In one of the least eventful and most difficult transfer windows (we’ll get to that in a moment) in English Premier League history, transfer rumours might be our only hope.
This week’s favoured rumour: Sergio Ramos to Manchester United. The Real Madrid defender has been out with a knee injury and his team has suffered for it.
Real Madrid on Saturday walked away with their heads bowed after a shock 2-1 defeat at home to Levante, as Eder Militao picked up a red at the 9th minute.
Ramos, who signed with Real Madrid in 2005 and has been with the team for more than 15 years, could be getting ready to switch to a new league altogether, as his contract is set to expire this summer. Manchester United are supposedly showing interest again, after attempting to sign him back in 2015.
The 34-year-old won 18 trophies over the past decade and a half. When he moved from Sevilla to Real Madrid for €27 million, it was a record for a Spanish defender. But those were simpler times.
Rules have changed drastically for transfer into the UK’s top league and clubs are now stuck between a rock and a hard place. Firstly, let’s get the obvious out of the way: the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the economy and impacted clubs’ budgets, curbing the amount of money they can spend on building up their squads.
In addition to that, travel restrictions have impacted ease of movement - so, no more scouts flitting around the continent/planet to watch players in action.
But one of the biggest hurdles to hit the January transfer window? Brexit. Clubs can no longer sign players freely from the EU. Instead these players will be treated as overseas players. Therefore, they will have to get a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE), just like any other player who does not have the right to work in the UK.
How do players get GBEs? Well, it’s based on a points-system. According to the Football Association website, players score points for:
• Senior and youth international appearances
• Quality of the selling club, based on the league they are in, league position and progression in continental competition
• Club appearances, based on domestic league and continental competition minutes
Only those players who have a total of 15 points will earn a GBE automatically. Those who fall below the requirement (between 10 to 14 points) can still be considered by an Exceptions Panel. Not only that, but clubs in the UK can no longer sign under-18s from Europe anymore — and they can only sign three players under the age of 21.
To complicate the situation even further, scouts can’t travel freely to watch players in action and negotiate deals. According to Queen Park Rangers director of football Les Ferdinand, the whole thing has been difficult to wrap his head around.
“There is a points system but nobody has been able to use it yet because nobody is going abroad to get players unless they are the top ones, who are going to the Premier League. Everybody knows who they are, but with younger players, nobody knows how it works because it’s not been delved into,” he told the BBC.
Well, if anything exciting is tucked up a manager’s sleeve this window, now would be the time to reveal it before the ticker runs out: the winter transfer window, which opened on January 2, closes on February 1. Anything else will have to wait until summer.