Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Transfer Window

In case you hadn't noticed, the football season has started. In France, it started about an hour after Spain's expected triumph in Jo'burg (okay, maybe more like a month after). The self-proclaimed "Greatest show on Earth", the English Premier League, has two matchdays in the bag, and is looking more like Wimbledon (three 6-0 scorelines in 20 matches played) than actual Football. The Bundesliga is underway, and La Liga and the Serie A's opening whistle are set for next Saturday. I'm watching the UEFA Champions League qualifiying round later today. Are you? So yes, Football is in fact, back.

But there isn't much Football to talk about. Making predictions for 2011 champions after a few leagues matches serves only those whose paychecks they need to justify. One could say that "Chelsea looks mean", or that Didier Deschamps will lose his job by November (OM, the defending French champions have lost their first 2 matches). But anyone with 1 brain cell remaining could make those observations. Thankfully, I'm not being paid. Yet. so I'll focus on what's really happening in Football today. Transfers.

The man in the picture above is not Tom Cruise. It's Yoan Gourcuff. The french midfielder who's been tipped as Zidane's heir in France's squad, speaking to reporters after his transfer from Bordeaux to Lyon was completed. Get used to seeing footballers in suits (or other types of expensive and flamboyant clothing) more often than in their club colours for the next seven days. On the 31st of August, The Soccer Gods will close the transfer window. No player on a contract with a club will be able to switch to a different team. Even if the buyer happens to be the Mighty Manchester City Football club. Not until January 1st, 2011.

FC Barcelona have ended the psychological harassment on Arsenal and given up on signing the Gunners captain, and are now focusing on making sure Liverpool go from partially-mediocre-while-having-the-world's-best-striker, to completely-mediocre-while-having-the-world's-best-striker. Javier Mascherano wants a move to Spain, and no one can convince him that the Reds can compete for anything this season. Roy Hodgson will let go of his midfielder, as soon as the price is right. Robinho wants out of the ManCity project; Hatem Ben Arfa has lived up to his reputation by starting a fight with the OM people and has seen his number 10 being handed to newly signed french international André-Pierre Gignac. Zlatan's agent denies allegations that he may need to pack his things and leave Barça...

Transfers...Ridiculously large sums of money changing hands for the rights to use a player's services an sell his shirts for profit, and, oh yeah, I almost forgot, trying to win titles.

To add more drama to the transfer saga, some leagues have set a maximum of players that can be used until the January window. So managers are forced to sell out of form, unhappy players for reduced prices. This couldn't come at a better time, when only a handfull of clubs actually have the cash to strenghten their title challenge. That's right. The recession has also hit the world of Football. Joe the Football fan (also known as Mohammed in some parts of the globe), can't afford cable since he's lost his job. But he keeps his internet connection and streams the matches online. Which means less TV money for his club to help him live his vicarious life.

Ultimately, this can only mean one thing: more smaller clubs may find the opportunity to sign good players for less, and talent will spread across the map like old times. To quote Thomas Friedman (in his book "The World is Flat"):"The playing field is being leveled". No more domination by a couple of Giants with endless Oil money.
Like I said earlier, Football is back...

Now watch Manchester City win the EPL and Real Madrid complete a Treble in Europe, and we can all laugh at my theory and kiss Football goodbye. Fingers crossed.

Have a great season.

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