2 February ~ On January 22, Burnley signed French striker Frederic Nimani on loan from Monaco until the end of the season. The question I immediately wanted to ask Burnley was: "How many times have you seen him play?" One of the criticisms of the transfer window is that it presents agents with an opportunity to persuade clubs to sign players they know little about. From the outside, this appears the case with Nimani’s move.
In the run-up to joining Burnley, the 21-year-old striker made two league starts and six substitute appearances for Monaco this season. He spent a further four games sitting on the bench as an unused sub. So unless the Clarets were keeping tabs on him last season, when they were still a Championship club, the chances are their scouting staff have rarely seen him in action.
The sense that an agent, rather than Burnley, drove the move grew stronger when Burnley said on their website that three other Premier League clubs had expressed an interest in signing Nimani. That’s the sort of line agents put out all the time.
When a club marks a player’s arrival by making a statement that reads like a Wikipedia entry, you might think that an agent has been overly creative. After completing a deal for Ronald Zubar from Marseille last summer, Wolves manager Mick McCarthy said: "Ronald is a quick, powerful defender who has played for the French Under-21 team. He has got Champions League experience and he will prove a very valuable addition to the squad." What he failed to mention was that readers of magazine Les cahiers du football had voted Zubar the second-worst player in France in 2008 and Marseille were willing to let the defender go because he had become their fifth-choice centre-half.
Of course, you wouldn’t expect McCarthy to mention black marks against his player when presenting him to the press, but sometimes wonder how much homework gets done. Zubar said McCarthy remembered watching him playing for France Under-21s in 2005. You’d like to think McCarthy and his scouting staff had kept notes on the player over the subsequent four years before shelling out a £2.5 million transfer fee and handing the player a four-year contract that may be worth anything up to £5m.
Burnley would argue Nimani is a low-risk signing. The player has arrived on a five-month loan. If things work out and the club stays up, perhaps they’ll sign him on a permanent deal. If Burnley are relegated and the player isn’t up to scratch, they can send him back to the Principality having spent little money on him. A calculated gamble, you might say. But that doesn’t answer the question of whether it was the club’s idea or the agent’s in the first place. James Eastham