When the Premier League clubs voted to shorten the summer transfer window in late 2017, it was generally well received. Top-flight managers claimed that an early end to proceedings would prevent early-season disruption and allow clubs to start off in the right frame of mind.
Two summer windows have passed since that vote, and it is clear that that was a completely ludicrous school of thinking.
It just might have proved to be successful if every other nation in Europe had voted to do the same, but they haven’t, making the experiment an abject failure. The fact that Spain, Germany, France and Italy haven’t gotten on-board with this new shortened window means that Premier League clubs are essentially sitting ducks for the last three weeks of August.
Obviously, clubs are free to say ‘no’ to bids from any of those countries, but a bid from a Real Madrid or a Barcelona will almost certainly turn a player’s head and more than likely cause them to try and force a move before the window shuts. Should that happen, Premier League clubs will have absolutely no way of replacing their prized assets until January.
What was that again about this new schedule avoiding disruption?
Luckily, the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona have all conducted their business already and the prospects of them coming knocking for English players is unlikely. However, the possibility remains that a club like Bayern Munich could swoop for a player after the window shuts in England and derail a club’s season after just a handful of games.
To counteract the early closure of the window, the Premier League opened their transfer window earlier than other leagues, which does absolutely nothing for anybody.
Clubs have been agreeing deals before the transfer window opens since the concept of a transfer window was proposed.
Lucas Hernandez’s sale to Bayern was agreed with Atletico months before the window opened, as was Frenkie De Jong’s move to Barcelona. The early opening of the window genuinely offers no advantage to Premier League clubs as Europe’s elite can still compete with them at that time of the year.
The argument that the start of the season was disrupted by a transfer window that closed at the end of August is also undermined by the fact that the January market still exists. If anything, a mid-season move is far more disruptive than one made after two or three games as clubs having to deal with the prospect of losing, and then replacing, key players.
Due to the unreliable nature of pre-season friendlies, clubs might only be able to properly gauge their squad until they’ve played competitive league games and can identify potential problem positions. In that scenario, the early closure of the transfer window is far more disruptive than closing it at the end of August.
Just because clubs can’t sign anyone after Thursday doesn’t mean that their first few games can’t be disrupted by the transfer window.
With Manchester United supposedly close to nabbing Spurs’ Christian Eriksen, and Spurs seemingly targeting Bruno Fernandes and Philippe Coutinho as his replacement, who can say that both club’s early-season games won’t be disrupted by abrupt changes to their squads just days before the season starts?
The fact that it’s Ed Woodward and Daniel Levy in negotiations means the Eriksen situation is not certain to be a done deal – but it simply highlights the need to keep the window open. If talks were to fall through, both would be left disappointed for at least another four months, simply because the transfer window closes early.
This is in no way a defence of United’s transfer policy; United have known about this early closure for months and should have had their deals done in June, never mind July or early August.
Having said that, sometimes deals come from unexpected sources, and it’s doubtful whether United would have expected to sign Eriksen when the window opened, so they can’t be blamed for leaving this deal to the last minute. However, every other failed transfer is fair game.
Should United throw everything they have at luring Eriksen to Old Trafford, but ultimately fail in their bid, it would effectively kill off any chance they have of signing another midfielder.
Nine Premier League clubs, United included, voted in favour of returning the transfer window to its original state towards the end of 2018. With opposition to the current format steadily rising, it’s hard to see it being there next summer.