Manchester United Transfer Saga

Like never before, Manchester United have broken the bank to get a complete overhaul of their squad. Not only have they bought in as many as six players, all of them are actually going to feature in their first choice starting XI. Debojyoti Chakraborty elaborates on their transfer activity with Goalden Times.

van_gaal

 
Tons of newsprint and a lot of e-space have been devoted to the whirlwind taking place at a club from Manchester. And surprisingly, the club splashing the cash – sometimes quite inexplicably to meet absurd asking prices – is not the club known for flexing its financial muscles. It is the red half of the city where Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal is all set to unleash his Gaalacticos.

To fully evaluate this crazy transfer window, where United got linked with almost all the top players, we have to go back a couple of years, when Sir Alex Ferguson retired after a reign of quarter of a century. The disappointing David Moyes stint followed where they were beaten by a lot of clubs at home – something which had never happened for a long long time. But finally, in van Gaal, the United faithful seem to have found a father figure to rely upon. Although his start to the campaign has not been very inspiring – no win after three games in the league – there is optimism amongst the fans that the Dutch maestro will turn things around.

And there is more than optimism – having spent a whopping $280 Million, there are six new signings to fall back upon. If the January signing of Juan Mata is also taken into account, that makes it seven players, since start of the year, who have been drafted in straight for the first team. This is in stark contrast to the Manchester United philosophy of grooming home grown, young players and giving opportunities to academy products. But this was long time coming.

The success of – and the obsession with – the famous Class of ’92 which boasted the likes of David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes who ruled English football for over a decade has much to do with it. Subsequent academy produces like Darren Gibson, Ravel Morrison, Tom Cleverley and even Darren Fletcher have failed to reach those lofty standards. Sure, there have been a few silver linings in the likes of Adnan Janujaz but they have been few and far between. May be United fell victim to their own success. Ferguson won the league with kids contrary to the popular notion that “you can’t win anything with the kids”. But he was not carrying any baggage with him – Manchester United had not conquered the top division for more than three decades, the team was begging for stars – he had practically nothing to lose. Fergie introduced the youth policy and made kids into stars. To follow that tradition was a tough ask and the next rank of youngsters had a much tougher road ahead of them. Players like Gerard Pique, Giuseppe Rossi and Paul Pogba craved for regular first team places but could not (or United did not want to?) go past the established stars. Sadly, they left to pursue their career elsewhere and created a big vacuum in Red Devils’ supply line.

di_maria

Manchester United was managed, and quite supremely at that, by the legendary Ferguson. But whatever may have been his contribution to the club, England or the world of football, even he has to accept that he left the club in a very bad shape. He could not find a replacement for the sturdy Roy Keane when the midfield maestro hung up his boots. After some average signings like Quinton Fortune and Eric Djemba-Djemba, he tried to convert Alan Smith, a forward, into a combative ball snatcher. Smith did give a few memorable performances, especially against the league winners Chelsea in 2005, but he could not maintain that level consistently. Owen Hargreaves was bought with huge expectations from Bayern Munich but his troublesome knee ensured he was sidelined with lengthy spells of injury. Anderson was tried for a few seasons, so was Kléberson but neither could hold fort like Keano.

With the retirement of midfield stalwarts Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs changes were eminent at Old Trafford. But Fergie did not prepare well for their replacements.. Michael Carrick can at best be described as the poor man’s Scholes – in terms of his movements, eye for a gap in the opposition defense, precise passing, and long diagonal Hollywood balls.  Park Ji Sung did bring a lot of energy and work-rate in the midfield but was never that creative midfielder United always craved for. Moyes also had his blooper moment when he signed Marouane Fellaini for an incredible $42 Million but even after a season, the Reds are still struggling to find an ideal position for the Belgian.

Similarly after Cristiano Ronaldo left for Madrid, neither Nani or Ashley Young – or Bebé, or Gabriel Obertan if anyone still remembers them – failed to inspire the team with mesmerizing dribbling and runs down the flank. Antonio Valencia stayed honest to his duties but he gives more of industry and defensive cover than panache in attack.

The mass exodus of defenders – Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra – at the end of last season – also did not help. They were ageing and again the club failed to bring in someone of equivalent calibre or have someone as an adequate understudy. After a long long time, the Reds will be without their favoured defensive lynchpins and the sight of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans guarding the defense does not inspire confidence.

