New Transfer Window reality – clubs take back control

Another summer transfer window in the world of football has now passed and strategically it was interesting to observe a larger skepticism and hesitation from a lot of clubs globally - as they are becoming more professional and detailed in their recruitment selection and decision-making processes.

A changed industry

As a current strategic football advisor and technical consultant – my aim is not to help clubs from Sunday to Sunday. From game to game. At Optima Football, we operate to oversee and assist football clubs and federations becoming more sustainable over time by following a detailed strategy allowing the clubs/FA to control all decisions in all areas across the club.

One of those areas is the recruitment strategy. For many years it has been the manager or head coach either controlling or heavily influencing which players were bought or sold. This would work for decades as the head coach used to be a long-term employee at a club - like Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

But the industry has changed and today we have leagues around the world with a head coach averagely lasting less than 12 month (Cyprus, China, etc.).

Therefore, clubs need to take back the control, set up a long-term (club defined) strategy throughout all areas and departments. Then hire the core (club loyal) leaders to build, implement and oversee the football strategy. Not relying on a manager or his network anymore.

Hesitation and skepticism are positive signs

Through my work for clubs during this summer transfer window as well as discussions and conversation with my international network; I’ve experienced some ‘new realities’ during this past transfer window:

- More clubs now have a Technical Director to oversee the football strategy and philosophy: Therefore connecting the club identity to the style of play, which will provide a club with more specific player profile descriptions in the recruitment work as well as limiting the need of using the head coach and his network

- More specialists make the recruitment processes longer and more demanding: I’m sure several intermediaries experienced clubs are becoming more self-going and in control as also specialists like technical scouts, data scientists and analysts have become important people in a recruitment process. There are now more voices and opinions inside the clubs affecting the transfer

- The keyword during this transfer window (except the top 15 clubs in the world): Resale. Clubs have had this aspect as a main criterion, which made it difficult for players of +28 years old unless they are world-class (level wise). Clubs today are looking more into signings as an investment to resell later on

- Also as journalist Rory Smith wrote (in the New York Times) loan deals are growing as well as of two main reasons: One as of Financial Fair Play due to a loan deal being cheaper and can be scheduled into different budgets periods. Secondly as it give clubs time to actually assess the player for a longer period: Thereby minimizing the risk of making an expensive mistake with a transfer fee up front, so top clubs can ‘maintain their purchasing power’ this way too, as Rory Smith wrote in his column

So an interesting 2019 summer transfer window showing signs of a more professional, detailed, demanding and over time more sustainable football world.

We can only hope.