Jul 16, 2015
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The Unconnected League

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Onlookers from the continent would be first to spot this unfortunate English trait which is becoming stereotypical of our beloved Premier League along with the ‘tough and fast paced’ adjectives. A rigid, unconnected group of 20 ever changing teams follow the same trend year after year. The lack of player movement between clubs has become cultural, sadly.

Across in Germany, Johannes Geis, a highly rated homegrown German, moved from Mainz to Schalke with little fuss. Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski made the move from Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich infamously. Yet the latter two moves have become accepted by Dortmund fans as the interchange between clubs from the same nation is a part of their culture, Dortmund fans would know all so well with star man Marco Reus coming from Borussia Monchengladbach.

Over in Italy, a Juventus monopoly reigns over the league as many of the talents, most recently Simone Zaza and Paulo Dybala, are snatched up by the Italian Champions. Again, these transfers are accepted by the smaller clubs board and fans. The men in power throughout the Italian league understand that the world will not end with the loss of a star. The trust in solid reinvestment and new emerging talents overrides the desire to keep a player that wants to leave.

So why in England, the nation with the world’s most followed football competition, are clubs so reluctant to deal with other members of the league?

Going right back to 1964 would present the last transfer between Liverpool and Manchester United. Phil Chisnall was the man to swap Anfield for Old Trafford and is only one of nine to ever make a move between the two clubs. Gabriel Heinze nearly became the tenth after stating his desire to move to Merseyside from the Red Devils but Sir Alex Ferguson blocked the move. Heinze went public with his desire to move, a sign of betrayal from United fans that once sang his name. The Argentinian was sent off to Madrid after destroying all relationship with United. The Heinze saga lives so strong in Sir Alex Ferguson’s mind that he recites it in his autobiography.

The feud between rivals may explain a little to why there is such a rigid national transfer system but in comparison to the Milano rivals, players appearing in both red and blue is a much more regular sight. Seedorf, Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo are all world class players that have betrayed one of the Milan clubs, yet the view of the fans takes into account what the player did for them, not what the ‘traitor’ did for their rivals.

The wariness of a scaring deal involving current champions Chelsea and Liverpool also may play part in the lack of transfers between two English clubs. The failure from a £50m transfer for Fernando Torres has left a cloud of negativity around the inter-league transfers. Will players be able to perform in another region of the country?

Yet this point should be pretty easy to answer. A simple ‘yes’ would fit perfectly. Players from around the continent come to England and perform so surely players that have experienced English football should be at an advantage.

Maybe the answer lies with the selling club. Fernando Torres was sold for an unbelievable amount of money to a team in the same league. The added pressure of the transfer value can cause a fall in confidence after a couple of bad performances but also the pressure from his previous success. The fans of Chelsea were well aware of how Torres stacked up in the Premier League and therefore were right to assume he would have the same amount of success at the Blues as he did back at Anfield.

The dual factors of money and poor form clearly did damage to a once unstoppable Fernando Torres. The English culture of restricting transfer movement around the country causes over pricing. The selling team being reluctant to part ways with their player adds intense pressure after the transfer, something that doesn’t happen as severely elsewhere.

More recently, Raheem Sterling managed to grind out a move from Liverpool to Manchester City for £49m. That’s right, £49m. A player who is yet to achieve anything major in professional football has been priced successfully at £49m by Liverpool. The problems this fee creates are excessive. For Sterling, he has to operate at a constantly world class level otherwise he will be criticised as ‘over-priced’. Currently, he isn’t at a standard to perform at the status week in week out due to his age. A 20-year-old winger still has at least 5 years until they are fully developed.

For Pellegrini, he is put under pressure to play the youngster as fans would question why they bought Sterling if he doesn’t play. This generates problems for the manager as he is unable to pick his preferred starting eleven. Instead he has to choose a side that removes fan pressure.

The FA also suffer from the pricing as yet another young English player moves for an extortionate price to enable clubs to fill out a home-grown quota. The negative image of highly priced young English players increases pressure at international level. ‘With such high values, England should win the u21 World Cup’ is an common phrase used in the build up to tournaments. The reality is that the few English talents that emerge from academy levels are made into a commodity. Teams must have them. This means that prices highly inflate as a selling team can charge whatever they like as the buyer has no other alternative. The FA then comes under scrutiny for causing the hyperinflation.

An increase in competitiveness may also show why such little transfer action happens between Premier League club. Teams are wary that a sale of a player could end up harming there league chances. A stand out example of this is Juan Mata. Chelsea sold the Spaniard to Manchester United in January 2014. Under Louis Van Gaal’s guidance, Juan Mata helped secure United a Champions League spot with his stellar form at the end of the season. The quality he showed led to questions as to why Mourinho let the play-maker go.

Chelsea also have a secure way of developing talent without involving anyone from the Premier League. Aitor Karanka, the Middlesborough manager, benefits from his friendship with Mourinho as he is given a handful of Chelsea’s youth players. Most notably Patrick Bamford. The youngster became a key player for Boro and fired them withing touching distance of the Premier League.

Vitesse Arnhem are another non Premier League team to benefit from Chelsea’s loan system. Numerous young talents have crossed over the Dutch border as part of their football education at Chelsea. These loans have come from the owners of each club having a close relationship.

The question is why?

Why would Chelsea prefer their players to play football in a less competitive league than to educate them in the very league that they will be playing in. That’s where the premier leagues clubs mentality can be questioned.

The culture of being a single club operating solely must come to an end. Extortionate prices, damaged mentality, uber intense rivalry and player vs club battles can’t surely be wanted features of England’s very own beautiful game.

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Journalism student at the University of Sheffield. Freelance for TheBootRoom.

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