Strike force is one area where Manchester United has regularly beefed up. Be it Ruud van Nistelrooy, Diego Forlan, Carlos Tevez or Dimitar Berbatov – Wayne Rooney always had at least one world class forward to partner him. Some have succeeded, some have failed, but the club has always been very proactive in bringing in quality players to score the goals. United’s enthusiasm in the market also lead to signing a certain Robin van Persie from rival Arsenal to protect the budding Danny Welbeck and the super sub, Javier Chicharito Hernández. Van Persie repaid the faith by scoring 26 league goals and helping the Devils reclaim the Champion’s crown. But his resurfacing injury scares proved that the 30+ striker was always going to need a bit of cover in coming days.

falcao

So, even though Moyes was made a scapegoat for the dreadful 2013-14 season which head to his eventual dismissal after less than a year into his six-year contract, a reality check must have crept into the board room at Manchester United – the players simply are not good enough and the squad needs to be rebuilt.

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And add to that the injection of cash by club owners worldwide. Roman Abramovich, Khaldoon Al Mubarak, Nasser Al-Khelaifi and Dmitry Rybolovlev have not only made clubs like Chelsea, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco more competitive, but also increased the demand for the highest quality of footballers. This in turn has skyrocketed market valuations of players; It is now practically impossible to get a decent player from open market at a bargain price.

So, here it is. A shambolic season, departing star players, lack of quality player in the team, lofty player prices:  All of this contrived to United breaking its record transfer fee paid twice in the same calendar year. Yes, Manchester United splurged cash in the market and captured seven quality players in little over than six months – six of them coming in this transfer window.  But a look at the new arrivals and one can understand the rationale behind the purchase.

  • Luke Shaw ($49 Million) – an investment which is seen more of a long term solution for the left back position; quality young English players are a scarcity and Shaw certainly benefited from that.
  • Marcos Rojo ($26 Million) – a left sided stopper who can double up as the left back, coming fresh from a brilliant World Cup.
  • Daley Blind ($23 Million) – another star from the World Cup, a defensive midfielder who is versatile enough to slot in anywhere in defensive areas.
  • Ander Herrera ($47 Million) – the band master to take the game from the scruff of the neck.
  • Juan Mata ($58 Million) – a world class playmaker, most effective playing in the hole, bridging the gap between the central midfielders and the front men
  • Ángel di María ($97 Million ) – the wing wizard, captured for a club record fee
  • Radamel Falcao ($10 Million on loan) – one of the most lethal strikers around, to act as cover for van Persie as well as helping to lift his game up, even though it meant United will be lighter by $16 Million just to pay his wage bill.

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Modern football is reminiscent of a seller’s market – the buying clubs cannot decide the actual worth of a player; they just have to pay what the selling club is asking for. The prices paid might not seem justifiable, but United simply had to go for these kind of players. On the upside, all of them are quite young – except for the loan signing of Falcao who is 28 – and are set to feature in the first team after the international break on September 14th. It seems a practical move by Manchester United to splash the cash. It seems even more justified to boost the morale of a despondent team and its supporters.

Removal of some extra baggage was imminent and that was seen in the form of departures of Danny Welbeck, Tom Lawrence, Cleverly (loaned out), Shinji Kagawa, Alexander Büttner, Bebé and Chicharito (loaned out). The first three exits surely spell a strong statement highlighting the changed mindset – football is no longer about emotions; you have to be ruthless to succeed, even if that means axing your own home-grown players who fail to make the cut. As the saying goes – Football is not as important as winning or losing – it is a little more important than that.

Football has changed radically over the years, may be for the bad. Players have become more professional, romanticism or attachment with a club for the entire career span is hard to see nowadays. Given the lure of attractive package, top class performers are ready to change their loyalty, even if that deprives them of Champions League glory to start off with. But on the other hand, such an ensemble might take some time to gel. With so many new players joining Manchester United, this is a transfer window that could very easily backfire as well given United can not afford to have two consecutive seasons without the lure of Champions League. With this complete new outlook of the team, there is a renewed enthusiasm among the fans. A section of it is asking for instant success, whereas there is a vast majority who want to be cautious after the calamitous 2013-14 season.  This makes sense as there are still concern areas, especially at the centre back position which is badly missing an imposing leader. Also the manager needs to find a system which does justice to the set of players – at least to majority of them – he has at his disposal. But with a superb tactician like van Gaal at the helm, United fans can certainly hope for good times ahead.

 
 

Settling For The Second Best – The January Transfer Window

January is the time for intense transfer speculations and a chance to indulge in tactical transfers as against the splurges of summer transfer window. Gino de Blasio looks at it to see if it is really necessary.

