happens, it will be hard for everything to take off.”

READ: Commentary: COVID-19 will plunge EPL clubs into financial woes

There has been some movement already. However, while the volume of transfers in the first few days of the window are comparable to previous years, what is worth noting is that most of these were players released on a free transfer – either due to their contracts running out or their remaining stints being compensated for – as clubs aim to slash their wage bills for the next season.

Chelsea, who finished third in the English Premier League, has been a notable exception, dipping into their wallets to pay 45 million pounds (US$58.5 million) to Red Bull Leipzig for Timo Werner and 36 million pounds to Ajax Amsterdam for forward Hakim Ziyech. Much of this was financed by their 50 million pound sale of Spanish forward Alvaro Morata to Atletico Madrid earlier in the season.

Timo Werner is aiming to bring a new era of success to Chelsea AFP/Ronny HARTMANN

Chelseas purchases so far has put some money into the system with German team Leipzig then spending around 12.6 million pounds on South Korean forward Hwang Hee-chan, a replacement for Werner from Red Bull Salzburg.

BIG STARS MAY STAY PUT

Even though it is still early days into the transfer window, there have yet to be any really big deals, or any in the horizon, that come close to matching those of last summer such as Atletico Madrid paying 81 million euros to Benfica for Portugese striker Joao Felix and Barcelona splashing out 96 million euros on French forward Antoine Griezmann.

That may be the way things could shape up this summer for the games superstar players.

READ: Commentary: COVID-19 has relegated sports tourism from a slam dunk year to a no-show

While it may be a buyers market for big clubs looking to buy the biggest stars of smaller rivals, that may not be the case when it comes to the hottest players on the world market – especially if sellers are unwilling.

In May, consultants KPMG estimated that some of the most in demand players, such as Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund, have seen their transfer values fall by 16 per cent.

At around 98 million pounds or more however, the England international would still be out of reach of almost all clubs at the best of times let alone during this pandemic, which has seen their gRead More – Source