The Slippery Terrain Of Transfers | Independent Newspapers Limited
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The Slippery Terrain Of Transfers

Bola Bolawole
Posted: May 21, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Bola Bolawole

As another football season draws to a close in Europe, we are about to enter into the transfer window when clubs trade in footballers and, sometimes, in managers. It is called “buying” and “selling” as if the commodities involved are tomatoes and pepper! But we talk here of human beings, and by buying and selling we are not engaged in another round of slave trade where the articles of trade are human beings. What is being sold and bought are “services” and “signatures” of the preferred footballer and not their persons. Clubs sell and buy footballers for different reasons. Whether a club will do well or not in the next football season depends to a large extent on how well and efficiently it trades during the looming transfer period. For this reason, the clubs have sections or departments devoted to scouting for talents. Officials trail footballers, sometimes for many seasons, before decisions are made whether or not to buy. Oftentimes, too, more than one club chase the signature of a player and many factors come into play in deciding where the decision ultimately goes.

A good scouting department is an asset; but its job is better done when an equally good technical department has done the job of first analysing the needs of the club; its strengths and weaknesses are necessarily taken into consideration before sound decisions can be taken about holes to be plugged and areas to be strengthened. Who fits the bill comes next. Usually, there are options from which to pick and choose, and what determines the final choice includes but is not limited to finance; management\ownership preferences or prejudices, the player’s own disposition, and extant rules\regulations are some of the other factors that come to play here. Even after every care has been taken and the best of skills employed, dumb decisions are often made. What looks like good decisions or good buys or sales have become disasters exploding in the face of the decision-makers! Regrets and disappointments have been known to trail many transfer decisions. This is to be expected as humans can never all the time be perfect or get it right in the decisions that they make, especially when what is involved is the behaviour or capabilities of human beings who, naturally, cannot be totally predictable. This is not to talk of accidents or “acts of God” that do happen; such as a player being injured.

The media is awash already with names that are being bandied all over the place: Who is moving and who is not moving? Who is going where and for what amount? And what reasons inform what decision? Virtually all teams will try to strengthen themselves. Those that did well in the season that is ending and those that performed not-too-well alike. Relegated teams will usually offload some costly players and players of value, whose stocks soared as a result of good performance,  and will naturally cash in on their good fortunes to move to greener pastures. Speculations and denials are common features of the transfer window; surprises, too. So it is often too difficult to say where a player will land until he has safely landed. Players are known to have been hijacked mid-air, so to say, by desperate or smart competitors. Loyalties shouted on rooftops have also repeatedly crumbled on the altar of big bucks. It is said that big bucks rule the big leagues; those with deep pockets always trash clubs counting the cost before making transfer decisions. Attempts have been made by the authorities to try and protect financially-weak teams and make the competition fairer, but like in all human affairs, the strong has always found the ways and means to muzzle the weak.  They have the money to throw around and many players, like buccaneers, go after the big bucks. The bigger offer usually attracts the attention and secures the loyalty of many players.

But can we blame such players? Firstly, they are workers selling their labour and the highest bidder is usually the best friend of the worker. Footballers are aware they have but a short life-span, as it were, on the football field and must endeavour to make hay while it shines. Time and tide, as they say, wait for no man. Worse is that crippling injuries have been known to cut short, otherwise, thriving and promising careers. But some players overstretch this, even creating scenes and scandals in their effort to move to greener pastures. Many have chalked up unfavourable publicity for themselves; many have faded into obscurity immediately thereafter; and many have had to rue or regret the decision. Thus, good and bad transfer decisions are to be found on both sides – the clubs as well as the players. Just as the clubs have departments saddled with this onerous responsibility, players, too, have managers whose task include guiding the players in making sound transfer decisions. We must note, however, that just as clubs make mistakes and are usually unable to get the full picture or predict the unpredictable, so also do players’ managers! Many a manager would vote for big bucks because the bigger the pay packet, the bigger their own commission.

This is where national associations come in. They have a duty to watch the development and advice players against making decisions that will bring momentary gains but eventual damage to their career. Many players these days are managed or pushed by their parents – and the motivation is usually big bucks. They advice, even coerce, their wards to go in the direction of the club offering the most money without considering available prospects for such players to blossom and flourish in such clubs. In so doing, many promising careers have dipped and, ultimately, have perished. Where a player would best horn his potentials – and not the pay packet – should be the deciding factor, especially for young, up-and-coming talents. Old, tired legs that are in the sunset years of their lives may run after big bucks or go to the Super League in America or China, the same should not be the motivation for youngsters and hot potatoes that should look out to explode their talents further still.