Summer transfer window creaks open but needs major oiling
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Behind the deals
Summer transfer window creaks open but needs major oiling
by Jonathan Rest

Brexit. Covid. TV rights: Football clubs are facing significant hurdles this summer as they look to offload players and freshen up their squads for the 2021-22 season.

We have not yet really seen the final reactions from the Covid situation. Will the big clubs in the big leagues spend money? If not, it will influence everything in the market.
Carsten V. Jensen
Executive Football Director, Brondby

Pandemic blunts budgets

 

Executives from across the industry have told TransferRoom that it will be one of the toughest transfer windows on record, particularly with the financial impact of Covid continuing to bite hard.

 

The January 2021 Winter transfer window was already an indicator of market appetite and clubs’ financial constraints, with just over £80m spent in England’s Premier League, down from £230m a year earlier before the virus struck. It was the lowest total spend by Premier League clubs since January 2010 (£36.7m).

 

Similarly, spending in the rest of the ‘big five’ European leagues in January was subdued with all reporting a drop in transfer activity and volume year-on-year: Serie A (€80m, down from €215m), Bundesliga (€50m down from €195m), LaLiga (€35m down from €130m) and Ligue 1 (€30m down from €120m).

 

In 2020-21, football clubs were unable to retrieve some of their biggest revenue streams, notably gate receipts while broadcasting revenue was partly repaid at the end of the previous season following its disruption.

 

While summer is a busier recruiting period, the need for smart, squad building has never been greater.

 

Tiago Pinto, General Manager, Sport at AS Roma - in his first summer transfer window at the Italian club - said: “We are facing a transfer window where all the clubs want to sell, nobody wants to buy, because of the way Covid has affected the market.”

 

Clubs throughout Europe are often reliant on the domino effect - once the big clubs move for their primary targets, the knock-on impact kicks the market into gear and sets the price points.

 

Piotr Rutkowski, president of Lech Poznan in Poland, said: “I think it will be the most difficult transfer window ever in football because of Covid and the impact that we are all still feeling right now. There is this chain in terms of selling players and we expect the money that will be available from our side to be lower and lower.”

 

Matthias Ringler, Chief Scout at Austria’s Rapid Vienna, added: “This situation we face at the moment is a little bit unknown. We really do not know how the transfer market will develop... If there are clubs that can pay transfer fees, what amounts will it be? We have to prepare a lot of scenarios and be ready in every case, but how it will be this summer, it will be surprising for us.”

 

While there are a number of factors each year that influence the transfer market, Carsten V. Jensen, Executive Director of Football at newly-crowned Danish champions Brondby, admitted this year is particularly complex.

 

He explained: “It is not like we know for sure what will happen this summer. We have not yet really seen the final reactions from the Covid situation. Will the big clubs in the big leagues spend money? If not, it will influence everything in the market. So what we do is prepare ourselves for any player in any position because we cannot predict the future, but we can be ready no matter what happens.”

Brexit factor

 

Even if the money can be found, new immigration rules in England post-Brexit are adding an extra layer of complexity to potential signings from the European Union. 

 

With no free movement of labour from the EU, players moving to England from overseas are now the subject of a points-based system, which takes into account senior and youth international appearances, club appearances as well as the quality of the selling club, its league position and the league itself.

 

Although the new regulations came into force in January, this summer will be the first time the impact of Brexit on transfers is really felt.

 

Johannes Spors is Sporting Director of Vitesse Arnhem, the Dutch club that has taken a number of players on loan from Chelsea in recent seasons.

 

However, such deals are now a lot more difficult to complete.

 

Spors explained: “In Holland, there is a non-EU salary rule, so you have to pay a higher salary for players who are not from the European Union. That affects us, and it affects some clubs a little bit smaller than us even more. I think a lot of people will have a hard confrontation with the new rules until things settle down.

 

“From an outbound point of view, a lot of young talents from the Netherlands or Belgium have left for England at quite a young age, so this will not be possible anymore. This has an impact because it is in the budget of some clubs to sell these players early, but on the other hand hopefully there will be more talents staying here to help develop our leagues.

 

“Also other markets, like Germany or France, will become stronger for Dutch clubs if these players cannot move to England.”

France's TV headache

 

In France there is an additional problem caused by the collapse of a lucrative domestic TV deal.

 

Spanish media company Mediapro’s decision to shell out over €1bn per season on Ligue 1 rights ahead of the 2020-21 season drew raised eyebrows, with the league championing a new era for French football that gave clubs the ability to attract top talent and close the gap with the rest of Europe’s ‘Big Five’.

 

However just months into the four-year deal, the contract was ripped up following a series of missed payments, leaving clubs in a perilous financial state.

 

A three-year deal from 2021-22 is now close to being signed off, with pay-TV's Canal Plus and online giant Amazon, worth around €660m per season in total.

 

Financial certainty, yes, but some way short of the sums Mediapro had promised and clubs had aligned their budgets to.

 

Bruno Carotti, Sporting Director of Montpellier, said: “For the moment, honestly we don't know what money we are going to have. We can’t have a real project until we know what is happening with the TV money. 

 

“Like with other clubs in France, maybe we have to sell players before we can buy. It is a very difficult situation.”

European 2021 Summer Transfer Window Dates

League

Country

Opens

Closes

Premier League

England  England

June 9

August 31

Bundesliga

Germany  Germany

July 1

August 31

Ligue 1

France  France

July 1

August 31

La Liga

Spain  Spain

July 1

August 31

Serie A

Italy  Italy

July 1

August 31

Eredivisie

Netherlands  Netherlands

June 9

August 31

Superliga

Denmark  Denmark

June 15

September 1

Scottish Premiership

Scotland  Scotland

June 9

August 31

Fortuna Liga

Czech Rep  Czech Republic

June 21

September 8

Austrian Bundesliga

Austria  Austria

June 9

August 31

First Division A

Belgium  Belgium

June 15

August 31

1. HNL

Croatia  Croatia

June 15

August 31

Superleague

Greece  Greece

July 1

August 31

NB 1

Hungary  Hungary

June 15

August 31

Liga 1

Romania  Romania

June 15

September 6

Ekstraklasa

Poland  Poland

June 18

September 1

Russian Premier League

Russia  Russia

June 28

September 7

Serbian SuperLiga

Serbia  Serbia

June 28

September 17

Swiss Super League

Switzerland  Switzerland

June 10

August 31

Super Lig

Turkey  Turkey

June 17

September 8

Eliteserien

Norway  Norway

August 1

August 31

Allsvenskan

Sweden  Sweden

July 15

August 11

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