Diego Forlan: Transfer deadline day can rejuvenate a player’s career or see them stagnate

Our columnist gives us a unique insight on what it is like for a player as the deadline looms.
David Luiz made a surprise move back to Chelsea, the club he left two years ago to join Paris Saint-Germain, before the close of the 2016 summer transfer window. Martin Bureau / AFP
David Luiz made a surprise move back to Chelsea, the club he left two years ago to join Paris Saint-Germain, before the close of the 2016 summer transfer window. Martin Bureau / AFP

Diego Forlan writes a weekly column for The National, appearing each Friday. The former Manchester United, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid striker has been the top scorer in Europe twice and won the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup. Forlan’s column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten.

The transfer window may have closed on Wednesday for European clubs but it has repercussions around the world. On Tuesday, the captain of Penarol, Maxi Olivera, walked back into the dressing room and took a phone call in front of his teammates. A few minutes later, he ended the call and announced “I’m leaving”. They thought he was joking. He wasn’t. He needed to get his passport and essentials quickly, because he was leaving for Italy to sign for Fiorentina.

See also:

• Greg Lea: 10 most important Premier League transfers this summer

• Transfer deadline day: David Luiz’s Chelsea return tip Premier League spending over £1 billion

He is a good player, a full-back who can also play in midfield. He was needed to replace Marcos Alonso, who was sold to Chelsea in a €27 million (Dh111m) deal. Olivera is 24 and this is his chance to play in a top European league. Though Penarol fans will be frustrated that he is going, they know how it is. In an ideal world, all the best Uruguayan players would play in Uruguay and we would have an even stronger league, but when you are a professional footballer you have to do what is best for you and your family. Your career is a short one and the level is higher in Europe. There is more money too.

I was delighted when I got my move to Europe with Manchester United, but I was also pleased that I could play professional football in Uruguay with my childhood team, Penarol. One problem we have in Uruguay now is some of the best players are leaving at 16, 17 and 18 years old. That is sad, but then I also left early when I was offered a chance to play with Independiente in Argentina.

The transfer deadline day is exciting for fans, a shot of adrenalin. How many Chelsea fans thought that David Luiz was coming back to them because there was almost no speculation?

There is also a chance to see if the speculation linking players to club has any substance. Sometimes the clubs say nothing publicly until the last minute. Look at my old Atletico Madrid teammate David de Gea a year ago. He was going back to Madrid, this time to Real, until a fax machine broke down, scuppering the deal at the last minute. At least that is one version of the truth. There tends to be several others surrounding transfers that fall through.

As a player, you usually know what is happening. It is rare for a player to be in Olivera’s situation, where everything seems to happen at the last minute. When you are going to move clubs, you tend to know about it. Firstly, you must want to leave and your club must be willing to sell you. Then you must respect the manager of the club who wants you. There are negotiations to be sorted out, with salary and the length of contract, too. An agent usually does all that.

Even then, so many things can change in a short period. The De Gea transfer didn’t go through, Keylor Navas got his chance to be Real Madrid goalkeeper and he did really well. Now, Madrid are quite happy with Navas. Football is full of surprises.

As a player, you usually know where you stand at a club and whether you feature in the manager’s plans. If you do and you are at a big club, then the prospect of better players arriving can only be a positive thing as it will make your team stronger.

There is also the prospect of losing players just before the window closes. When I was at Inter Milan we lost Thiago Motta to Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the January 2012 transfer window. That was tough because he was such an important player.

Towards the end of the 2004 summer window, I knew that I had to leave Manchester United. I was 25, an age when you need to play and United were playing a system with one striker, with Ruud van Nistelrooy preferred for the role. There was me, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Louis Saha and Alan Smith competing for one place.

I ended up moving to Villarreal. I was told that I would play and the move added up in other ways. Living by the beach in Spain wasn’t a bad idea, either. I had also waited for the season to start, to see if I would be featuring more at United. When that didn’t happen, I was certain that I needed to go. Alex Ferguson wanted me to stay, but he used to be a footballer too and knew that footballers wanted to play football. I made the right move.

Not every player leaves. Bastian Schweinsteiger has stayed at United, despite not being in Jose Mourinho’s plans. It is a difficult situation for all parties. United gave him a big contract when he joined and he is only honouring that, yet United will see it that they are paying a lot of money to a player who doesn’t play.

The choice is with Schweinsteiger, who has had a superb career. Football can change quickly, there is no logic sometimes and maybe he thinks he will get a chance. Or maybe he will wait five months until the January window and see what happens, perhaps with a different perspective.

There is another side to transfer deals. Fans just see names and clubs, but it’s not fantasy football. Transfers involve real people, usually with a partner and often with children. They all need to be consulted too. Not that anyone really thinks about that when they are happy that their club has just signed a new player.


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Published: September 1, 2016 04:00 AM


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