Once the clock strikes 6pm on August 31 the transfer window will close in England, finally bringing to an end another summer of incessant tabloid gossip, if only for the next few months.
The Premier League will be a better place for it.
For fans, reading the gossip columns religiously during the summer provides a light relief, helping to fill the void of a football calendar bereft of top flight fixtures. But with the new season underway, the once exciting speculation has grown tiresome, and only serves to cause damage for everybody involved.
The transfer window, a system that restricts trade for months on end, is responsible for an increase in players going on strike to force through moves.
Those who remember Dutch striker Pierre Van Hooijdonk striking at Nottingham Forest in 1998 will know the problem is not a new one, but it does appear to be getting worse.
Truthfully, part of me empathises with Javier Mascherano, who refused to play against Manchester City in an attempt to clinch his move away from Liverpool.
The career of a footballer is short. So, should a player want to better himself at another club then that is his right as a professional, providing their current employers are sufficiently compensated for their loss.
Players are forced to take drastic action because time is not on their side.
The situation is not helped by chairmen who wait until the very last moment to conclude business, hoping to squeeze out as many extra pounds as possible as other clubs panic. Again, trying to secure the best deal for their club is their right as football chairmen, but it does not help matters.
Players are not completely faultless though.
There was something crass and undignified about Mascherano’s refusal to play at Eastlands, particularly considering Liverpool had publicly stated they were prepared to sell and wanted the deal concluded swiftly. The respectable thing to do would have been playing in his side’s tough away match, and given his all, safe in the knowledge it would be his final match for the club.
Had he done so, he could have left with his head held high. Instead, he chose the footballing equivalent of throwing his toys out of the pram, thus conforming to the stereotype of twenty-first century footballers being a law unto themselves.
Thankfully, not all footballers subscribe to such a view, with James Milner being the antithesis of this stereotype.
A refreshing change
A true professional and a class act, Milner earned universal praise during his protracted move from Aston Villa to Manchester City by largely keeping his head down and his mouth shut.
Other want-away footballers should take note, for the England midfielder took the unusual step of threatening his prospective employers City, and not Villa, who valued him highly and did not want to sell him, by intimating he would make himself cup-tied if negotiations continued to drag on. He was effectively asking City just how badly they wanted him.
But realistically, unless the transfer window is scrapped altogether, or adjusted so that it closes before the season begins, such unsettling race-against time deals will simply continue, garnering more bad press for football and ultimately undermining clubs, managers, players and fans.
Until the system is changed, the transfer window will remain just another imperfection of the Premier League. Perhaps that is why we love it so much?
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