In days gone by it took just two people to agree a transfer deal. A pair of Presidents or chairmen, call them what you will, decided the fate of their footballers on a moment's whim - probably over brandy and cigars. More often than not the player's only input to the whole affair was to inform his family they would be looking for a new home next season.
Thankfully, and quite rightly, things have changed. As soon as the people actually wearing the boots realised the power they possessed, the game was transformed. No longer could the owners of our football theatres keep all the proceeds for themselves, it was time for them to pay their leading actors handsomely as well. Once upon a time even the sport’s greatest stars had to have skills in another trade to make ends meet. Nowadays, many of them earn more in a week than most of us do in a year.
If it was simply a case of clubs taking into account their players’ wishes then the process of agreeing a move might yet remain a relatively simple one. However, the advent of the football agent now means the transfer tango is a dance which requires at least four participants in order to be performed. Throw in some complex South American co-ownership deal and the procedure starts to have more layers than a millefoglie.
I used to quite enjoy the summer and winter spells of Calciomercato. They provided a little window of intrigue and negotiation which was a nice counterpoint to the cut and thrust of League action. Now they are in danger of submerging the sport.
That makes it hard to keep track of what is actually happening. The agent has an interest in keeping his client in the spotlight. The teams want to sell season tickets and are happy to be linked with players their supporters will never see or pledge to keep the fans' favourite. And every minor pronouncement by a player is interpreted three thousand ways to see what it means for their future.
And if that wasn't enough, you have a myriad of media sources vying for your interest with ever-more-attention-grabbing headlines. Mainstream newspapers, Twitter feeds or club experts on countless websites all promise you the inside track. Most of them operate safe in the knowledge that nobody keeps tabs on the percentage completion rate for their most outlandish claims.
It has all made me adopt a bit of ostrich-like approach to transfer negotiations. I pretty much ignore everything and then resurface once the actual action returns and have a quick check to see what players – and Coaches – have ended up where. I want to see them in the club colours before I am convinced a deal is done. Just a few days into this closed season, I am already starting to think it might well be the only way for me to keep hold of my precious and precarious sanity.
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