Tuesday, 2 September 2014

A Window on a Mad World

The cells are empty and the lunatics have taken over the asylum
Jim White's near hysterical reporting on Sky Sports News and the massed ranks of idiots drawn moth like to the Sky camera's up and down the land is entirely appropriate backdrop to the closing of the football transfer window. It looks bonkers, it sounds bonkers and it is entirely bonkers. At the close Premier League clubs have spent a staggering £842 even allowing for incoming fees of £440m that is still a net outlay of £402m

A number of factors have fuelled this turbo-charged spending spree. There is a lot of new TV money sloshing around the Premier League and this has driven prices up. The Suarez transfer for £75m injected additional funds into Liverpool who would have been strengthening in any event and one of the world's richest clubs Man United are rebuilding under a new coach after their worst season in a generation.

Hey Big Spender 

Club  Total Fees Out  Total Fees In Net Spend
Arsenal  £       83,000,000 £19,900,000 £63,100,000
Aston Villa  £         4,200,000 £1,000,000 £3,200,000
Burnley  £         4,200,000 £0 £4,200,000
Chelsea  £       92,300,000 £75,800,000 £16,500,000
Crystal Palace  £         9,660,000 £4,900,000 £4,760,000
Everton  £       33,000,000 £1,600,000 £31,400,000
Hull City  £       37,950,000 £15,000,000 £22,950,000
Leicester City  £       11,400,000 £0 £11,400,000
Liverpool  £      117,000,000 £84,460,000 £32,540,000
Man City £55,200,000 £25,500,000 £29,700,000
Man United  £      147,500,000 £31,700,000 £115,800,000
Newcastle United  £       35,800,000 £13,000,000 £22,800,000
QPR  £       30,500,000 £16,200,000 £14,300,000
Southampton  £       57,700,000 £92,000,000 -£34,300,000
Spurs  £       34,330,000 £26,020,000 £8,310,000
Stoke City  £         4,400,000 £3,000,000 £1,400,000
Sunderland  £       15,250,000 £4,400,000 £10,850,000
Swansea  £       22,700,000 £20,400,000 £2,300,000
WBA  £       15,500,000 £2,000,000 £13,500,000
West Ham  £       30,850,000 £3,000,000 £27,850,000
Total £842,440,000 £439,880,000 £402,560,000

The above figures are an estimated based on reported fees which may or may not be completely accurate equally some deals do include performance related add-ons and it is not always obvious whether the reported fee includes or excludes those elements. Even with that caveat it is obvious that the Premier League Clubs have spent a staggering amount of money on players.

The following clubs have broken their transfer record this window Leicester City, West Bromwich Albion Everton,Man United and Hull City. It is impossible to say who had a good window and who had a bad one there will no doubt be some expensive lemons but equally some inspired "free" transfer that surprises everyone.

Only in football would something that might cost millions would be labelled as "free" but this is the case with free transfers. Many fans would be staggered at the sums players receive as signing on fees. It is rumoured that in order to keep their wage structure intact Swansea agreed a cool £8m signing on fee for Gomis who joined from Lyon.

Loan fees are not in the above figures and these are seldom reported at all and the costs vary depending on whether the parent club as in the case of Nani is picking up all or part of the players wages. Whether this is a net  inflow or out flow is anyone's guess but it given the number of players being loaned it is not insignificant.

The bottom line is the figures probably understate just how much clubs have spent this window.

Where's the Money Gone

A large amount of the turnover has been between Premier League clubs but aside from Ligue 1 in France (even Newcastle cannot buy enough French players to make up for the folly of PSG buying David Luiz for £40m)  the Premier League has a balance of payments deficit with every other major football league totalling £406m of which £59m went to the Championship with the balance in excess of £342m going overseas.

The Curious Case of Shane Long

Whenever the market surges there is a "how much?" moment and this window's was provided by Shane Long. At the death of last summer's transfer window having made it clear that he would not be signing a new contract with West Brom Shane Long was about to move to Hull City for a reported £5m. The deal fell through when Hull tried to haggle the price down. In January with even less time to run on his contract a deal was done for £7m and Shane moved to Hull. Many Albion fans believed that was a good price imagine the shock when an not noticeably improved Shane Long went to Southampton for £12m.

However the deal demonstrates the market dynamics as follows

1. Strikers, even average ones go for a premium.
2 The known quantity of a player with 3 seasons of premier league experience also has a premium compared to the possibility of an expensive newcomer might not settle in the English game, Southampton themselves had their fingers burnt last summer with Osvaldo.
3. Contract length matters Long had 3 years left on his Hull contract compared to the 1 he had at West Brom
4. Southampton had lots of money following the mass exodus and a need to bring in players quickly, Hull knew this and exploited the situation. This is only a smart move if they can line up a replacement for less than £12m.
5. Between last summer and now other completely nutty benchmarks had been set by other clubs most notably Fulham's £11m purchase of Ross McCormack a player who has never kicked a ball in the Premier League.  

Taking everything into account it is possible to see how the price ended up at £12m. Does the deal make sense? No, but very few transfers fees do.

The Beacons of Sanity

Take a bow Burnley who seem not to have joined the party mindful that relegation would leave them with a massive financial hangover. Fans might moan about a tight fisted board but the Premier League bonanza might be short lived and the money does have to be build a better club long term as well as putting a team together for the here and now.

Too Much too Young

One of the highlights of the window was the absolute gem from Jose Mourihno about Chelsea's inability to compete for Luke Shaw. At a stroke Mourihno heaped pressure on Shaw and United by outing his £5m a year salary and got his excuses in early lest Chelsea have a less than stellar season.  However it is not just a bit of Mourihno boloney he does have a point. Shaw is a player of real potential with one and a half seasons as a first team player under his belt, but he has never tested at the highest levels. Despite this he is commanding a salary that would imply that he is the finished article, add in the jaw dropping fee £27m fee and you have another young English player going down the well trodden path of getting the big move early in their careers and not living up to the hype.

We Can see you sneaking out

If anyone is getting really excited about the big money signing their club has just made there are a number of players who joined the Premier League circus with much fanfare last summer who are left with a great deal less this window. Ricky Van Wolfwinkel leaving Norwich on loan to St Eitinee and Osvaldo heading back to Italy from Southampton are cautionary tales. Finally shortly after he passed on the poisoned chalice of British transfer record onto De Maria, Torres left Chelsea for Milan on loan, remember this is a player amongst other things "guarantees you goals", "shows Chelsea's ambition" and "justified  the fee because he is a world class striker". So the next time you hear one of these cherished clich├ęs being peddled by a pundit, remember Torres.

Conclusion

It is mad, clubs never seem to learn the lessons every time new money comes into the Premier League it goes out in the form of fees and inflated salaries. In the meantime the grass roots of the game struggle to find the resources for decent pitches and youth coaches are barely paid a living wage. The English national team is struggling on the World stage but the circus carries on regardless. One does wonder what happens when the money runs out and the English game wakes up with the hangover to end all hangovers.