Why transfer rumours are laughable at a time of extreme poverty

by Joe Cawley

It is understandable that newspapers love the drama of the transfer merry-go-round; the excitement of the conveyer belt of rumours and statements from agents, but it is verging on insulting that the media and football world in general appears to be ignoring the financial perils of some of most important clubs in Europe, most notably Glasgow Rangers and Manchester United, in preference to speculative gossiping.

Rangers’ demise has been neglected, with no sign of a post-mortem into how a club of such stature and history can be allowed to deflate in such a dramatic and unobstructed manner. With the Scottish league already viewed in lower regard than previous years, it is mystifying that the media would rather comment on which players are leaving than lament the fact that they have to depart in the first place and how one of the country’s most crucial club is almost extinct.

Though they arguably blew the title, relinquishing a considerable points gap, it was a miracle that Manchester United were in that position in the first place considering their poverty in contrast to the embarrassment of riches at Manchester City. Whilst the oligarchs in charge of City and Chelsea could fund success both domestically and in Europe, the Glazers have started pre-season by admitting that their debt is irrevocable yet the media persist in lining up unattainable transfer targets.

Leaving the economics of United’s dreadful state to the experts, it is blatantly obvious to the average person that United do not have the funds to buy the players they desperately need. Paul Scholes’ return from retirement proved United’s need for central midfielders and whilst the club has already spent there, these replacements fit the now typical bill for United transfer targets.

With the exception of Dimitar Berbatov in 2008, United’s recent requirement for future players is based strictly on age and is undoubtedly limited by a budget. United want young players under the radar of the main clubs. They know that they cannot afford to go into a bidding war with City, Chelsea, Barcelona or Real Madrid, (to name the usual suspects), because even if the transfer fee is agreed, the club will be inevitably trumped on wages, as shown in the case of Samir Nasri. This has meant that United need to have an expert scouting network that can find players good enough for Old Trafford but not likely to alert a rival.

Therefore, United have not bought a player after a major tournament but instead try to do their business before the competition, such as Javier Hernandez before the 2010 World Cup, so are unlikely to purchase any stars of Euro 2012.

Consequently, United’s transfer policy has fluctuated in success. Hernandez was the bargain of the 2010-11 season, but Mirame Diouf, Gabriel Obertan and the horribly out-of-place Bebe were clear disasters. In the case of Bebe, United were scouting the homeless World Cup when the rest of the Premiership were buying from the proper tournament.

There have been purchases that cannot be derided as cheap, such as Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, but these fees pale in significance from the £80million still not fully spent on the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the only United player in the last twenty years to leave at their peak, (a sign that United could not compete with the money of Madrid). When Liverpool sold Fernando Torres for £50million they instantly spent it on Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll and even if the latter has not repaid this fee, this still proves a willingness to spend in contrast to signing Michael Owen on a free.

Whilst the expensive purchases of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and David de Gea seem extortionate for their age, they are seen as ‘value’ signings as they should have a lengthy career. These players are bought on their promise, just like Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell, (who should not be judged before they have kicked the ball), and not on what they have already achieved. These are not ‘marquee’ signings in the mould of Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand or Andy Cole in years passed.

City, Barca and Madrid can afford the marquee signings even if there is not enough room in their first eleven (Cesc Fabregas at Barcelona for example), so prestige players, like Luca Modric or Robin van Persie, who have proved their worth in the Premiership already are more likely to be joining these clubs than United, or to that point Arsenal who are criticised rather than sympathised towards for being a selling club when it is equally apparent that they cannot compete.

United also have to rely on one of their great traditions, their youth. This often gives superb rewards, most notably of late in the international emergence of Danny Welbeck, that would not have been possible at a club that wouldn’t have had as much patience and faith in his raw ability, (how different it could be for Daniel Sturridge at Chelsea or Adam Johnson at City to name just two). But, even this seems to be at risk as proven with the recent departure of Paul Pogba, at a time when the team needs a tackler, simply because of his wage demands.

Whilst every fan is excited by the what-ifs of new arrivals at their club, these transfer rumours are unhelpful and unrealistic at a time of clear poverty, that needs addressing and questioning. So whilst Sir Alex Ferguson justifies minimal transfer activity on his own choice and satisfaction at his squad, unfortunately that statement is just as fabricated as the rumours that dominate the summer papers.

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