The transfer window was implemented by UEFA at the start of the 2002/03 season - back when Sunderland were gearing up for what would be an embarrassing Premier League campaign.
Before the new system, clubs could buy and sell players up until the end of March, meaning the ones who were struggling financially could stay afloat by selling a player at pretty much anytime throughout the season, and clubs could strengthen at any time too.
For many years, the summer transfer window was the one where the big deals would happen, and January was a transfer window for essentially plugging gaps. January has now become a window that’s an intense chess game for owners across Europe. Inflated prices, playing hardball and teams not wanting to lose their best players make it virtually impossible for the buying team to be on the good end of a deal. In fact, ten of the 20 biggest ever January deals have happened in the last four January windows!
When Sunderland were last in the Premier League, the biggest transfer in England during January was the sale of Dimitri Payet to Marseille, from West Ham, for £25 million after a falling out with manager Slavan Bilic. Payet was sensational for West Ham in the previous season, helping them to a 7th placed finish.
The Frenchman had also played a big part for France in the 2016 Euros, as well as scoring a wonderful solo goal against Middlesbrough in the league afterwards.
Leeds signed Georginio Rutter last week for £40m. For context, he’s a striker who has scored two goals this season – this was Leeds’ record signing. No less than a week ago Chelsea signed Mykhailo Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk for a price tag that could eventually rise to £100m. Mudryk is 22 and has scored 9 goals in his career. This could be Chelsea’s record signing. Bournemouth are on the verge of signing Lorient winger Dango Ouattara for a fee that could rise to £26m. You guessed it – record signing! Goal statistics aren’t everything in football, but they certainly go a long way in determining how good and valuable a striker is.
Clubs are asking for huge prices for unproven players, and it filters down to the lower leagues as well. Peterborough slapped a £5m price tag on Jonson Clarke-Harris this year; this is the same Clarke-Harris who has played in the Championship once in the last ten seasons. Think back to the 2019 window. We all know how desperate and useless Stewart Donald was when it came to transfer business, but Doncaster asking for £10m for John Marquis was crazy! Will Grigg £4m. The list goes on.
This year we’re seeing a huge increase in the number of clubs recalling players from successful loan spells. The recall of Ellis Simms by Everton was, and is, a disrespect to the player. Parent clubs are meant to show respect to the player’s welfare and development. A young striker, who was doing very well in the Championship, recalled to sit on the bench at a club going through a torrid time. Simms isn’t the only example of the disrespect either. Alex Mighten, Armstrong Okoflex and Theo Corbeanu are just three examples of players recalled from successful loans by sides struggling at the foot of the Premier League.
I understand that the business of football is changing, and there is more money involved than ever before. It will only carry on in this trajectory as well, with the likes of PSG, Newcastle, Man City and maybe Liverpool in the future being taken over by multi-billionaire regimes.
The days of transfer bargains are fading, but Southampton have proven this month that it is still possible to sign a high-quality player on the cheap.
I fear for the future of the transfer window as it is and hope that something is done about the money involved in football because FFP certainly isn’t doing anything about it.