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Friday, 12 August 2011

Scandinavian spotlight: Transfer Window Hits Summer Football Hard

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Once again the transfer window is in full swing and the rumours seem to get more outrageous by the day. For many football fans around the world this can be a time of excitement and many a pub boss is grateful for the prolonged discussions in bars the world over as fans discuss the merits or otherwise of their clubs rumoured transfer targets.

Elsewhere, though, the summer window can be a time of trepidation. In Norway, Sweden, Finland and others, the season is only roughly halfway completed. When the vultures begin to circle over clubs and players who are having a good season fans and managers can be forgiven for getting more than a little worried.

Imagine your club is having a good run, you're in a good league position and your star striker is on fire at the moment, then a big boy comes along and steals your ball. A couple of top players up sticks and you only have a couple of weeks to find replacements to keep your season on track. That is exactly the scenario that confronts those countries where summer football is a necessity.

I live in Norway and every year all those connected with football here have the same discussions and complaints. The summer window can last up to 12 weeks for those with an August-May season. The mid-season transfer window in Norway is for the month of August. Several top players have left Norwegian clubs during June and July and doubtless several more will follow. Clubs lose top stars, seasons can be thrown into turmoil and replacements can only be brought in in August.

It's a catch-22 situation as clubs here are all generally fairly small outfits and they are grateful for the money a high profile transfer can bring in, but the flip side is the lack of continuity throughout a season. Domestic campaigns are upset and European qualifying rounds begin in July or even earlier while relatively small clubs try to attract new playing staff to cover departures.

Tromsø, for example, have recently sold Norwegian international right back Tom Høgli to Club Brugge of Belgium while Lillestrøm's top striker, 20-year-old Nigerian Anthony Ujah has recently signed for German side Mainz 05 after scoring 13 goals in the club's first 12 matches. For clubs like these, players of that calibre are hard to replace.

Obviously smaller clubs the world over will lose players in the windows, but we are all aware that much more business is done in the summer window than in January with a much more immediate effect on clubs half way through their league campaigns.

The transfer window was introduced to prevent clubs having their top players whisked off mid-season after a few good games and obviously the summer window favours the vast majority of countries who have their off-season over the summer months, but I think it should be within the abilities of the powers-that-be to implement some rules which prevent clubs losing players at vital moments just because they don't belong to the majority. Something along the lines of the current pre-contract agreements which allow players to sign with another club if they have six months or less left on a contract. That way the selling club can hold on to a player at a critical phase of their season and the buying club can get the services of their player before the January window (the Norwegian and Swedish seasons end in November).

I would expect at least a couple of big deals to go through for players in the Norwegian league before the window closes including Costa Rican Celso Borges of Fredrikstad who has been told he is “guaranteed” a move for the right price and Uruguayan Diego Guastavino of SK Brann, an attacking midfielder who is having a great season. I suppose you can't please all of the people all of the time and for those particular players big moves would be great but it will inevitably have a negative impact on their clubs.

In recent times there has been some fairly serious debate in Scotland over a switch to summer football due to a number of bad winters resulting in severe fixture congestion and appalling pitches, but people there should weigh up the cons as well as the obvious plus points. Many a lesson could be learned from the Scandinavian experience.

Article by Iain Macfadzean

Related articles:

Will Europe's top leagues throw up any shocks this season?

Hearts and Rangers face Scandinavian tests

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