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Such is the enormity of the football transfer market; it would seem we are now unshockable when players change hands for astronomical prices and hearing news of signings worth tens-of-millions of pounds will no longer stop us in our tracks or make us spit out our tea in comical fashion.
But the heightened sense of anticipation each time the transfer window slams shut suggests we still love to talk about signings, prospective, confirmed or otherwise in the same way that British people love to talk about the weather.
Without the transfer market and the whole circus that surrounds it, we would be stuck for anything to talk about at work, in the pub, on the train, pretty much anywhere – apart from the weather of course.
But where did this all begin? How long have clubs been trading their best assets in return for money, other players and even in some cases tracksuits?
Surely we haven’t always looked to the world of football business to stimulate our working day chit-chat or liven up our daily commute?
Well to be honest, yes we have, and from the late 1800s right up to the present day there’s nothing we like more than discussing stories of record signings and dark dealings in the transfer market when we get the chance.
Players changing hands for money was still relatively unheard of some 120 years ago, but when Willie Groves’ moved to Aston Villa from West Brom in 1893 for an eye-watering £100 fee things were about to change forever.
And when Jack Southworth was transferred from Everton for £400 several months later the way players moved from club-to-club would never be the same again.
Southworth was a star striker for Rovers and had helped them win the FA Cup final in both 1890 and 1891, but after his move he went on to score an amazing 36 goals in 31 games for his new club in the 1893-94 season, but not everyone was happy.
Such was the outcry that The Football Association needed to do something and fast, and so regualtions were introduced that meant all professional players were required to register annually with the FA.
This meant no player was allowed to play until he was registered, nor was he free to change clubs during the same season without the FA's permission. The Football League then brought in regulations that stipulated any professional player who wished to move on had to obtain the permission of the club he was currently playing for.
And in a move that is hard to comprehend in the modern post-Bosman era, they also insisted that once signed, a player was tied to his team for as long as the club wanted him.
Basically if a player refused to sign a new contract at the beginning of the season, he could not sign for no one else unless the club gave permission – and so, what we know now as the transfer market was born.
But these new regulations did little to prevent clubs of the time going out and buying the best on the market in order to better themselves and increase their chances of success.
One journalist described the transfer of Common as “flesh and blood for sale”. While another wrote: “We are tempted to wonder whether Association football players will eventually rival thoroughbred yearling racehorses in the market?”
Transfer fees steadily increased throughout the 20th century, despite something of a slump during the inter-war years, but it was the 1960s and 1970s that saw a real acceleration in prices that reflected the ambitions of clubs not only domestically, but in European competitions too.
When Denis law returned to England from Italian club Torino, with Manchester United paying £115,000 it was the first six-figure fee paid by a British club in a sign of things to come as the swinging sixties gave way to the era of the 1970s superstar.
But not before the transfer record was twice broken by the same man when Allan Clarke went for £150,000 in a move from Fulham to Leicester in 1968, and then £165,000 when he went to Leeds United the following year.
As it turned out the 1970s would provide the back-drop to one of the most turbulent times in Britain since the end of World War 2 as national strikes, increasing inflation and high unemployment threatened to bring the country to its knees.
And a rise in crowd violence at grounds around the country showed even the national game was not immune from social upheaval. But you wouldn’t have thought so looking at some of the moves in the transfer market in that decade.
But if Kevin Keegan’s transfer to Hamburg from all-conquering Liverpool in 1977 looked like the start of an exodus of the country’s top talent to the continent, it wouldn’t be long before a couple of high-profile market moves that would demonstrate just how powerful the British game still was.
Early in 1979 the brash and flamboyant West Bromwich Albion Manager Ron Atkinson lived up to his reputation by shelling out £500,000 for David Mills from Middlesbrough, but the ink on the cheque had barely dried before the signing would be eclipsed by a transfer that would make both front and back page headlines.
In an era before 24 hour news channels the image of Brian Clough turning up late for a press conference to announce the signing of midfielder Trevor Francis from Birmingham City for £1million complete with red sports coat and squash racket was one of the most striking of the time.
Clough claimed that he wanted to keep the fee down to £1 below the £1m mark at £999,999 so the fee did not go to the player's head, but once VAT and other fees had been added it added up to £1.18m. Although Forest lifted the European Cup two years running, whether it was money well spent or not certainly divided opinion.
The Francis transfer soon paved the way for several million pound plus signings the following year, with Steve Daley leaving Wolves for Manchester City while his former side snapped-up Andy Gray from Villa.
The arrival of the 1980s eventually saw something of a slowdown as – following the ban on English teams competing in European competitions after the Heysel Stadium tragedy of 1985 – the very best players in the country looked to ply their trade in foreign climes.
Yet it was in the 80s that Bryan Robson became the most expensive player in the country at the time when he was signed by the aforementioned Ron Atkinson for Manchester United from his old club West Brom for £1.5million in 1981.
And high profile signings such as Paul Gascoigne from Newcastle to Spurs for £2.2million and Tony Cottee to Everton from West Ham, also for £2.2million, proved it wasn’t all bad news, while in stark contrast this was also the decade that a young Tony Cascarino was being signed by hard-up Gillingham for a new set of training kit.
But if there was a period in the British game that could be seen as the pre-curser to the modern day mega-million-pound merry-go-round that we have become used to today the 1990s was that turning point.
The lifting of the post-Heysel ban on playing in European competitions, combined with the advent of the brand new Premier League and hugely inflated television revenue saw a new generation of big, big spenders come to the table.
Blackburn Rovers signed Alan Shearer for £3.5million in 1992 in a move that would ultimately win them their first league title in some 80 years, while striker Andy Cole joined Manchester United from Newcastle for £7m in January 1995.
‘Magpies’ boss Kevin Keegan faced the wrath of fans over the departure of a man who had scored 55 goals in 77 league games to a United side who would ultimately snatch the league title from them the following season.
But just a year later Keegan signed Old Trafford target Alan Shearer from Blackburn for £15m leading to wild scenes of celebration. “If someone is crazy enough to spend that type of money that's their problem,” Shearer would tell the BBC.
Meanwhile, down the road in Teesside newly promoted Middlesbrough were spending their new-found riches on bringing-in international superstars such as Fabrizio Ravenelli from Juventus while Juninho arrived from South American side São Paulo.
In the years since we’ve seen no let-up in the amount of money changing hands and the number of clubs wanting to get involved as ever-increasing TV deals and the global popularity of the Premier League has led to a bunch of clubs looking to spend their hard-earned cash.
And those with what could be considered as “new money,” following foreign investment from wealthy backers, have only helped to drive-up the prices that British clubs are willing to pay.
Whereas at the beginning of the century it was Manchester United spending record amounts on the likes of Rio Ferdinand (£29.1million from Everton) we are now seeing new key-players in the market not afraid to spend whatever it takes to get their man.
When Chelsea signed Andriy Shevchenko for £30million it was a clear sign that the club’s new Russian owner was about to flex his financial muscles, a move backed-up by the record signing in January 2011 of Spanish striker Fernando Torres from Liverpool for £50million.
Now, of course, there’s the little matter of Manchester City’s spending power and their willingness to pay Pep Guardiola a reported £20 million a year to no doubt finalise another batch of record breaking deals in a statement of intent of the highest proportions.
Throw-in a new TV rights deal, to the value of £5billion, and it’s fair to say that – like it or hate it – the transfer market in this country is as strong as it’s ever been, and so is our fascination with everything that surrounds it.