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5.2.2003
Window-Shopping

On sale: a blonde Finnish midfielder aged twenty-six with 7 goals in 41 caps for his country, in good condition, suitable for many situations, recommended by most of his previous employers, all offers considered by his current club.

This doesnít mean that I would have been transfer listed or that I wanted to leave, it is just modern football world. At the moment everyone in football needs money, every player is on sale and everything has a prize. At the wildest years I have supposedly once been rated for million pounds, I donít think I have ever been worth that much. Actually I donít think any footballer is or at least should not be, but surely I am not.

After all my neighbours fat-Jack bought me with one Mars Ėbar into his team on a game at a local park back in 1985. Mars Ėbars were very valuable in the neighbourhood those days but nothing compared to the unbelievable money and markets every footballer faces today. And I canít help feeling that no matter what the prize tack on me is, it feels anyway too high. However it is again closer to the prize of a Mars Ėbar than to a one million.

Money and transfer values in football have had their roller coaster and now have been radically diminished after collapse of television money and clubs spending over their budgets. In addition to that deep voices of football were also devastated about the new transfer system being suddenly introduced. There was and still is a lot of questions in the air that from whose window we are favourably looking from and which way.

Overall clubs have now for shopping less time and less money but better access to choose from a wider selection of players. Funnily enough it has lot of similarities to the January sales. Although you canít really see the day that on Oxford Street there would be next to the clothes shops and stores a shopping window full of footballers. Obviously most of them would be on reduced prizes, even sometimes free due to a clearance of stocks. So it is buyers market, or is it?

Not really. Most of the teams have spent five years with non-stop Christmas consumption resulting their accounts going into red. And since the value of their biggest possessions, playersí market value, has been stroke with a hard hand, not many clubs can issue checks to the transfer markets anymore.

So the waited and expected shopping madness didnít happen during this transfer window. The clear tendency is that a smaller number of transfers happen, only the biggest have money but they already have their players, and most of the moves are loan deals or exchange of players. Not many managers have the luxury of being able to buy, unless having sold first. All over the Europe it seems that the clubs on a relegation zone have been most reluctant to spend some money.

There can be and has been an endless speculation of weather the new transfer system is good or bad for football. You can easily argue that now clubs might have to panic buy or have to have an extremely big squad for example to cover injuries. You can also argue that now panic buys canít happen and teams have to be smarter and more sensible with their actions in the markets.

You can argue that teams canít fill that easily their caps but on the other hand they can be less scared of losing their players during the season. You can also argue that for players it is harder to find new clubs or affect their own career since now we are not only depended on our club but also the timing. This can be a serious problem for players who are in disfavour at their clubs but it also prevents players and agents dictating the time and direction of transfers and contracts. In many ways power has been given back to the clubs. Less money for clubs and transfers means also less money for players and agents. Opportunistic agents will have lot of difficulties from now on. Many of these are healthy directions.

It is hard to say who are the ultimate winners of this system but it is bit easier to say what it changes on a club and a team level. Firstly clubs has to be more economic and aware of their spending. A sensible and long-term player policy and building of the squad are essential for success. Nobody can just build up a new team every year and change players at every situation. This requires a good scouting and recruiting of players plus a healthy age structure and future planning.

Moreover coaching and developing players becomes more important. You have to make your own players better and maybe bring own youngsters in to replace the caps made by injuries or lack of players and money. This way teams need to care more about their present players and try to work best out of them. So if your left winger has bit quieter period with his passing, you canít just bring in another Frenchman, but rather teach your own man to gross those balls. So maybe the best coaches will have the biggest transfer values in the future.

More young players will have their changes. That is very good. However the destiny of youth system is going to be a mystery. There will be cheap players available all the time and using money and effort to produce young players whose transfer value isnít that high is not too encouraging. There has been made some rules to help this dilemma but most of them are quite un-useful or clearly against EU:s legislation.

The transfer window system has its benefits and disadvantages but anybody canít tell yet what are its final effects on football world. As a player on sale it has had not much effect on me so far and that is good because I am happy at Crystal Palace. And now I can be relieved again: during this transfer period only interest on my moves came from my Mum.

AKi


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