Euro 2012 has once again encapsulated Europe; shaping the evening schedules for football fanatics across the continent.
The prestigious tournament has lived up to its billing and provided us with what we crave: entertaining, gripping football matches.
For most of us however, international football isn’t a priority, it’s more of a sideshow designed to keep us amused over the summer months when we don’t have to worry about contract talks stalling or what formation Sir Alex is going to line up to negotiate a tricky away fixture.
How many people would swap seeing their club lift the league title, for their country lifting the European Championship this summer? No, me neither.
Even when we watch the competition we think about United’s players. Oddly, Manchester United only has six representatives at this summer’s tournament; a mere three of whom are likely to feature in all their country’s matches – Nani, Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck. This inevitably leads us into inspecting other players more intently, in the hope of finding a hidden gem who could bolster United’s ranks.
The Only Utd Player Remaining
Don’t be fooled, this is an age-old trap! The worst time to sign a player is after he has performed well in a major tournament, be that the World Cup or the European Championships. But why is this?
Firstly, the eyes of the world are watching the tournament. Everyone has had the opportunity to see how talented the players are, and this includes all clubs and their scouting systems. The players’ club will be aware of this, and based on the basic economic principle of ‘supply and demand’, they will up the price of their star.
For example, it has been widely reported that Everton manager David Moyes is a long-term admirer of Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic, and had the Wolfsburg striker lined up to partner his fellow countryman Nikica Jelavic upfront for Everton. However, the German club have reportedly upped his market price from £7 million to £15 million due to his impressive performances at this summer’s tournament.
The player is also likely to be exhausted and in need of a break from football. The tournament is likely to have prolonged his season for approximately six weeks, and he’ll need time to recover. Added to that, he is more than likely to be indulged with success, increasing the likelihood of complacency and increased wage demands.
You also need to take into consideration that the player will have performed in a maximum of six games throughout the tournament. His strong performances could potentially have been due to him peaking during those particular matches. For players, an international tournament lasts roughly 10% of a full club season.
A look at Euro 2012 will have seen a number of major disappointments, most notably the Dutch side which houses talent such as Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder. All three are among the best footballers on the continent, but none came close to reaching their potential over a meagre three games.
For United fans however, we shouldn’t concern ourselves too heavily: our club tends to avoid making impulse signings. In recent times, the only examples of Sir Alex signing players based on fine tournament displays were Karel Poborsky (1996 – a month after reaching the final of the European Championships with the Czech Republic) and Kleberson (2003 – a year after he had played a major role in Brazil’s World Cup winning side). Both these signings were, unsurprisingly, flops.
Not Quite What We Hoped For
Especially now that United’s spending has become more measured due to financial restrictions, the club is unlikely to sign players who haven’t been long-term targets. Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell, the two summer signings to date, have been on Ferguson’s radar for months.
Clubs that fall into the ‘tournament player’ trap are those who are self-conscious, and want to prove to their fans that they are still big players. When clubs take this mentality, rationale often goes out the window. Two recent examples of this are Chelsea and Liverpool.
In January 2011, Roman Abramovich was beginning to worry: his squad needed strengthening and question marks where appearing that maybe he wasn’t interested in the club anymore. He wanted to prove that Chelsea was still a big club, so what did he do? Spent £75 million on David Luiz and Fernando Torres. Rationale was conspicuous by its’ absence in these signings: neither player was on a run of good form and neither fitted into Chelsea’s style of play. The club would win nothing that season.
When Liverpool realised they would have to sell Torres to Chelsea, they became worried that they wouldn’t be a big club anymore. They needed to appease the fans. £120 million in transfer fees and six months later, they had drafted in a group of average English players alongside only two long-term targets – Luis Suarez and Charlie Adam. They were to go and suffer their joint second worst league finish in fifty years. Again, irrational signings were the main factor.
Neither of the above examples are cases of signing players based on tournament form, but the same reasoning and logic, or lack of, is applied.
Spending large amounts of money on transfers does pacify fans. It’s a signal that the club has potential; for many supporters big money signings are as exciting as winning trophies. The support has the thrill of expectation and the illusion that the club is moving forward, but this is not how to best run a football club.
Besides, there is no direct correlation between large transfer fees and success on the pitch. Numerous studies show that a club is more likely to improve if it offers higher wages to existing players, rather than splash out fees on new recruits.
So sit back and enjoy the festival of football, but let others have their thrills before the season has begun, and let’s enjoy ours at its conclusion.