The Premier League: A Transfer Crisis?

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the FA and its codified rules and football has come a long way since its official birth. With it have the transfers of its players. There seems to be a consensus that it has only been in recent times in which transfers have caused uproar. This is in fact is untrue as even as far back as 1905 there was surprise and uproar surrounding the transfer of Alf Common to Middlesbrough from Sunderland for the first four figure sum of £1000. 1979 saw the first British £1m player (if you include VAT) in Trevor Francis as he moved from Birmingham to Nottingham Forest going on to win the European Cup in the same year. 

Trevor Francis became the first British £1m player when he joined Nottingham Forest

Fast forward 30 years and the record fee of £80m (€94m) paid for the supreme talent that is Cristiano Ronaldo could definitely have been better timed. Amid the height of the financial crisis Florentino Perez, in his second spell at the Bernabeu, approved the deal just a week after the £56m acquisition of Kaká. UEFA president Michel Platini criticised the deal whilst sections of the Spanish media remained unsure with El Pais quoted as declaring that "Florentino Perez lives in another galaxy" whilst Marca labelled the deal as "signing of the century".

Monaco's spending alone dwarfs the Premier League's
A few years on and the big fees seem to have become part and parcel of the game rather than grabbing the occasional headline. However the British window has been at what seems to be a standstill with only Manchester City making any headway whilst the other major European leagues have been grabbing the headlines with arguably Monaco the biggest of all with the €130m outlay on Falcao, Rodgriguez and Moutinho. Meanwhile Barca, Real, Bayern and PSG have all added to their already impressive squads.

 Last season was the first since 1996 that no English club graced the quarter finals of the most prestigious club competition and even then only one was permitted to enter! Whilst the statisticians among us may argue that that trend had to end at some point, others feel it was just down to quality. City and Chelsea had poor showings with the latter having attained the undesirable record of the first defending champion to crash out in the group phase. Chelsea were perhaps redeemed by virtue of the fact that they then emerged triumphant in Europe's second tier competition. Manchester United were perhaps unlucky whereas Arsenal were simply outclassed over two legs despite a spirited fight back against the eventual winners Bayern with a 2-0 win in the Allianz Arena.

The last weekend of the season and most of the attention seemed to be on whether or not it would be Arsenal or Spurs who finished fourth. What a season! A lacklustre defence of their title saw City finish second with several poor performances throughout the season. The mismanagement of QPR along with the lack of quality in the Reading dressing room meant they were always up against it, whilst Wigan may well have beaten the drop if they'd only decided to play some football a week or two earlier! United simply did what they had to, it wasn't the most exciting team we've ever seen pull the red jersey on nor were they as reliable as we're used to but they were as effective and decisive as ever resulting in an eleven point gap and their 13th title.

Gareth Bale -
 A Premier League talisman but for how long?
This season certainly promises more than the last with three of the top five having changed management with Liverpool also looking to break into that group. I have perhaps prematurely discounted Everton's chances of another wonderful season but I simply feel the others will have too much for them this time around. With Mourinho back, Pellegrini's brilliance and Moyes seemingly with something to prove the season ahead is a mouth watering prospect. Spurs will be hoping to add to their squad both to breach the top four and appease Gareth Bale and down the road Wenger is widely reported to have a 70m war chest at his disposal though he is yet to make use of it.

The EPL was the place to be for most big names just a few seasons ago yet it seems the biggest English clubs have had some trouble in attracting their preferred targets to others in Europe. Liverpool lost out to Dortmund in their chase of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Ligue 1 somehow seemed more attractive to Falcao and Cavani than Chelsea or City and Spurs lost Villa to Atlético in just 3 days despite Villa himself admitting his serious offers came from England. Thiago Alcantara also chose to fight for his less than guaranteed place in a Bayern midfield rather than a sure fire spot in the United one. This has meant a host of world class players have snubbed the EPL this window, which depending on your viewpoint may be for several reasons. 

Henrikh Mkhitaryan picked Klopp and Dortmund over Liverpool and the EPL

Our English clubs, for the most part have tended not to pay over the odds for players and tend to have a ceiling to which they will not breach. Arsenal are of course prime examples of this, whilst United could easily have afforded Benzema the summer they sold Ronaldo. Monaco is wonderful but to snub London, the Premier and Champions League is something you have to think thrice about. This is will only be exacerbated by the full introduction of Financial Fair Play this season that has already seen UEFA threaten to boot Malaga out of this season's Champions League if they do not settle their debts. 

The other more worrying explanation is that the Premier league for all its acclaim is just not as good as it used to be, or not as good as La Liga. Just a few years ago the dramas of SAF, Mourinho, Benitez, Wenger and their teams kept us glued all season long and you probably could have written a terrible soap based on some of the events. Vieira and Keane, what we wouldn't give to see that show again! Even at the other end Ian Holloway, Roberto Martinez and Mick McCarthy provided ample entertainment. 

How will the Premier League cope without Sir Alex Ferguson?
The Premier League season promises much and we really should be excited with Moyes at the helm of United, the return of The Special One and Pellgrini's spending spree. However there fails to be reasons for such excitement surrounding the European campaigns of United, City, Chelsea or Arsenal. Barring City who have spent near £100M and Chelsea who will perhaps rely on the tactical prowess of their manager, United and Arsenal will have to make at least one major move in the market this summer where they have already tried and failed. 

It remains to be seen whether either Fabregas or Higuain, both peripheral figures at their current clubs and the latter set to seal a move to Napoli, will be persuaded to join our shores, and that is saying something. Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale may well move on to La Liga and yes Navas and Jovetić are wonderful talents but I would much rather have the first two remain in the league they have built their careers on so far. 

The rise of the Germans, what will be the resurgence of the Italians and the brilliance of the Spanish will be hard to overcome and I have to add I feel much owes to the various successes of the National teams. Only time will tell where the English game (or British with Swansea and Cardiff both in the league now) will be this season and whilst there seems to be less reasons to be hopeful, let's remain hopeful.

Premier League new boys Cardiff City will have to spend to survive

Christian Ayandokun


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