The Transfer Request Conundrum feat. Everton and West Brom Stars

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After this season’s summer transfer window merry-go-round finally spun to a halt, one issue that dominated the latter part of the spending spree was the furore surrounding transfer requests. As clubs and fans hoped to keep their prize assets secure; at least until January, the submission of a transfer request by a player (or indeed an agent) to the club can rock the already fragile early season stability. Two prime examples of these requests which dominated the back pages, were that of Everton’s John Stones and West Bromwich Albion’s Saido Berahino. But just how detrimental are transfer requests, or are they just merely polite formalities?

There is certainly an initial question of when is the correct timing for a player to submit a transfer request. It is this matter that has attracted criticism in both the direction of both Stones and Berahino. Both players submitted their requests towards the end of the transfer window, and thus were seen to have put their club into some form of last-minute peril by leaving them in the lurch as the season had begun to get into full flow.

With both players being such integral performers for their clubs, their late submission was seen as something more disastrous for the team than if a mere squad player wished to depart. What this question of timing then throws up is the problem of disruption that transfer requests cause. Transfer requests do unsettle a player and a club at any time during the transfer window periods, but the later the request is submitted, the more detrimental this disruption appears to be.

Roberto Martinez and Tony Pulis; the Everton and West Brom managers respectively, have both lambasted the transfer window length because of its interference with the start of the Premier League season. If their requests were taken on board, it is likely that the duration of the window would be shortened, perhaps guarding against the last minute problems they have suffered themselves. This disruption becomes heightened when the submitted transfer request is rejected by the club, creating tension between player and employer. In both the Stones and Berahino cases, the requests were flat out rejected by their club. Suddenly a question of a player’s loyalty; and indeed the player’s relationship with their club, comes into question.

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Stones attracted more criticism from fans than usual across social media just prior to; and in the immediate aftermath of, submitting his transfer request. The defender’s performance in Everton’s 5-3 away win at Barnsley in the Capital One Cup came under particular scrutiny, with the England international being accused by fans of not playing in the club’s best interests. As a result, Stones; who has been a firm fan favourite at the club, suddenly finds himself battling off criticism from his own supporters, who feel now that his heart is no longer at their club. Not only has the disruption from his transfer request unsettled himself and the club, but it has also unsettled the supporters’ faith in their player too.

But in comparison to Berahino, Stones has the appearance of a saint in his transfer request saga. The manner in which Saido Berahino has conducted himself in has attracted great criticism, as the West Brom forward took to social media to lambaste his employers; namely Jeremy Peace, after failing to secure a move to Tottenham on transfer deadline day. The clearly aggrieved striker declared that he would “never play [for] Jeremy Peace”; the club’s chairman, a message which was later deleted. In response, Berahino found himself the target of anger from his own supporters and; like Stones, found himself a target of their animosity rather than their passion. By being unable to secure his passage away from the Hawthorns and declaring so publicly that he wanted to leave the club, the striker certainly appeared to burn bridges with his team, alienating fans and team-mates alike.

Transfer requests are certainly seen as a formal and polite way for players to declare that they want to leave their employers. Perhaps part of the problem that these written requests have is that they are now leaked to the media (perhaps by an agent with deep pockets), unveiling to the world that the player wants to depart. The clear issue in both of these instances is that if they are not accepted and the club in question does not give into the demands of their employees, the disruption can rumble on for both the player and the club endlessly. If there is a better method of players wanting to leave the club, it does not seem to exist yet in my opinion. I do imagine however that it is certainly an issue that clubs will discuss internally to avoid the detriment that transfer requests carry.

For Stones and Berahino, this could be a four month period of great upheaval before potentially securing their moves away in January. But for clubs across the world, the ongoing issue of keeping players happy and keeping their transfer demands away from the press, is a constant worry and one that seems likely to only increase in frequency and magnitude in the near future.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by Aleksandr Osipov

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