Covid-19 pandemic: End of big-money transfers?

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020 00:00 |
PSG’s Brazilian striker Neymar, the most expensive player in the world.Photo/FILE

Why Neymar’s world-record fee might never be beaten in a post-coronavirus market

Paris, Tuesday  @PeopleSports11

So it appears football could return in the coming weeks. But how long will it be before the game as we know it is back, if ever?

Big changes are coming, that is for sure. For the world’s most popular sport, the impact of the coronavirus crisis will be felt for some time, whether in the shape of behind-closed-doors matches, adjustments to the calendar or, more importantly, the financial implications for clubs, competitions and governing bodies.

Those implications, potentially, are huge. For many clubs across the world, simply surviving will be a challenge.

There will be cost-cutting, there will be losses, there will be tough business decisions to be made.

Most of all, though, there will be fear and uncertainty across the board.

That will certainly be seen in the transfer market, with experts predicting a sea change in the coming weeks and months.

Whisper it, but the days of free spending, spiralling fees and astronomical wages could well be over, for a few years at least.

“In short, Covid-19 has the potential to be the single most impactful event on the transfer market for many years,” Tiran Gunawardena, a sport legal specialist at Mills & Reeve law firm, tells Goal. 

French forward Antoine Griezmann who joined Barcelona for big money last year. Photo/FILE

“The fallout could lead to a paradigm shift by all football stakeholders with respect to player wages and transfer fees.

The industry, and in particular the values of players etc, may look completely different by the time this is over.”

Gunawardena’s view is echoed by many others within the game.

Goal spoke to a number of sources—including agents, club executives, players and managers—and the picture being painted, generally, is an alarming one.

“It’s going to be a long way back. So much is going to change, and everyone is waiting to see just how big the impact will be, and how long it will last ,” says one agent involved with numerous players across Europe. 

Football, at the highest level at least, has never been richer, and yet even the most-profitable clubs are expected to suffer, with revenues hit by the lack of gate receipts, an expected drop in sponsorship money and, potentially, a dip in television revenue too.

Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman of Manchester United, told a supporters’ forum last month that “it may not be business as usual for any clubs, including ourselves.”

United have been linked regularly with the likes of Jadon Sancho, James Maddison and Jack Grealish in recent weeks, and are better protected than many clubs due to their vast commercial revenues, but at the same forum Woodward went on to add that “speculation around transfers of individual players for hundreds of millions of pounds this summer seems to ignore the realities that face the sport.”

That view has been echoed across Europe. Uli Hoeness, the former president of Bayern Munich, told Kicker that he “cannot imagine in the coming years that there will be signings for €100 million (Sh10 billion)”, while in Italy the Juventus sporting director, Fabio Paratici, told Tuttosport that “there will be a lot of swaps, a situation that will make football closer to the NBA.”

Beppe Marotta, chief executive of Inter, spoke of “a poorer market” and “a general drop in prices.”

Udinese’s sporting director, Pierpaolo Marino, added that “it will be a market in recession, a player priced at €50m (Sh5b) will [now] be worth €30m (Sh3b).”

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