January! It’s a time to reflect; to make promises you won’t or can’t keep. A time for change, supposedly. Yes, January has a way of making the mere mortal look at things differently.

Football is no different in this context. You see, the football season has two silly periods. The one in the summer, where anyone can be bought for the right price; where a club who doesn’t respect financial fair play can go and do what it wants; much to the detriment of the squad, club, coaches and fans alike.

Then there is the second period. January! Yes the January transfer window has become more recognized, more tactical, more important… kind of.

But when you break down the January transfer window, what are you actually paying for?

Ex-Milan striker Pato joins Brazilian club Corinthians

Here’s my issue with the January transfer window. Are you really in a position to be buying the player you wanted, or a stop gap measure until the end of the season?

If a club finds itself buying the player they wanted, then more likely than not there was a pre-contract. A negotiation months before the move ever happened. It probably depended on the results of the squad that they were purchasing the player from. It would ensure that all parties were getting what they wanted, and that, in some ways seems fair. In some ways…

Ba joins Chelsea from Newcastle United

Then there’s the second style of transfer – The stop gap measure. This is where a player who may be in form for one team gets slotted into another, and doesn’t seem to work out for a multitude of reasons. The player may have been excelling in an inferior squad, the player may not be used to the language of the teammates, the player may be struggling to settle down. Most importantly, the player may be playing a slightly different role which, changes everything.

In a lot of ways, the January window is almost like settling for second best. Most if not all managers will do re-structuring or complete overhauls in the summer. That makes sense. They will have a budget, they will free up spaces which means losing players which means extra money. It’s a logical system. But the January window isn’t really that kind of system.

Lucas Moura has been officially unveiled in Doha on Tuesday, following the completion of his €45 million transfer from São Paulo to Paris Saint-Germain

It’s not designed for mass squad overhauls; it’s not really a good fix for teams. It’s a system which keeps some teams happy, but not many. It feels like the January system is designed for twitter speculation at its best.

I say get rid of the window altogether.

Simplify the transfer system, players who are contracted for longer than three years can only move in the summer window. Those who are less than three years can put a request in whenever they want; this frees up the whole football system and adversely brings more stability to clubs rather than simply settling for second best.

Winter Transfer Activity

The winter transfer window is upon us and Goalden Times presents you a list of the major transfers that have taken place. Here we have captured only the actual sale and purchase and some marquee loan moves. The chart below showcases the top 5 European leagues’ transfer activity, updated till January 12, 2012

Bundesliga

Arrivals

Departures

Team

Player

From

For (or loan)

Player

To

For (or Loan)

Bayer Leverkusen

Bernd Leno

VFB Stuttgart

7.5m €

Hanno Baltisch

FC Nurenberg

Free transfer

Bernd Leno

VFB Stuttgart

On loan

FC Nurenberg

Adam Hlousek

Jablonec

1m €

Hanno Baltisch

Bayer Leverkusen

Free transfer

FC Kaiserlautern

Jakub Swierczok

Polonia Bytom

420,000 €

SC Freiburg

Fallou Diagné

FC Metz

500,000 €

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

Sandro Wieser

FC Basel

1m €

Chinedu Obasi

Schalke 04

On loan

Stefan Thesker

FC Twente

100,000 €

Gylfi Sigurdsson

Swansea

On loan

Wellington

Goias

On loan

VFB Stuttgart

Gotoku Sakai

Albirex

0.5m €

Bernd Leno

Bayer Leverkusen

7.5 m €

Bernd Leno

Bayer Leverkusen

On loan

Ermin Bicakcic

E. Braunschweig

0.1 m €

FC Schalke

Chinedu Obasi

1899 Hoffenheim

On loan

Jan Moravek

FC Augsberg

On loan

VFL Wolfsburg

Petr Jiracek

Viktoria Plzeň

4 m €

Aleksandr Hleb

Barcelona

On loan

Slobodan Medojevic

FK Vojvodina

2.5 m €

Tolga Cigerci

Borussia Mönchengladbach

0.35 m €

Ferhan Hasani

Skendija Tetovo

0.7 m €

Thomas Kahlenberg

Evian

Free transfer

Vieirinha

PAOK FC

4.5 m €

Giovanni Sio

FC Sion

5.8 m €

Ibrahim Sissoko

Académica Coimbra

1.5 m €

Felipe Lopes

CD Nacional

2.5 m €

Ricardo Rodríguez

FC Zürich

8.5 m €

Borussia Mönchengladbach

Tolga Cigerci

VfL Wolfsburg

350,000 €

Joshua King

Man United reserves

On loan

Alexander Ring

HJK Helsinki

200,000 €

Logan Bailly

KRC Genk

On loan

Logan Bailly

Neuchâtel

FC Augsberg

Jan Moravek

Schalke

Uwe Möhrle

E Cottbus

200,000 €


EPL

Arrivals

Departures

Team

Player

From

For (or loan)

