2013 Transfer Window Anatomy – The Silly Season is Here

In this transfer blog, Debopam Roy would be looking at the market moves and deals of the football world

After a stupendous momentum-shifting football season which saw the rise of traditional football superpowers like Barcelona and Manchester United reclaiming domestic crowns and Juventus establishing a clear hegemony, the most remarkable aspect was the way Ze Germans smashed the Spanish Armada in continental competitions. Both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund showed the might of the young German players and their tactical and technical prowess in sweeping through largely untroubled to the Champions League final. The summer transfer window gives the perfect opportunity to many of these teams to enhance their stature or look for solutions to problems identified over the season. As we will see many of the teams are going through a rebuilding phase and this is quite unique as so many teams are doing this together.
The summer transfer window of 2013 is unique in many aspects.

All Done and Dusted

Unlike most recent transfer windows, the big money moves were all completed even before the season had ended or in the very early days of the free season. This is a stark difference from how the business was conducted earlier. Think back to last year’s iconic transfers – Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva. These transfers were conducted in June with a lot of intrigue and heartburn for the Milanese supporters. The incredible double swoop of Hulk and Axel Witsel by Zenit was done at the fag end of the transfer window as a final surprise. Cast your mind even further back to 2011-12 and the twin transfers of Sergio Aguero and Radamel Falcao (I will call it twinned, because one led to the other) also happened midway through the summer transfer. Once one deal was signed, then the other followed. If one were to go even further back, four seasons back, three of the biggest transfers in football history took place – Cristiano Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic (he again), Kaka all moved to Spain in one big June splurge; it wasn’t a predetermined swoop by the time the season had ended. Everything started after the season had ended. This is not to say that there were no transfer talks at all. Of course, that would be presumptuous! Kaka had received an even bigger offer from Manchester City in the January transfer window but chose to stay in Milan only to accept Madrid’s offer in summer and Ronaldo had made up his mind to move on, once his goal of winning the Champions League was completed.

Zlatan : The Star of transfer market

Against this backdrop, consider the big transfers that were already committed to or completed even before the season had ended – the moves of Falcao, Neymar, James Rodriguez, Mario Gotze, Isco, Joao Moutinho, André Schürrle, Jesús Navas were all finalized almost as soon as the season formally ended. Some amount of formality was due as two FIFA tournaments – the UEFA U21 Championship and the Confederations Cup — were going on and a few of these players were to be seen there. This preponderance of deals scored off before the season ended or almost on the stroke of the end of the season says that teams – and far too many of them, as we will see later– are in the process of rebooting their teams or are finalizing vital cogs in the teams. We will do a due analysis of some of those teams and see how their strengths stack up.

No Expense Spared

The other quite unique feature of this transfer window is the sheer number of high money transfers. And here I would classify high as anything over €30 million. Let’s take a look at the number of transfers over €35 million in the last five seasons (including 2012-13). (Note: we ignored the winter transfers and so Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll don’t feature among others)

Season Number Transfers over €30 million
2009-10 4 C Ronaldo, Z Ibrahimovic, Kaka, Xabi Alonso
2010-11 2 David Villa, Edin Dzeko
2011-12 4

R Falcao, S Aguero, J Pastore, Cesc Fabregas

2012-13 7 Hulk, Thiago Silva, Eden hazard, Javi Martinez, Lucas Moura, Axel Witsel, Luca Modric
2013-14 8 R Falcao, Neymar, James Rodriguez, Fernandinho, Asier Illaramendi, Mario Gotze, Edinson Cavani, Marquinhos[1] 

So with the window only half gone, we are already seeing 2013-14 gearing up to be one of the highest spent windows of all time. This again is very interesting because the big money clubs, who have been splurging the most in the 21st century – Chelsea, Manchester City, Paris St Germain, Real Madrid are all going through a revamp or revitalization process. All these teams have had a change in managers and with each new manager, out go the existing and in come exciting new players. With such high spenders and new managers all at once, there is bound to be a collective splurge and a reboot in many franchises. Then there were those clubs which were already successful last season but failed in important objectives – Juventus and Barcelona. Both failed in the continent and to a common foe – Bayern Munich. This time both Juventus and Barcelona have made important investments to ensure that the team can overcome such determined opponents, who themselves have strengthened their team many times over adding such super talents such as Gotze and Thiago Alcantara. With Pep Guardiola instilled as the manager, there would probably be a switch in the playing style which is also why the powerful centre forward Mario Gomez has been released in favour of the likes of Alcantara and Gotze.

