Transfer market do’s and don’ts – Do sell players at the right time

West Ham United v Arsenal - Premier League

Is Wenger a smart businessman?

The transfer market can be a very hectic and daunting thing for some of the world’s best football managers. They have to decide which players they want to buy and sell whilst sticking to a transfer and wage budget set by the club. In this series you will find some of the Do’s and Dont’s of the transfer market.

The inspiration for this series is from a book called Soccernomics by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski. The ideologies in this book have help me form my own opinions on the Do’s and Dont’s of the transfer market.

Firstly some basic facts. The football transfer market is not a lot different from the stock market. Teams can buy, sell and loan players, and other teams can get an idea of the funds available to each team. There are two transfer windows in European football: the summer transfer window from 1st July to 31st August and the winter transfer window from the 1st to 31st of January. During this period clubs can buy, sell, loan and even exchange players.

Do sell at the right time

It is very important as a football manager to sell players at the right time. You don’t want to hold onto a player who is getting old and has a declining ability but you also don’t want to sell a player at their peak (although there are special circumstances which I will talk about later).

As Brian Clough’s famous assistant Peter Taylor said “It’s as important in football as in the stock market to sell at the right time. A manager should always be looking for disintegration in a winning side.” It is important that managers sell players at the right time. An example of somebody who does this both well and poorly is Arsene Wenger.

Wenger sold Thierry Henry for £16 million aged 29, Patrick Vieria for £14 million aged 29, Marc Overmars aged 27 for £25 million and Emmanuel Petit for £7 million aged 29. None of these players ever recreated the sort of form they showed at Arsenal and all ended up being sold by their new clubs for a substantially lower fee.

However, in recent times Wenger hasn’t sold so well. He sold Fabregas, Nasri, Clichy, Song and Van Persie all when they were in the prime of their careers. These players have gone on to do well at other clubs and pick up trophies, while the Gunners are still searching for silverware. This has led to criticism of Wenger in recent years that he has let all his best players move on at the wrong time, however it seems that he had no choice but to let these layers leave as they went in search for trophies.

When a player reaches his peak performance level it is like when the stock market peaks. For me this can be the perfect time to sell a player, as their performance may begin to decline, but it can also sometimes backfire if the player continues his good form. Nigel Clough and Peter Taylor were the masters of this transfer market strategy.

At Nottingham Forest they always tried to gauge the moment when a player had peaked and then sold him before his performance started to decline. Although this is a good strategy to use in the transfer market, it can also be a very risky one.

Manchester United v West Ham United - Premier League

Selling van Persie was a mistake… Or was it?

An example of this type of transfer backfiring takes us back to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. In the 2011/12 season Robin Van Persie had his best campaign in an Arsenal shirt, finishing as the Premier League’s top goal scorer. However at the end of the season Van Persie attracted a lot of interest from other clubs, including Manchester United who had narrowly lost out on the Premier League title to rivals City.

Arsene Wenger decided to let his 29 year old Dutch superstar leave the club and join Manchester United for a fee around £24 million. Robin Van Persie had clearly reached his peak performance at Arsenal that season, following a 7 year stint of injuries and setbacks. Wenger decided to let him leave in the hope that due to his age he wouldn’t reproduce this form at Manchester United.

However, we all now know that Van Persie did continue his rich vein of form and helped Manchester United to a 20th league title. It must be noted that this is not the only reason that Wenger decided to let Van Persie leave the club, it was ultimately Van Persie’s decision as he had one year left on his contract and wanted to go in search of a trophy.

If a manager can pull this type of transfer off he looks like he has done a fantastic job and receives a high amount of praise. However managers always run the risk of getting it wrong and can often be left with ‘egg on their on face’.

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