Player

To

For (or Loan)

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Eggert Gunnthor Jónsson

Hearts

300,000 €

Emmanuel Frimpong

Arsenal

On loan

Manchester United

Federico Macheda

QPR

On Loan

Chelsea

Lucas Piazon

Sao Paolo

7.5 m €

Nicolas Anelka

Shenhua

Free transfer

Patrick van Aarnholt

Wigan

From loan

Rhys Taylor

Rotherham

Free transfer

Conor Clifford

Yeovil

From loan

Gael Kukuta

Dijon

Free Transfer

Rhys Taylor

Rotherham

From loan

Gael Kukuta

Bolton

From Loan

Arsenal

Thierry Henry

NY Red Bulls

On loan

Vito Mannone

Hull

Free transfer

Emanuel Frimpong

Wolves

Free Transfer

Liverpool

Jonjo Shelvey

Blackpool

From loan

Danny Wilson

Blackpool

On loan

Everton

Jose Baxter

Tranmere

From Loan

Landon Donovan

LA Galaxy

On Loan

Aston Villa

Enda Stevens

Shamrock Rovers

285,000 €

Robbie Keane

LA Galaxy

On loan

West Bromwich Albion

Scott Alan

Dundee United

480,000 €

QPR

Federico Macheda

Man United

On Loan


La Liga

Arrivals

Departures

Team

Player

From

For (or loan)

Player

To

For (or Loan)

Barcelona

Aleksander Hleb

Wolfsburg

From Loan

Maxwell

PSG

3.5 m €

Keirrison

Cruzeiro

From Loan

Atletico Madrid

Jose Antonio Reyes

Sevilla

3.5 m €

Sevilla

Jose Antonio Reyes

Atletico Madrid

3.5 m €

Ligue 1

Arrivals

Departures

Team

Player

From

For (or loan)

Player

To

For (or Loan)

Nice

Larrys Mabiala

Karabukspor

0.5 m €

PSG

Maxwell

Barcelona

3.5 m €

St. Etienne

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang

AC Milan

1.8 m €

Gelson Fernandes

Udinese

On Loan

Gelson Fernandes

Leicester

From Loan

Bordeaux

Mariano

Fluminense

3 m  €

Ludovic Obraniak

Lille

1 m €

Dijon

Bennard Yao Kumordzi

Panionios

0.3 m €

Koro Koné

Spartak Trnava

0.25 m

Zie Diabaté

Dinamo Bucaresti

0.5 m

Gaël Kakuta

Chelsea

On Loan

Lille

John Jairo Ruiz

Saprissa

1.2 m  €

Ludovic Obraniak

Bordeaux

1 m €

Valenciennes

Dusan Djuric

FC Zurich

0.5 m €


Serie A

Arrivals

Departures

Team

Player

From

For (or loan)

Player

To

For (or Loan)

AC Milan

Pierre-Emeric Aubameyang

St. Etienne

1.8 m  €

Napoli

Eduardo Vargas

Universidad de Chile

Giuseppe Mascara

Novara

Leandro Rinaudo

Novara

On loan

Novara

Giuseppe Mascara

Napoli

Leandro Rinaudo

Napoli

On loan

Daniel Jensen

Unemployed

Andrea Caracciolo

Genoa

On Loan

Palermo

Franco Vazquez

Belgrano

4.5 m €

Agon Mehmeti

Malmo

Free Transfer

Roma

Nicolas Lopez

Montevideo

788,200 €

Marco Borriello

Juventus

0.5 m € on loan

Lazio

Emiliano Alfaro

Liverpool FC, Montevideo

3.2 m €

Juventus

Marco Borriello

Roma

0.5 m € on loan

Fiorentina

Alberto Gilardino

Genoa

8 m €

Genoa

Alberto Gilardino

Fiorentna

8 m €

Udinese

Stole Dimitrievski

Rabotnicki

0.6 m €

Gabriel Silva

Palmeiras

4 m €

Gelson Fernandes

St. Etienne