There are only three weeks remaining before the new Premier League transfer deadline is met, the day before the 2018/19 season begins and 22 days before top clubs in Germany, Spain, and France pull out their checkbooks. The early deadline, established last September, greatly affects the rhythm of Premier League summers: previously, English top flight clubs completed more deals in the 24 hours of transfer deadline day (17) than they did in the last two weeks of July (16). This change, meanwhile, will require all activities to be completed in a shorter time.
Nevertheless, clubs have been slow to conform to the new system. Fewer deals have been completed this summer in contrast to last year, with Premier League clubs learning the ropes of their reformed calendar and the World Cup adding to the pressure. Without the luxury of time, the industry is braced for a three-week spree of unpredictable scenarios as officials find themselves in a rush.
Leon Angel, chairman of Base Soccer and representative of Kyle Walker, Danny Rose and Ashley Young, said: “It’ll be like January, where everything happens in the last 10 days.” He added, “The activity in the market has been very slow recently, which I think is because of the World Cup. That’s quite normal. But I think the clubs haven’t got to grips with the fact that they’ve got only three weeks left.”
When Liverpool sealed the deal on Fabinho from Monaco on May 28 and over the following weeks Manchester United signed deals for Fred and Diogo Dalot while Arsenal agreed on deals for Stephan Lichtsteiner and Bernd Leno, it seems clubs were determined to finish their transfer business immediately. But, the story isn’t the same for clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City who have only brought in one player apiece.
Premier League clubs voted by a margin of 14 to five, with one club declining to vote, to advance their incoming transfer deadline. Italy’s Serie A will attempt to adopt a similar rule, though given their season starts a few days later than the Premier League they will be able to sign players until August 17. Teams will still be able to sell players abroad, with clubs in most European leagues open for transactions until the end of August.
The decision seeks to tone down the uncertainty that can undermine players hoping to complete moves after the season starts, with the decision taking into account the 2017/2018 campaign’s erratic opening exchanges. Instances like last August’s high-profile transfers put players like Virgil van Dijk and Philippe Coutinho in an awkward situation. Eventually, their transfers were completed in January.
The concern for English clubs is that if they fail to let go of unwanted players before the transfer window expires but are nevertheless forced to complete deals for replacements. In return, this leaves the clubs in an appalling situation wherein they seek to unload sidelined squad members. Other European clubs will, by August, be encouraged to put forward low-price offers to desperate clubs. Surely, one of the reasons for the stagnant pace of this window may be that clubs likely to acquire the monetary upper hand are tactically delaying their bods while they wait for prices to drop in a few weeks’ time.
Ultimately, the next two months will uncover the effects of the new system and the best strategies to exploit it.