Spending, saving and Sancho: Welcome to a new transfer window where the old rules don’t apply

With money tighter than ever at some of the biggest clubs in the world, a select few could capitalise in a window like no other

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Monday 27 July 2020 09:34 BST
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2019/20 Premier League season in numbers

It is set to be one of the biggest transfer sagas of the summer, but one big decision has already been made. Borussia Dortmund are willing to sanction the sale of Jadon Sancho, because they feel it is an “optimum time to sell”.

That is a big question in itself, that may similarly condition Manchester United’s attitude to buying, and how high they go.

The old market rules don’t apply. The transfer window opens on Monday morning, but also opens out to this new post-Covid world, where the finances that usually make the market move are greatly suppressed.

Summing it up is that neither Barcelona nor Real Madrid have money to spend. The biggest fish, the great white sharks of these waters, won’t be making anything close to a big signing.

“No,” Madrid president Florentino Perez said. “There won’t be big buys. The situation is really bad.”

Juventus are in much the same situation, as are Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and on down through the Deloitte football money list.

At one end of the market, there won’t be the major movement of money that also makes transfers move. At the other end, and beyond, clubs are just battling with their ravaged finances; trying to stay afloat.

“It will be the hardest window we’ve ever faced,” one well-connected source says. “It’s the same for all clubs and players. Even the biggest clubs have told us the money isn’t there. Not even United have as much as you’d think.”

But they do have money, and that’s one way this stagnant market could start to skew the game a bit.

It’s a bit like the housing market. If you have the money to spend, there are real bargains to be done, and real strides to be made.

Less wealthy clubs, with a greater need to get money in than ever before, may be forced into sales they wouldn’t usually sanction. It’s a lot more difficult to strike a hard stance.

Chelsea are evidently looking at it that way. They are acting with real aggression in a depressed market.

Last summer’s transfer ban has proven a significant advantage, because the money saved now means even more and has even greater value. They may well end up getting Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz and perhaps a centre-half like Declan Rice, greatly elevating the quality of their team in a way almost no one else can do.

Havertz could join Chelsea in a big summer at Stamford Bridge
Havertz could join Chelsea in a big summer at Stamford Bridge (EPA)

United, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are among the few that may be able to do something similar – one as the biggest money generator in football, the other as clubs run by some of the wealthiest states in the world.

Repeated sources say City were immediately ready to spend a bit once the CAS ruling came through in their favour – although not quite to full levels. Sources say they are conscious of containing it a bit because “everyone will be watching”. The club are looking at a left-sided winger, and a centre-back, possibly two.

United are prioritising a wing-forward, a striker and a central midfielder. They have been considering a centre-half, but thought has been given to allowing Axel Tuanzebe a chance to develop.

Wolves’ Raul Jimenez has been a striker mentioned, and both they and City have looked at Internazionale’s Milan Skriniar and Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake.

This is another potential effect of this window. It could move in a very narrow way, a handful of clubs benefiting from a handful of sizeable transfers. Were Napoli to sell Kalidou Koulibaly to City for £70m, for example, that immediately makes them very flush and gives them a rare power of their own. The same could apply with Dortmund and Sancho.

The vast majority of clubs in the Premier League maintain they need to sell before they buy, but will “do something”, albeit mostly loans and part-exchanges.

The latter are notoriously more difficult to negotiate, which could cause a further lag.

Thiago could leave Bayern Munich
Thiago could leave Bayern Munich (Getty)

Exceptions will be made in rare cases, like with West Ham United and Queens Park Rangers’ Ebere Eze. The word is that “money will be found” for opportunities like that.

The net effect of all this, however, is that career opportunities are going to be limited for more players. So many of the biggest names won’t get moves they would otherwise crave.

It is essentially why Paul Pogba is staying at United, Kylian Mbappe at PSG, and they are just two of many in similar situations. Those near the end of their contracts like Thiago Alcantara, meanwhile, may have to re-assess.

It could well represent what-if moments in a few careers. It will also pose different questions of managers, the next season becoming a greater test of their coaching than their club’s recruitment.

That could level playing fields a bit, only for a few signings by a few clubs to tilt them again.

Liverpool, for example, run the risk of Chelsea, United and City making up some of the ground behind them.

This is also why Dortmund feel it is a good time to sell now. They can’t see the market getting better any time soon. This summer may represent the time to sell for optimum price. It may well be the optimum time for anyone with money to seize an opportunity.

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