As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, let’s take a look at how the crisis may end up impacting the upcoming transfer market window for the Serie A clubs. In what has been a strange past few weeks, football continues to be suspended all over Europe. As it stands, only the Belarusian Premier League remains active of all the 54 national domestic leagues registered under the continent’s ruling football body UEFA.
Moving to continental competitions, the EURO 2020 and the COPA America 2020 were recently postponed to the summer of 2021. On a global scale, the Olympics had no choice but to take the same route as well.
That all but highlights how the football world has come to a standstill due to the ongoing global pandemic. Sadly, no domestic league is feeling the heat more than the Serie A.
Juventus defender Daniele Rugani was the first player in the league to test for COVID-19 in March and it set the tone for the difficult situation calcio finds itself in right now.
From whether or not the current season should be voided to player contracts and a whole lot of other talking points, a big question mark remains regarding the financial effects of the coronavirus crisis on the Serie A.
Just a few days ago, Serie A clubs unanimously agreed to cut the salaries of first-team players by up to a third due to the ongoing pandemic. As per the agreement, players will give up a sixth of their wages should football resume and the current campaign be completed. In the event that the season gets voided, wages will be cut by one-third.
The only exception was Juventus, who voted against this as they had already settled their issue internally.
Serie A's proposed 33% (4 months) or 16% (2 months) player pay cut would, if applied from April, save clubs between €2.4m and €60m. Juventus have internally agreed wage cuts, resulting in up to €90m in savings. Negotiations are ongoing at other clubs.#sportsbiz #SerieA pic.twitter.com/WAfuZTJqtK
— Tifosy (@tifosy) April 8, 2020
The uncertainty regarding the financial strength of the Serie A clubs is one that could largely impact the upcoming transfer window. Clubs would have to adjust or in some cases totally re-think their transfer strategy to suit their current capacity as it stands.
For now, Italy is still in lock-down and it remains to be seen when exactly football will resume. We have to be optimistic this would all end and the beautiful game can kick on in full stride as it was prior to the global standstill. However, the impact of the pandemic might have some “long-term” effects, particularly on the upcoming transfer market.
With that in mind, let’s project some likely situations that could come to play when Serie A clubs engage in the next transfer window.
Player wages might become a problem for some clubs
The league has taken the joint measure to help clubs financially, with respect to player pay-cuts. It’s still important to note that this might not be enough for some clubs. Aside from the big guns and a few teams with decent financial power, it would be an uphill task for some to maintain the payment of wages, especially if the crisis goes on longer than expected.
Take a look at Brescia for instance, who currently sit rock bottom of the Serie A and look likely to get the drop come the end of the season. It is already claimed that forward Mario Balotelli is set to leave the club in the summer, not necessarily because he’s had a tough stay at the club by his standards, but simply due to Brescia not being able to afford his wages anymore.
Whisper it, you’ve surely heard rumors of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo making an emotional return back to Real Madrid. There’s nothing to substantiate this from any authentic source at this point, but all talks are pointing to the direction that Juventus might not be able to afford his wages if the current issues go on long-term.
Not anything to take too seriously but at the same time, it’s worth noting that Juve have a bulk of the highest earners in the Serie A. Ronaldo might still be bringing in good value in this period, but what if Juventus were tempted to sell?
In terms of the transfer market, it would mean players with high wage-bills will be frowned upon a lot. For instance, Alexis Sanchez, currently on loan at Inter, is definitely on his way back to England and would most likely have to take a pay-cut if any club anywhere is to take him in their ranks.
The caliber of players coming to Serie A – One-stop destination?
Simply put, one destination here refers to Juventus. Without a doubt, the Bianconeri boast the strongest financial power in the country.
According to a forecast by Statista last month, the Serie A could lose as much as €650M in revenue if the current season is not completed in any circumstance at all, with a significant bulk of this coming from missed broadcasting revenues. A lot of clubs depend largely on these alongside match-day revenues (which have also not been available for a month and counting now).
Clubs like Juventus and Inter still get decent amounts from sponsorships and could be the ones with the most flexing power in the upcoming window.
A good example is Inter’s bad boy Mauro Icardi, currently on the fringes at Paris Saint Germain after reportedly revealing he is interested in a return back to the Serie A. Inter don’t want him back, so it’ll be safe to assume that only Juventus – who happen to be strongly linked to the Argentine – could confidently afford his wages amidst all the current issues.
If clubs will make any big signing at all – such as the arrivals of Matthijs De Ligt and Romelu Lukaku last summer – it’s more than likely that the Nerazzurri and the Bianconeri would boast a certain advantage over the rest of the pile.
Other leagues can capitalize – Perhaps some departures?
The current financial struggles are not limited to the Serie A alone but all over Europe. However, some leagues naturally still sit in a better position in terms of finance. The Premier League, for instance, normally gets almost double than what the Serie A commands in terms of broadcasting revenues. A number of clubs in England can surely still command big signings compared to the situation in Italy.
We’ve already heard reports of how player valuations in the Serie A have come down in this period. That might be something foreign clubs can capitalize on. In a bid to get back to stability, Italian teams might be tempted to sell some of their top names for a far lesser amount than they would normally go for.
Is this the time to go knocking on the door of that Serie A club? Maybe. Think of Barcelona, who have been flirting with Lautaro Martinez since the start of the season. For a good transfer fee, could Inter be tempted to sell him in the next summer window?
The same applies to Kalidou Koulibaly who has been on the radar of a host of clubs the past few seasons. The duo of Manchester City and Manchester United have circled strongly in recent time and now they might fancy a good time to intensify their efforts to sign the Senegalese center-half. Napoli might also see it as the ideal time to cash in on their highly-rated defensive colossus.
Bargain deals, swap deals, time to be “friendly?”
Although everything is up in the air, the transfer market never stops.
Even without knowing the exact dates that the window will be open or the financial condition of the clubs involved, experts believe that the next transfer session will mostly consist of player swaps.
The uncertainty and financial losses of clubs will mean that their spending power is reduced and they’ll be unable to outlay as much money on transfers. Given this situation, there might be a return to the days of exchanges in order to make sure that teams can still obtain their targets.
Given all the above potential issues, it’s time for Serie A clubs to get creative. A time to spend but, more importantly, to spend wisely. We can expect some clubs to take the route of spotting bargain/signings with potential rather than go all out for established, more expensive, names.
It’s also possible that some swap-deals could be on the cards, which could prove to be win-win situations for clubs in a bid to further save funds. In the past, it hasn’t been a strange sight in the Serie A to see clubs selling their best players, even to rival clubs. At this point, there could be even more of those as fellow clubs would be happy to financially “help” other teams by bringing some investment in terms of cash in exchange for a quality player.
Things could still pretty much take a different route. FIFA recently extended duration of player contracts as well as the summer transfer period, meaning that the upcoming transfer window in itself could be completely different from what we know as the norm.
More than likely, the Serie A is set to be in for a difficult summer session where clubs will have to go out of their way to keep things in balance. Decisions will be questioned, tricks will be pulled out of the hat, and sadly some tough compromises will have to come in play as well. In any case, all of the likely happenings lying in wait will make the upcoming transfer window one to anxiously watch out for…
Feature Photo: http://www.transfermarkt.com