Over the years, the January transfer window has provided plenty of entertainment, as clubs frantically scramble to complete medicals and fax contracts as the minutes tick away on deadline day. And there’s been plenty of schadenfreude when huge winter signings fail (with apologies to Fernando Torres fans).
The January transfer window was first introduced by UEFA in 2003, despite most Premier League sides being against it… and was intended to create “stability” in the game, allowing teams to focus on the second half of the season, rather than the marketplace.
However, the winter window creates a lot more problems than it solves: it destabilises clubs, it unsettles players, it inflates the market and it restricts free trade. There’s plenty of people in the game who want it to be abolished.
One of the biggest issues is how it strips smaller clubs of their best talents and widens the gap between them and the biggest clubs—like when Liverpool signed Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton, or Wilfried Bony was taken from Swansea by Manchester City. In the case of the latter, Bony was a panic buy who ended up playing very little for City—his momentum was totally taken away, and so was Swansea’s.
And Van Dijk’s crazy $100m move shows how the January window inflates market prices—would he have been worth that much in the summer? Was Aymeric Laporte really worth the club-record $80m that Manchester City paid for him? The answer is probably no.
The January window often creates a fire sale mentality, with clubs paying over the odds for panic buys. This makes fees and wages higher, which eventually makes it more expensive for you and I to watch soccer!
It also creates an issue with big players who hold out for a January move and stop trying for their team – think of Alexis Sanchez forcing an ill-fated move to Manchester United.
And it creates a big problem with undermining youth prospects. Just think how many times Chelsea have spent big in January, instead of promoting from their absolutely brilliant youth setup.
And it’s also unfair for parity in the league—in 2013, when Newcastle signed six players, for example, they had a completely different team than the one they had fielded up to that point. That’s not really fair for the teams who then had to face them.
In 2011, the League Managers Association protested the January window and asked for it to be scrapped. UEFA promised to review the window system…. and here we are nearly 8 years later with no changes.
Some of the biggest clubs are wise to the problems with the window, and that’s why they Big Six Premier League sides, and many top European powers, aren’t really doing any business this month. In fact, according to the latest figures, Premier League January spending is actually down 70% on last year.
So what’s the solution? Well, either we allow transfers all year round, or introduce a single, American-style trade deadline, with around a third of the season to go, so that richer teams don’t buy a competitive advantage in the final few games.