Transfer ban no bad thing

For the people who really matter – journalists – yes.  Before upholding Atletico Madrid’s punishment, the Court of Arbitration for Sport really should have taken into account our need to fill pages with transfer talk when the alternative is covering Zira FK of Azerbaijan against Luxembourg’s Differdange 03 in the Europa League first qualifying round.  How would the man with the iPad in front of the big screen while away the hours with nothing to talk about but slightly overweight footballers returning from Dubai?

But don’t sneer at the opportunistic journo: we serve it up because you lap it up.  Everyone loves a transfer rumour, even if deep down we know the source of most of them are people with a financial interest in them circulating.

I blame hope.

For many of us, most seasons end with our club in a position that we would have regarded as somewhere between disappointment and failure if we’d been asked at the start of the campaign.  The capacity to drink up and sweat out such failure is part of what makes us human and soon enough we come to accept things didn’t work out this time and start hoping for better fortune over the horizon.  The transfer market is the crowded bar where the jilted lover spots a pretty face and thinks, ‘why not!’

I know squads need renewing and clubs and careers can be made or broken in the transfer market but does the merry-go-round have to spin so quickly?  Apparently so: agents want it, fans want it and Coaches want it.  How comforting it is for the ranting desperado of the technical area to blame his ill-fortune on missing out on that winger last January rather than facing his own inadequacies.  And if the guy in the suit with the keys to the safe wants to be able to walk through his own stadium, he had better sanction some high rolling.  Anything less would be lacking ambition.

Obviously when a club comes into new money, it makes sense to upgrade the playing staff, but even then it rarely pays to throw it all up in the air and start anew.  If transfer strategies work, even half the time, then Athletic Bilbao would be in the third tier.  Even the much-vaunted Monchi spent fortunes taking Javier Chevanton and Alejandro Mosquera to Sevilla…

So maybe not signing anyone is not such a bad thing, especially if your squad has some excellent young players, if you’re moving to a new stadium with all of the upheaval that brings, and if it persuades a player of Antoine Griezmann’s quality to stay.  Last summer’s new signings didn’t improve Atleti so maybe it is no bad thing to be told sit out this transfer window.

We naturally credit Zinedine Zidane for getting the best out of Real Madrid’s immensely-talented squad, but it’s no co-incidence that his success followed a transfer ban that forced Florentino Perez into keeping a settled squad.

Of course, Atleti might be about to sign Diego Costa in order to give him five months of preseason training, and it would be a bold move to turn down the opportunity given what he’s done for them in the past.

But maybe next season we’ll see the best of Nico Gaitan and Sime Vrsaljko after slow starts in Spain and maybe tying down Saul Niguez to a nine-year deal will prove to be better business than anything Atleti would have done in the summer transfer market.