The footballing world since March 2020 has been nothing like what anybody had known before. The onset of the coronavirus pandemic and the changes that it induced in football worldwide will take years to get used to. One of the most severe effects of this whole situation has of course been the financial aspect for clubs, players and owners.
Football clubs relentlessly pursuing new revenue streams around the world to meet rising costs and losses. Those costs are related to their wage and transfer spending. Why don't they try and rationalise that part of the business first? Why always focus on more income?
— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) June 2, 2021
There is no doubt that every single club has taken losses of some kind since then. With empty stadiums and reduced operating income, clubs have had to dig deep in order to tide over these times. Certain clubs have lessened the impact to an extent due to their wealthy backers but others have not been so lucky.
The first effects of the coronavirus pandemic on football clubs’ financials become visible, as clubs start to report draft key financials for the 2019/20 football season. Spanish giants @FCBarcelona, for example, had to face significant losses in all streams of income. pic.twitter.com/9qPp9XNONn
— KPMG Football Benchmark (@Football_BM) October 7, 2020
What all of this amounts to is the fact that teams’ ability to buy new players has been severely limited. Instead, they have mostly focused on sales of the highest wage-earners who have struggled to make the desired impact. The results have been…mixed.
FORM DICTATES THE MARKET
An old saying in football goes, “form is temporary, class is permanent.” This has been proved significantly wrong in the past almost one and a half years. Players are being moved in the current transfer market based on their recent form and their future potential. There are few buyers for star players whose shine have dipped a bit.
This is due to the fact that teams are restricted in the amount of money they can pay in transfer fee or wages. Only a select few can afford these low-performing talents and they are not in demand with them. What this has led to is of course clubs asking said stars to take a pay-cut which has barely worked. One club in Europe right now typifies all of this right now- Barcelona.
To say the Blaugrana are in dire straits will be an understatement. Their president Joan Laporta has repeatedly talked about their myriad of financial problems and how they have to reduce the wage bill. Several first-team players have been told they can leave or cajoled in the hopes of reducing their wages. That has not worked yet. Furthermore, there seems to be little enthusiasm across the market for these unwanted men.
Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele are on a list of at least nine players Barcelona would be willing to part with this summer.
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) July 22, 2021
There is no shame to say that Philipe Coutinho’s move to Barcelona has not worked out at all. The 142 million man has been largely underutilised and even spent the 2019-20 campaign on loan with Bayern Munich. His time in Spain has been beset with injuries and he only made 12 appearances last term. The arrivals of Memphis Depay and Sergio Aguero along with the growing influence of Pedri is likely to reduce his minutes further.
Memphis Depay was presented as a Barcelona player yesterday. Barca's attack this season will be MAD (Messi, Aguero, Depay) 😄
Do you think Memphis Depay will be a success at Barcelona? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/O1NZBtGjyD
— NairaBET (@NairaBET) July 23, 2021
There is little doubt that his future lies elsewhere but it does look increasingly likely that his time at the top level looks over. Joining Coutinho on the “hard to sell” list are Samuel Umtiti and Miralem Pjanic. The Frenchman has made less than 30 starts in the past three seasons due to injuries and loss in form. Meanwhile, Pjanic’s debut season in Spain has not gone to plan with just 19 appearances providing no goals or assists.
What ties all of them together is the fact that they are some of the highest earners at the club which Barcelona are desperate to get rid of. Antoine Griezman, signed for 120 million, is another whose inflated price tag and high income is keeping suitors away. Depay and Aguero’s presence mean that he will also see more time on the bench. A possible swap with Atletico Madrid in exchange for Saul was touted but died down quickly.
The club wants Piqué, Jordi Alba, Busquets & Sergi Roberto to stay on but at much lower wages, and with new roles in the team.
The long contracts Laporta inherited from Barto are an obstacle.
— total Barça (@totalBarca) May 19, 2021
Senior players like Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, and Sergi Roberto have all been asked to take pay cuts which they have rejected. The most pressing fact for Barcelona remains that if they are unable to reduce these expenditures, the re-signing of Lionel Messi along with the registration of their new players hang in the balance.
There are a few things to learn from all of this happening at Camp Nou. Firstly, the realm of exorbitant transfer fees is now only for the privileged few. Not until steady income rises can more clubs challenge for the top players. Secondly, age and output are massive factors in determining the demand of players.
— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) July 19, 2021
The aforementioned names have all fallen in either or both of these parameters. Even young players who have been dogged with injury issues are considered high-risk moves. Ousmane Dembele, who got injured yet again at the Euros, has seen his value plummet during his time with the Blaugrana.
Moreover, there is little hope of incorporating these players without disturbing the set rhythm that teams have garnered in these times. The pandemic has made clubs extremely watchful in whom to buy and no spending is being done if an incoming player cannot provide dividends to justify their price. It is little surprise that Barcelona are finding it so difficult to get takers but this is not an isolated case.
THE EMERGING OPTIONS
Across Europe, several clubs are finding it hard to move on their little used players who are big earners. Juventus’ Aaron Ramsey is another prime example. The 30-year-old is being rumoured to leave Turin after a reduction in game time. It remains to be seen how Max Allegri proposes to use Ramsey but he is one of the highest earners in Serie A.
Liverpool favourites to sign Aaron Ramsey this summer as Juventus star prepares for Prem return https://t.co/vhlMebnEWe
— The Sun Football ⚽ (@TheSunFootball) July 22, 2021
Moving to the Premier League, Everton have moved on Bernard who featured just 12 times in the top-fight last term. There will certainly be more departures across Europe with clubs keen to only spend as much as necessary in order to tide over the costs of the pandemic. However, Bernard’s move to UAE-based club Sharjah FC provides another glimpse of how the future might work.
OFFICIAL: Sharjah FC have signed winger Bernard from Everton for an undisclosed fee on a two-year deal. pic.twitter.com/ULr39bXeTt
— Transfer News Central (@TransferNewsCen) July 23, 2021
Players who generate little interest on the continent are being increasingly lured away to leagues abroad and around Europe. USA, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, and others have become appealing to players who are keen for first-team action. Not only them, but clubs away from the known leagues are also coming into their own. Patrick Van Aanholt who featured extensively for Crystal Palace and the Netherlands at Euro 2020 joined Galatasaray while 28-year-old French playmaker and World Cup winner Florian Thauvin joined Tigres in Mexico.
— Florian Thauvin (@FlorianThauvin) May 7, 2021
This speaks less about the pulling power of these clubs and more about the players wanting to keep on proving their worth by playing. There is a clear pattern that has emerged in these troubled times where players who have suffered a dip in form, from injuries or generally played less will have difficulty finding transfers. Their parent clubs are most likely to keep them on their books at least for the near future and if they do not perform or get the chance, their stocks will continue to fall.