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In years to come people will look back on the summer transfer window of 2017 and pinpoint it as the period which kickstarted the new era of transfers.
Neymar moved to Paris Saint-Germain to become the first £100million player in world football and pandemonium followed. The Parisians parted with £198million to pry the Brazilian away from Barcelona, who could do nothing about it.
The 25-year-old showman had a release clause which, when he signed the contract with the La Liga side, looked ridiculous on paper. But with more money being pumped into the game every year and FFP rules becoming a little more relaxed, clubs can afford to part with close to £200million for one of the most marketable footballers on the planet.
Barcelona, armed with the Neymar money, attempted to go on a shopping spree. However, because every man and their dog knew the La Liga giants had money to burn they all added a premium to their players. In the end a package totalling £135million was enough to convince Borussia Dortmund to sell Ousmane Dembélé.
The winger had gone on strike to force through a move yet this didn’t impact his price. Barca still had to pay over the odds to bring him to the Nou Camp. Player power was on the wane and selling clubs had newfound resilience.
PSG, not to be outdone, put together a package to bring teenage sensation Kylian Mbappé to the Parc des Princes. Initially on loan, the deal will be made permanent next summer with Mbappé’s boyhood club paying £166million for his services.
And these were just the completed deals. Barça had three bids rejected for Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho – the latest reported to be in the region of £130million. The Reds themselves had bids of £66million and £72million rejected for Naby Keïta and Thomas Lemar respectively.
Furthermore, if reports are to be believed, Jürgen Klopp had set aside £80million to bring Virgil van Dijk to Anfield had Southampton been willing to do business.
Arsenal rejected a £60million bid for Alexis Sánchez even though the Chilean attacker has just 10-months remaining on his current deal. However, when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is going for £40million you can understand why the Gunners rejected the Sanchez offer. It’s below market value.
Clubs were attempting to spend obscene amounts of money but weren’t able to get the players they wanted in, even with the help of the players who were publicly agitating for a move. It was taking the “every player has a price” sentiment to the extreme.
There was now so much money in the game that clubs didn’t have to sell a player, even if a £100million bid arrived. Despite the transfer window closing less than a fortnight ago, the effect of this is already evident.
Reports emerged recently to reveal Emre Can, whose contract expires in July, was stalling on putting pen to paper on a new deal because Liverpool were refusing to insert a release clause into his deal.
The German midfielder is free to talk to clubs in January and sign a pre-contractual agreement. Yet those on Merseyside are refusing to negotiate a release clause into his deal which would assure them profit on the £10million they paid for the 23-year-old back in 2014.
It's an admirable stance, and it's one they adopted during negotiations with Coutinho. It worked then but that was before transfer valuations sky rocketed and there was a chance a reasonable deal could be negotiated.
Now that's a thing of the past you can be assured that players and agents will want release clauses added into deals during contract negotiations.
Failure to agree will see these players simply run down their contract and leave on a free transfer, ensuring they get a big payday because there's no transfer fee involved.
This could well be the start of football slowly adopting a basketball style approach. It will no longer be about transfer fees and everything to do with contracts.
Arsenal manager Arsené Wenger touched upon this recently. He believes that more players will see out their contracts at their clubs in the future due to the spiralling transfer fees and wages.
“In the future, I think you will see more often players going to the end of their contracts,” he said.
“Why? Because transfers are becoming so high even for normal players that you will see more players going to the end of their contracts because no-one is going to want to pay what is demanded.
“I'm convinced in the next 10 years that will become usual.”
In theory clubs will be leasing players as opposed to buying them. It strips away the power the clubs have but it's a move which prevents the summer of 2017 being repeated.
It should remove the uncertainty and disruption the transfer window brings.
Players won't be requesting transfers on the eve of the season kicking off. They won't be sitting out of pre-season tours after their heads have been turned by another club. Teams will go into the summer knowing what they need to do in the market.
Because clubs know these players are guaranteed to be with them for the length of their contract and it enables managers, directors of football and owners to plan more effectively and efficiently.
Clubs may get on side with this change when they realise the marketability this new system has. When LeBron James turned his contract signing into a TV event it was a huge success, with 13 million people watching ‘The Decision'. Imagine the media attention Mbappé and Dembélé would get five years down the line if they decided to reveal their next move live on television.
It would be naive to say everybody would be a winner in this but players and clubs get security and consistency. This should result in them playing their best football.
Fans get to see their clubs, who wouldn't have been able to afford these players in the past, bring in big names now they can afford improved wages and sponsors get more publicity which enables them to pump even more money into the game.