When did you decide the transfer market was well and truly broken? Was it when Andy Carroll signed for Liverpool for £35m in 2011? Was it when PSG signed Neymar for an eye-watering £200m in 2017? Or was it more recently, when an English club signed a player you’d never heard of for more than £20m?
It may well have been long before those examples, but with clubs receiving more income than ever and splashing it as they please, the problem is more evident than previously.
Clubs will continue to rake in the cash from all sorts of television and sponsorship deals (Manchester United have an official mattress and pillow partner). The era of exorbitant transfer fees will end, but not because of a lack of money from clubs but rather a lack of power among footballers themselves.
Players have a huge amount of power in today’s game. All it takes for a manager to lose his job is for one or two players to down tools, leak information and drop hints of discontent in post-match interviews. New managers find it difficult to implement their methods if they are at odds with the previous incumbent’s.
When a player knows that the club has paid a huge transfer fee for him, and is tied to a lucrative, long-term contract, the club will choose him over an expendable coach. The club is often reluctantly left with no choice but to side with the player. It’s a financial choice and surely one they would rather not make.
There is however one area where players are yet to make significant breakthroughs and that is in the transfer market. Anyone tied into a long-term deal has value and clubs know that. That is why they can demand such high fees for average players that they do not want to sell. It looks like Paul Pogba will stay at Manchester United because the club has asked for a fee that others cannot afford and Neymar may well stay at PSG for the same reason.
This is not the way that players and agents want the transfer window to pan out. Transfer fees will soon fall and potentially become non-existent. While asking prices are so high, players have little ability to force through a move way.
Short-term contracts will soon become normal, shifting the balance towards players and the many parasitic agents who will look to take advantage of no transfer fees by asking for higher ‘signing-on’ fees. Such a change would also prevent clubs from being stuck with players they no longer want but have to keep as other clubs cannot match the player’s wage demands. The transfer market is broken and this shift will lead to many more transfers happening but at a much lower cost to all involved, so you will never have to hear again of the tiresome debate of whether the latest £50m is truly worth that price. And that can only be a good thing.