Transfer window effectively results in two separate seasons
3 February ~ When I bought my season ticket for Atalanta, I was hoping to enjoy another season of Maxi Moralez’s magic, to see Germán Denis add to his tally of goals, and to watch the progress of 20-year-old Alberto Grassi, the latest product of the club’s youth system.
They have all gone, Moralez to León in Mexico, Denis back to Argentina and Independiente and Grassi to Napoli, and other important players came very close to joining them. Those who did go have been replaced, but the team that I will be watching from now until the end of the season is not the one I signed up for.
Fans of other Italian clubs could tell similar stories. Sampdoria have lost three key players in Éder, Vasco Regini and Ervin Zukanovic. Chievo have lost their main striker, Alberto Paloschi, to Swansea, and Genoa’s Argentinian star Diego Perotti has gone to Roma. None of these are big clubs, and in many cases it is those big clubs that have denuded them of their best or their most promising players.
The January transfer window was originally intended to give clubs the opportunity to touch up their teams for the second half of the season, but if the month just gone in Italy is a guide, it is turning more and more into horse trading which many clubs are using with a view to the following season and not the current one.
For instance, it is hard to see why Napoli, currently top of Serie A, need an inexperienced if promising 20-year-old at this stage of the season. Grassi will probably play very little when he could have been gaining valuable experience playing regularly with Atalanta, who did not want to lose him so soon but could not afford to turn down Napoli’s €10 million offer.
A transfer window that lasts for a month has a destabilising effect on clubs and championships which probably starts well before January as rumours start to spread about which clubs want which players. And it is simply unacceptable that a reasonable chunk of the league season, in Italy five rounds out of 38, takes place amid so much uncertainty.
Inevitably this affects the performances of some players and damages the competition’s integrity. You could say that it is the same for everyone, but that is not true. The biggest clubs are much less affected because they have so many alternative solutions that are not available to their smaller rivals.
Atalanta coach Edy Reja is among many who share my dislike of the transfer window. He has seen the team he so carefully nurtured and had playing some sparkling football until early December partly dismantled. I accept that the window is here to stay, but it can be modified and made less disruptive.
It should be reduced from four weeks to two weeks. Its inordinate length simply makes it even more of a bonanza for those parasites, the players’ agents, for whom it seems to have been designed. UEFA should make it clear that it is they and not agents who run the game. And any country that wished to participate in the window would have to suspend its league for those two weeks. They could use them for cup games if they do not want a complete midwinter break.
If we go on as we are, we might as well introduce the South American concept of the Apertura and the Clausura, which are almost seen as two different championships, because that is effectively what we are getting now. And perhaps clubs could also issue two season tickets. One for the first half of the season and one for the second. Those who were not satisfied with the outcome of the January window, and there are plenty here, could show their displeasure by not renewing. Loyalty works both ways, and clubs cannot demand it of fans if they sell their best players halfway through the season. Richard Mason