LIFTING THE LID: Our brand new series, Lifting The Lid, goes behind the scenes to tell you the stories you won’t hear anywhere else. This week it’s Deadline Day with author Alan Gernon.
The transfer window can be a weird and wonderful time of year as clubs around the world race against the clock to get all their business for the season done and dusted ahead of the impending deadline.
With the current transfer window due to slam shut on Monday, we spoke to Alan Gernon, author of ‘The Transfer Market: The Inside Stories’, for his view on what the transfer window is really like for players.
Alan guides us through the window below…
Most players don’t like deadline day
I spoke to lots of players during research for writing the book and many of them hate the transfer window and particularly deadline day. They might have just settled somewhere and they don’t know where they are off to next.
I spoke to one Scotland international and he was sitting there watching deadline day on TV at 6pm and he’s in Sunderland, happily settled, kids in school. He gets a phone call and the next day he’s looking at houses and schools in Burnley. Adnan Januzaj had just bought a new house in Manchester and later that week Manchester United had sold him to Real Sociedad.
Ex-Brighton and Fulham player Liam Rosenior told me a lot of players leave their phones off on purpose on deadline day so that they don’t get asked to move. He had that experience himself at a club where he got a call at 8am on deadline day and was told to go to the other end of the country to speak to a club, and if he didn’t he’d never play for his current club again. I spoke to another player who said he’d been sold and he hadn’t even unpacked the boxes from his last move. You see all the razzmatazz of deadline day, but you have this whole side of things that we don’t really see.
Most players don’t like deadline day, but they do watch it because of their own self-interests or to see if there’s a playing coming in that’s in their position. They’re glad when it’s over.
There’s more to the transfer market than world-record fees
The transfer market is not all Neymar £200 million transfers. We hear about maybe a couple of hundred transfers every year but, in one year for example, in 2016, there were almost 15,000 transfers worldwide and only 14% of those involved a fee – players are moving, not because they’re wanted by a club, but maybe because they’re unwanted by their current club.
In transfers worldwide, 30% are pressured to move against their will. There are a lot of problems, I spoke to a lot of players. Rohan Ricketts, who played for Arsenal and Tottenham, he played in about 10 countries worldwide and saw problems everywhere. He was playing in Moldova, scored a hat-trick on his trial, they thought he was the next Pele, but when they found out he was a midfielder they literally stopped paying him and, in his words, ran him out of the country ‘mafia style’. And when it all ended, the two agents that moved him there had made more money out of the deal than he had.
Agents are a necessary evil
Anyone can become an agent – you just need £500, a phone, a criminal record that’s not spent and not to have been bankrupt. Prior to FIFA deregulating the agent market there were 500-600 agents; at the time of writing my book [ahead of it being published in 2018], there was 2,000. Some are established agents, but it’s like the wild west out there. Prior to deregulation you couldn’t have family members making money out of a deal, but now that’s not the case.
People will be wondering why do players really need agents? But from speaking to a lot of players, I felt like they see it as a necessary evil, that they need them to negotiate with clubs. They’ve had their share of bad agents and horror stories, but most of them said they may not have got the financial aspect of their career if they hadn’t had a good agent along the way.
Transfer gossip does have some truth in it
In my research I took a random date from a transfer gossip column and went through 50 rumours that day and 21% actually ended up in a transfer, so 80% were nonsense really. From speaking to agents, journalists and players, there does seems to be a hint of spin in each of those headlines, it’s someone with an agenda.
Someone is signalling that they’re willing to do a deal. So whether it’s Manchester City leaking that Joe Hart is no longer wanted, as an example, there’s always someone looking to push a move. They’ll all have favourite journalists looking to spin the story with. Often it could be fiction but there is some truth behind the stories.
I spoke to an agent who was dealing with Manchester United – they were interested in one of his clients but they made it clear that he was number three in the list in that position. So clubs will have four or five targets in each position but will only buy one eventually. That could be 50 names there is some interest in, but they obviously won’t sign them all.
The weird and wonderful
There’s lots of bizarre little clauses put in players’ contracts when they sign. When Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain moved to Arsenal, he was often brought on as a sub on the 71-minute mark. A lot of fans were wondering why, but there was a clause where Arsenal had to pay Southampton £10,000 every time he played 20 minutes or more. Stefan Schwarz at Sunderland, he was really interested in space, and they put a clause in his contract in which he wasn’t allowed to travel to space!
Niall Quinn was chairman of Sunderland and making the point to me that everything is done for players when they sign, no domestic duties. They signed a new player from overseas and put him in a lovely apartment in the city centre and the player liaison officer got a call from the player who said he couldn’t get his clothes clean, ‘whatever I do they’re just not coming out clean’. So the player liaison officer went over and had seen that he’d put them in the dish washer!
Alan Gernon’s ‘The Transfer Market: The Inside Stories’ is available to buy here.