Date: 17th August 2008 at 9:22am
Written by:

The principle of transfer periods makes sense as they reduce the possibility to influence a competition that is still in progress. But I think the process needs refining in order to bring some order to a period that risks becoming a greater farce with each year.

Rafa Benitez says that discussions for Gareth Barry`s transfer have been going on since April. Arsenal are known to have been seeking to replace Flamini since early June at least. Fergie has been fluttering his eyelids at Berbatov for months. Many other transfers have become mired in a combination of brinkmanship and gamesmanship.

As things stand there is little encouragement for transfers to be completed swiftly and tidily. Some clubs, accepting that they have a player to sell, are holding out for the last possible date believing that`s when they will get the best price and some of those buying are waiting until the last possible date believing that`s when they will get the best price! To adapt Parkinson`s Law – Transfers expand so as to fill the time available for their completion.

Clubs all over Europe are only too prepared to leak stories to the press in the expectation that a sustained drip feed of posturing and teasing will encourage players they are interested in to disturb a previously stable relationship with their club. The purpose of this is to create a more receptive atmosphere for a bid that would probably fail with a straightforward approach to the club. It is only when there is enough time to play with that resistance can gradually be worn down.

Two seasons ago every man and his dog knew that Cole was going to go to Chelsea. They also knew that Gallas wanted to come to Arsenal. Chelsea refused to do the deal they knew would have to happen until the last possible moment believing that it would disrupt Arsenal more than it would them. Much the same situation was repeated the following season in not permitting Diarra to join us until midnight on deadline day.

There should be little reason why transfers need take more than a month to conclude. Effectively the summer transfer period extends from the end of a season to the 31st August. This is far too long and promotes the sort of prevarication that drags uncertainty past the start of the season. It encourages teams to seek to disrupt opponents by creating and perpetuating doubt about one of their key players. If Levy has genuinely told United that Berbatov is not for sale under any circumstances then Uniteds failure to make it clear they are no longer pursuing the player allows this uncertainty to ferment. It breeds the sort of silly, tedious hawking of players like Arshavin for much of the summer until the ‘use by date` looms large and prices are cut to shift goods that were absurdly overpriced in the first place.

It`s time to put an end to this transfer debacle. The window should close no later than 31st July – preferably even a week or 2 earlier. All squads will then be finalised before pre-season has been underway for too long. All incentive to undermine another team`s preparation ends and supporters can finish agonising over who`s staying and who`s joining. Players will know long before the season gets underway that they will spend at least the first half of the season at the club and can knuckle down to pre-season training with greater certainty and hopefully some commitment.

This still gives up to 2 months to complete transfer activity. In reality, as clubs will have identified areas to strengthen long before the season ends most of the process of identification and preparation would be underway long before the window opens. The shorter the time available the faster serious negotiations will commence and conclude. And that has to be preferable to this perennially extended game of musical chairs.

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