January transfers can be a tortuous business – as long-suffering Newcastle fans have discovered. Chief sports writer Mark Douglas presents a beginner’s guide to January transfers, how they come about and why they can take so long
THESE days, North East sports journalists don’t seem to write transfer stories. Instead we chronicle transfer sagas – like the ones that unfurled around Mathieu Debuchy, Steven Fletcher, Demba Ba and, lately, Loïc Rémy.
Quick business is possible in the two transfer windows but time and time again, Newcastle and Sunderland’s transfer negotiations become drawn-out affairs. The drip feed of Rémy bulletins have led to fatalism among Magpies, who fear a familiar tale of frustration.
Clubs tell us it takes time to go through the process of brokering a deal but for those outside the game, it is difficult to comprehend. Newcastle want Rémy, the player seems to want to come to St James’ Park and Marseille would sell at the right price – so why the hold-up?
The Journal canvassed opinion from across the game and came up with a fascinating picture of bluff, double-bluff and, in some cases, a very flexible relationship with the rules. All of it done to extract the best possible deal, of course.
The first thing to recognise is that it is not strictly true that all transfers are, as a matter of course, a complicated business. Sometimes they can be pleasingly straightforward – especially when clubs follow Fifa regulations that govern the transfer market.
These state that the only way to conduct business is between two clubs. A manager, managing director or club official should contact their equivalent at the selling club, make them an offer and, if the bid is accepted, the player is free to discuss the move.
Going by Fifa guidelines, it is only when contact is made and an acceptable offer tabled that an agent should be able to get involved.
It sounds simple, but the waters are muddied somewhere along the line because most clubs, players and agents just don’t do their business that way any more. Martin O’Neill summed it up best when talking about Keiren Westwood last week: “A manager did ask me about him a few days ago – it was manager to manager, which is very unusual these days!”
Why, you might ask, do the authorities not act? We don’t know. Sometimes they do, when wrong-doing is established. For the most part, though, Fifa rules are ignored because hardly anyone follows them. In a battle for the best deal, you have to be cute.
Without being privy to Newcastle’s negotiations on Rémy, deals like this become complicated for two reasons. First up, both clubs are delaying a deal to try and extract best value and secondly, agents have got involved. This being a global game, a top player who is either looking for a move or being made available by his club will attract interest from every corner of Europe. In the case of someone like Ba, his status also alerted agents all over the Continent.