Reporter Notebook: What can we expect from the transfer window?

What can we expect from the transfer window? Sky Sports News reporter James Cooper has been getting the opinions of football insiders…

Football is facing an uncertain future. When will it restart? Where will games be played? Who will be watching? All unanswerable right now.

Here’s another: when will the transfer window open? Again, we don’t know, but one thing is for sure, it’ll be like no other since the system was introduced for the 2002/2003 season.

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Over the past few days I’ve spoken to well-placed figures across the football spectrum to ask their views on what might await us when teams can trade again.

Nothing is set in stone, but it looks as though there’ll be plenty of new challenges following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

When might the window open?

Not knowing the dates of the forthcoming window is a major problem, especially as other European leagues might theoretically complete their campaigns before the English season is concluded.

Take Germany, for example – clubs in the Bundesliga could have a trading advantage particularly in the recruitment of players from their own domestic market.

From that point of view it seems imperative that everyone is governed by the same rules, but the feeling is the normal length of the transfer window, comprising some 12 or 13 weeks, could be compressed into half that time.

Who will have money to spend?

From the point of view of clubs who might be looking to buy and sell, there’s still a huge amount of cash unaccounted for across Europe because leagues haven’t been finished, prize money hasn’t been distributed and broadcast deals are frozen.

One estimate puts the total available to European clubs at 20bn euros per season, with 6bn euros of that currently on hold.

It’s not clear what will happen to that cash, with different countries following different restart strategies, but generally, clubs spend what funds they have available to them.

What none of them can rely on right now is matchday revenues. Playing games behind closed doors might be one way to bring football back, but clubs will miss the financial boost provided by fans as much as their support.

The impression I was given was that clubs at the top of English football have already moved into survival mode.

The pause in any action has given clubs time to analyse data on the players they have and the ones they may have targeted prior to the pandemic.

Clubs don’t have any opportunities to scout players, so any existing data they have or can glean becomes precious.

Will the market be affected?

One thing most people seem to agree upon is that we’ll know the state of the market once the first major deal goes through, but it’ll be intriguing to see who blinks first with all of Europe’s major teams trying to get a handle on valuations and wages.

It would be a brave club to head into the window and do early business as we may have seen in previous years. Someone will have to go first, but most will sit and wait to get some sort of feel for the market conditions.

Working out how much potential targets are now worth and the value of players clubs might be looking to sell is something exercising the minds of recruitment teams up and down the country.

One estimate given to me is that players at the top of the game may only be worth 50-60 per cent of what they would have cost last summer and what that might mean is we see a lot more free transfers, swap deals and bigger buy-on and sell-on clauses to claw back cash for buyers and sellers alike.

FFP to be suspended?

It was also suggested to me that one solution to allow money to flow back into all levels of the game would be the halting of Financial Fair Play for up to two years, but how would UEFA apply the brakes on that again?

Will transfer tactics change?

The summer window is the one managers and their staff have usually had time to plan and go after their targets.

Many of the bigger clubs spend February and March narrowing their search parameters and honing in on the players they want or positions they need to fill.

Clearly that landscape has changed, it might be that this time round, players identified early in the Spring are no longer available.

It was put to me that we might see transfer spending in this window at the levels of three years ago. There will still be multi-million pound deals but more commonly they could be in single digits rather than double or triple digits.

Another ingredient to add to the mix, and it’s another uncertain one, is the effect of Brexit and whether the window to come might be the last opportunity for teams to have a free-run at players across the European Leagues, especially young talent who might be almost impossible to sign once the new regulations come into force.

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