Monday, August 01, 2016

Transfer Window - bound to be Pogba-tic!

English Premier League has exactly nine months of a single season. The soccer is exciting. There are top clubs who compete for the top honors in England. There are favorites but none clear enough to win the league before the ball is kicked. Italy have Juventus, Germany have Bayern Munich, Spain has one among Real Madrid / Barcelona. England? It could be anyone among the Manchester Clubs (United and City), London clubs (Chelsea and Arsenal) or Liverpool. But it’s not that simple now-a-days. For example, Leicester came and won the league convincingly. Just the season before the last season, they were fighting tooth and nail not to be relegated from the premier league! You have shock results, surprises, winning streaks, non-losing streaks, injuries, comebacks et al. All in all, entertainment guaranteed for nine months at a stretch.

And then the inter-lull (defined as a phase when nothing happens. I guess it’s a soccer term) happens. Inter-lull is defined as a phase when nothing happens; I guess it’s a soccer term. 3 months of off-season. You are so habituated to see soccer during the weekend that the next 12 weekends become damp squib. That’s how we soccer fans thought. Media companies saw a market in this inter-lull. Guess what? The Transfer Window!

Transfer window, for the ignorant folks, is a window where players are transferred from one team to the other. This feels like a boring phase, isn’t it? I mean, why should we care about players coming in and going out of a club as long as we get our weekly dose of soccer. That’s what I thought in the early 2000’s. Not anymore. Ever since Chelsea was bought by a Billionaire, the financial dynamics behind managing a Soccer club changed. Add to that, the revenue generated by the television rights for a season makes even a newly promoted club with limited resources attempt to buy a “top talent” from the European market.

Transfer window is huge business for the media companies. They play on the “hope” factor for the teams that have a significant social media presence. Media is primarily responsible for having a divide in the fan base. Case in point: Arsenal. Then there are deals that are absurd in the real sense of the term. 


Take Paul Pogba for example. He is a great talent with strength, vision and pace who will lead the team from central midfield. Acquiring his services would improve any team. It completely makes sense for a top team to buy him from Juventus. Everything makes sense till now. Now let’s look at the price being quoted for him – 100m+ pound. You can replace pound with Euro and it will remain still that – absurd! And to think that Manchester United are ready to finalize the deal, which by the way, is one-fifth of the clubs estimated revenue for 2016, shows how ridiculous the market has become. 
There are means by which we can justify the price. Pogba is one-of-a-kind player and you won’t find his talent and potential elsewhere – a qualitative assessment and is debatable but still a fair point. EPL clubs have loads of money from the TV rights that they can quote over the top figures to get their player – fair point. Paul Pogba is young and has years of top quality football left in him, which means Manchester United are paying for his future potential and hence the amount. If we go by this logic, then Juventus is already making a huge profit after buying Pogba for less than a million and selling him for more than 100 million! 

This is nothing against the player and the buying / selling club. This is just my assessment of the way transfer businesses are being held. I won’t be surprised if players are being bought and sold for 200m+ in the coming years. Where are we going with this? In my opinion, to doomsday! All this brouhaha over the transfer amount and the absurdity behind it is because of the TV rights and renewed sponsorship deals of a club. It’s like a balloon that is expanding and the club is enjoying every phase of stretching the limits of the balloon. But every balloon can handle only so much pressure and once it crosses that point, it will burst. In footballing terms, all it needs is a financial scandal to cut off TV revenue and sponsorship deals. That’s it! 

The “top” clubs enjoy high revenues but have equally high debts (Case in point: Real Madrid). The returns are high, but so are the risks. I wish these clubs have a contingency plan to weather the storm coming their way. Else, fans will stand to lose in the long term. Our years of investment (time and money) in supporting our club will come to nothing. 

Greed is one of the seven deadly sins, and it will be ready to haunt us for the rest of our lives!

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