Bayern’s two high profile signings this year : Mario Goetze (l) and Thiago Alcantara (r)

Apart from these, big money moves were made by AS Monaco which has turned everyone’s head. Within a week, the Russian owner Dmitry Rybolovlev, spent €130 million to get the triumvirate of Radamel Falcao, João Moutinho, James Rodríguez. Other big money deals have been made by East-European clubs like Anzhi Makhachkala, Dynamo Kiev, Shakhtar Donetsk which are funded by rich billionaire owners.

Some Speculated Moves

Now for the interesting tidbits. We had talked about twinned transfers – there have been many in history. The sale of Zinedine Zidane in 2001 (then creating a world record in transfer fee) actually funded Juventus’s move for Pavel Nedved, Lilian Thuram and Gianluigi Buffon, who is still the costliest goalkeeper to move clubs. In recent times, the sale of Aguero to Manchester City by Atletico Madrid, paved the way for Radamel Falcao to move to Atletico almost for a similar amount of money. The Torres-Carroll deal was another such twinned transfer. Expect one such transfer to happen soon – that collector of clubs and titles, His Highness Zlatan of Ibrahimovic will not co-exist with Edinson Cavani and will probably finally move to an EPL team. There might even be a surprising switch to Serie A if one of Napoli or Inter makes their peace. Serie A will also be poorer as Stevan Jovetic has moved on to join Manchester City.

Will they cheer for Rooney this season?

Chelsea, who might fail to acquire the service of Daniele de Rossi, can still pull off a transfer coup if it manages to coax Wayne Rooney out of David Moyes’ grasp. In that case, Fernando Torres might move on as twinned transfer to Arsenal.

Smart Cookie

In times of great turmoil, a few intelligent people manage to actually further their business manifold by choosing the right time to act. Inter Milan profited enormously from the calciopoli scandal picking up the best of Juventus in 2006. Inter though have also made big business by picking up players cast away by the Galactico movement in Madrid at different times – Walter Samuel in 2005, Esteban Cambiasso in 2004, Wesley Sneijder in 2009, were all cast away by Madrid only to become hugely successful winning many trophies for the Italians.

This year too many clubs are just waiting for bargain deals, given that clubs like Manchester City, Real Madrid and Paris St Germain cannot give all their stars equal playing time. Already Juventus have picked Carlos Tevez for almost half his value (also due to the fact that his contract will expire next year) from City and Edin Dzeko might come to Napoli to fulfill the void of Cavani. Javier Pastore, Gregory van der Wiel and Mamadou Sakho are interesting options for a club waiting to swoop given how little these players have featured of late.

One of the smartest moves has been made by Fiorentina in securing the guaranteed goal scoring hunk of Mario Gomez from Bayern Munich. Add Giuseppe Rossi to this and you probably have a frontline as good as any in Serie A.

Mario Gomez in Viola jersey

Talking of smart cookies, recent transfer activity has shown how unsmart Milan was to release academy graduates Davide Astori and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Both were on loans at different clubs. Defender Davide Astori was co-owned by Milan and Cagliari and was sold entirely to the latter for €5 million. With a market valuation of €11 million, Milan are now trying to buy him back, but Cagliari is demanding €15 million. Aubameyang is even more ironic. His father is a Milan scout and three of his brothers, including him, came through the Milan academy. In 2011-12, Milan sold him to Saint Etienne for €1.8 million. After a stellar African Cup of Nations and 21 goals and 16 assists in 44 matches for the club, he was bought by Champions League finalist Dortmund as a replacement for Mario Gotze for €13 million. For one of the traditional giants of the game and one that is trying to produce champions from within, these examples will rankle.

Last Word

Milan tifosi will witness something that was last seen in 1983-84 season as Massimo Ambrosini will join the ranks of Fulvio Collovati, Aldo Maldera, Albertino Bigon etc. These were the players who were appointed captains of Milan for a season and later transferred to a club in Serie A and faced Milan. The last such name was Fulvio Collovati who captained Milan in 1981-82 and later switched to Inter and other clubs. Since 1982, there have been only three seasonal captains at Milan – Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini and then Ambrosini. By making his free transfer move to Fiorentina, Ambrosini will be breaking this glorious three-decade old tradition. If you go beyond Baresi, then Cesare Maldini and Gianni Rivera had captained Milan from 1961 to 1979 collectively, so it is a rich history of club leadership which will be broken when Milan play Fiorentina next.

[1] at €35 million, this is the highest transfer fee for a teenage defender

About Debopam Roy

Debopam Roy follows football in Italy and South America. You can reach him on Twitter @rossoneri