By Andrew Leci
By Andrew Leci
The January sales in many parts of the world have two fairly specific purposes.
One, to get rid of unwanted goods stockpiled for what is always anticipated to be a busy Christmas/festive period, and two, to make shoppers feel as though they're getting a bargain with what is left of their money after the plethora of purchases made during the aforementioned time of jollity.
Prices are severely reduced - cynics would say that they even approach the levels prior to the pre-Christmas frenzy hike - and it's a busy time for all.
In the world of football, it's slightly different. Bargains are very hard to come by in January, and many in the business even suggest that prices are inflated. Arsene Wenger, for example, perennially, seems loathe to participate, although this time round he has intimated that he may be prepared to come on down, if the price is right. I'm not entirely sure whether this is a testament to Arsene's flexibility and lack of stubbornness, or the situation his football club currently finds itself in.
The January transfer window polarises opinion.
There are those who feel it is, and should remain, part and parcel of the football landscape, and those who feel it is tantamount to restraint of trade. There's no doubt that deadline day drama fills many a column inch, and makes for good TV and online coverage, but it's not entirely apparent what it adds to the game itself.
The transfer window was put in place supposedly to improve stability at a football club. You had a squad of players, and they would remain until the next opportunity arose to enter the market. It was also felt that something was required to prevent agents manufacturing deals whenever, for example, an alimony cheque was due, or the second Ferrari was written off.
Excuse my slightly cynical stance, I am not a huge fan of agents, and neither it appears (although in this case somewhat all of a sudden) is Harry Redknapp.
The current QPR manager has described agents' activity this January window as nothing short of "gang warfare" with all the attendant connotations, and says he has never seen anything like it.
And Harry should know. While infuriated at the "wheeler-dealer" tag with which he is often labelled, Redknapp (who has managed an unprecedented 5 different Premier League clubs) has bought and sold his fair share (if not more) of football livestock, and has contributed in no small measure to the situation he now decries.
Harry's problem now is that he doesn't know who he's dealing with, and when he does, it turns out that he has to deal with someone else as well. Ownership, as well as their contracts, have become infinitely more complicated than they were in the day when a manager could approach a player and more or less sign him up on the spot over a cup of tea and a currant bun.
Redknapp's difficult situation has been exacerbated by the position his current club finds itself in.
QPR are bottom of the Barclays Premier League table, fighting for survival with a squad which, if Saturday's FA Cup defeat at the hands of the MK Dons is anything to go by, doesn't have sufficient strength in depth. In his own words, he gave the peripheral players a chance to prove their worth, and "they blew it". Harry needs reinforcements, and they will have to arrive in this January transfer window, the climate of which is clearly not to Redknapp's liking.
The window, whether we like it not, is here to stay, and so are players' agents. It's ironic, I suppose, that a feature put in place to protect smaller clubs with less financial clout is now being exploited by individuals with loads o' money who want to make more and who are intent on making the most of the situation. Furthermore, the window works to the benefit of clubs who can splash the cash, while possibly depriving the less solvent of key players for the remainder of the season. That doesn't seem very egalitarian to me.
As I mentioned earlier, Arsene Wenger has never been a fan of the January window, and has suggested recently that it should be overhauled, to at least limit the number of players that can be brought in.
He cites the situation of Newcastle United, who have signed six players already this month, and may well be stronger as the season draws to a close. OK, they have lost Demba Ba in the process, but Wenger insists that the teams who have already played Newcastle twice this campaign have benefited.
Money talks, and change, if any, will be slow. It's clearly not an ideal world, and equally clearly those who spy an opportunity to make a buck will try to make the most of it. What remains to be seen this season in the Barclays Premier League though, is who spends his money most wisely, and what players can possibly be brought in to make a significant difference.
Players are investments, and as with all investments, the value can rise and fall. Harry Redknapp, for one, will be hoping that in the case of his club, they don't go down.