For football fans, today is a special day: it’s Transfer Deadline Day – a branded, almost to Hallmark levels, moniker. It’s a day of bathos and unfulfilment. Your club will miss out on a top target, sign some underwhelming alternative, and clog up social media with pictures of them holding a shirt in a car park.
Transfer Deadline Day is the great dance of performative capitalism for the working classes. We call it a ‘window’ because it is supposed to be a ‘window of opportunity’ for clubs and fans, but there is also a voyeuristic element. We spend the summer hidden in the bushes, watching the attractive Athletico Madrid winger or Bayer Leverkusen centre-half preening in front of the mirror. The transfer window is a thrilling oculus into the mechanics of modern football.
But it is the space that stretches before the closing of the transfer window that captures the imagination of the football fan. The summer, from July 1st when the window formally opens, to August 31st, when it inevitably ‘slams’ shut, is a time of infinite possibility. It’s a sun-soaked dreamland where Palace can sign Christian Benteke for £32 million, Bournemouth can lay down £15 million on Jordan Ibe, and West Ham can be linked (for two agonising months) to Carlos Bacca.
For some clubs, satisfaction comes early. Paul Pogba’s world record transfer to Manchester United was completed at the start of August, leaving Jose Mourinho free to spend the rest of the window trying to get rid of Bastian Schweinsteiger. Other clubs like Burnley have endured, rather than enjoyed, the window, poaching a series of half-decent lower league players to provide back up to sour-faced Liverpool loanee Jon Flanagan. They don’t have the money to enjoy an extravagant deadline day, so today the clock will likely move more slowly for the office workers of Burnley.
But, for most clubs, the sunstroke of the summer will reach its fever pitch today, when Premier League spending will almost certainly hit that immortal £1bn figure. Across the country, the newly branded English Football League clubs will be lining up loan signing after loan signing, with a helping of the inevitable jaded journeyman striker thrown in. Much is made of the trauma players experience having to up-sticks from Birmingham to Stoke at a few hours notice (cry me a river, Trent) but it all contributes to the rattling sugar-high that is Transfer Deadline Day.
And then, without so much as a whisper, the window closes. A few deals get completed in the early hours of the morning, as paperwork trundles between clubs and the FA, but, other than that, all is quiet. What follows Transfer Deadline Day is the listlessness of the international break (a soporific interlude that comes after only three games every season), and then the anti-climax that is your team’s season. At least, that is, if you don’t support Leicester.
When people talk of a ‘countdown to zero’, the zero usually represents annihilation or, in other words, a moment of intense excitement. With Transfer Deadline Day, that zero is a flat nothing, and each year I greet it with the same bored longing for January, when capitalism will return to sweep me off my feet.