Football

Euro 2012 transfer pitfalls await

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Podolski is set to join Arsenal this summer (©GettyImages)
Podolski is set to join Arsenal this summer (©GettyImages).

Premier League clubs all understand that a transfer target's value increases hugely during an international tournament - but teams have once again failed to heed the lessons of previous transfer windows.

It's true that several of the league's top clubs have moved early to sign their principal targets, but Chelsea's Eden Hazard and Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa both miss this summer's competition.

Arsenal, in contrast, swooped before the season was over to secure the signature of Lukas Podolski, but the Gunners now risk paying an exorbitant premium for French midfielder Yann M'Vila. Even Podolski represents something of a risk, as the German international earned his move to Bayern Munich following a strong World Cup in 2006, but failed to make an impact.

But the difficulties work both ways. Their decision to delay Robin van Persie' contract extension, while obviously worrying for the club's fans, puts Arsenal in a much stronger position once the tournament is finished.

A successful Dutch side, spearheaded by a rampant van Persie, could add millions to his transfer fee, especially if Manchester City are still keen to sign. Elsewhere, clubs who have delayed, or been unable to complete their deals, risk their target capitalising on the international stage, and increasing both his transfer fee and wages.

There are countless examples from recent tournaments. These include Czech Republic's Karel Poborsky, who after a year with Slavia Prague, earned his move to Manchester United following a stellar Euro 96. But less than two years later, having made just 35 league appearances, Poborksy was quietly offloaded to Benfica.

Similarly, El-Hadj-Diouf, the reigning African Player of the Year, was snapped up by Liverpool for £10m after his performance against France - the unfancied Senegal recorded a memorable 1-0 win over the European superpower - but Diouf lasted only two years before moving to Bolton on loan..

The are numerous tales of transfer flops after international tournaments, as club's realised a one-month tournament hardly reflects a player's true ability. But club's see their target flourish on the big stage, and are willing to pay extra to land him. Fees also are often pumped up by the presence of several interested parties, each enamored with the star, and all happy to bid up his fee.

Even Sir Alex Ferguson has failed to ignore the transfer traps. Following Brazil's World Cup triumph in 2002, the shrewd United boss unwisely opened his chequebook to sign Kleberson. The Brazilian had starred as Ronaldo, Rivaldo and co romped to international success, but failed to reach the heights of the tournament once he arrived in Manchester.

For Kleberson, also see the winger Denilson - who Real Betis paid a world record transfer fee for after the 1998 World Cup - and Liverpool's ill-fated signing of another Senegal star, Salif Diao.

Each tournament, a breakout player takes the competition by storm, jumping from relative unknown to household name. The trick for managers is to predict who will make the jump for obscurity.

Manchester United have reportedly already had a go this summer. Ferguson is believed to be close to clinching the signing of Borussia Dortmund's top scorer, Robert Lewandowski, after the Poles coach Franciszek Smuda confirmed United were about to seal the deal.

The Polish frontman is something of an unknown quality in England, but 22 league goals in the Bundesliga this season demonstrates his pedigree. A couple of smart goals in Euro 2012 and Lewandowski's value would skyrocket. But, by striking just before the Polish team kick-off, United minimise some of the risk associated with buying the player, and likely secure him for a much reduced price.

It's clear then, that the transfer market does operate on a rational basis. Managers, scouts, and fans are all guilty of judging players based on their most recent performance. The short-term focus necessitated by the relentless demands for immediate success means that managers often make rash decisions.

Never is this more evident than after international tournaments. There is no real logic to signing a player based on a handful of impressive games, but football's leadership continue to walk blindly into the same transfer disasters.

This summer has seen the top clubs move early, and some have secured their principal targets well before a ball has been kicked. But it is almost a certainty that one of the title challengers will panic and pay over the odds. It may be completely illogical, but football itself is an irrational game.

Topics:
Arsenal
Internationals
Football
Manchester City
Chelsea
Manchester United
Liverpool
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