Blog by: Siddartha
Football isn’t just about football any more. It might have been in a different age, when players like Billy Liddell, Nandor Hidegkuti, and Garrincha graced the green grass, minus the instructions from the dugouts, piercing the air with unfailing regularity.
But this isn’t to mourn the death of a generation of footballing greatness and the splendour attached to the purity of the simple game. Nor is it to celebrate the birth of a new variety of entertainment that is modern football.
While football may have transformed a few years ago, when European domestic leagues entered into an era of commercialisation never seen before, or maybe when the Bosman ruling was passed in 1995, the game is now entering into the proverbial uncharted territory.
Even as I write, Gareth Bale has been named in Real Madrid’s starting line up to face Villarreal. While the 100-million-euro Cardiff man’s debut will be watched by an inordinately large number of people, one can rest assured that the backroom staff of every club in every competitive league would be working tirelessly, looking for the next Bale.
Bale’s sale for 100 million euros may have been the tale of the summer, but the true behemoth was the transfer window itself, as a record amount of money was spent by English clubs, while their continental counterparts too stocked up their squads.
To have a debate over the transfer fees players command would be fruitless. If a club is willing to pay the amount asked, there should not be any questions raised by uninvolved parties.
What makes the game different now is a transfer window that has achieved the status and importance few could have imagined. And I am not talking of the importance of the close season window for the clubs, but for the fans.
Never has there been such anxiousness among fans over a period where no football was played. Never have the collective foreheads of entire cities been furrowed, glued to their TV screens/desktops/laptops, shallow breaths necessitating a higher frequency of inhalation.
Never has news been so important, whether it’s regarding the manager speaking from his car, or a player looking for real estate in a new city.
The transfer window attracts more than just the average fan’s attention. It teases him, laughs at him, and very rarely satisfies him. It enters his life with the sartorial elegance associated with a Milanese model, catches him hook, line and sinker, twists him and takes him as a slave.
Managers may complain that the window serves merely as a distraction for players, with the ability to trash well laid plans with a single stroke. Agents may take clubs for a ride, demand sky-high fees and commissions. Players may act up and submit transfer requests at the last possible moment.
Simultaneously, the same managers will use the window to replenish their stock of players, looking for chinks in the team in the first few games. Players may make their dream moves, driven by money or childhood desire. Agents will break their necks while handling three phones at once.
One cannot romanticise the transfer window beyond a point. It’s only a window of opportunity for someone, while the source of misfortune for another. For supporters, it’s the greatest edge-of-the-seat entertainment. Your club might miss out on its targets while your rivals strengthen at the same time. But the drama surrounding the world’s biggest club and its pursuit of a Welsh footballer, while surreal for the uninitiated, is unrelenting.
The transfer window is not about football. It’s about desire, fame, money and survival. But then, so are numerous other things. Football was never white as snow, as it carved it’s path to become the Earth’s greatest sport. Its evolution did not occur in isolation, but was dictated by the meanderings of human wants and needs.
As I gaze up from my laptop screen and catch the shenanigans of the team in orange in El Madrigal, the left-footed lad from Cardiff scores with his right foot to draw the Galacticos level. Dream move or not, it’s difficult to not be enamoured. A treat from Madrid, via Cardiff.