AC Millan and Tottenham Hotspur: A tale of two transfer windows

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    The transfer window is one of the busiest times in football. The rumour mill is in full swing and fans, including myself, feverishly hit refresh on BBC sport or any other club pages anticipating news.

    I recall this time last year smiling from ear to ear when I saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Facebook post ‘Letting the world know’ that his next destination would be Manchester United. Obviously what ensued for United was an instant marketing opportunity in terms of shirt sales and, hopefully, goals.

    This statement is backed up by figures from SportsDirect which show that one of the most popular names – and therefore the name making the most sales – was in fact Zlatan.

    Another key benefit trades present is, of course, bringing skill and talent to the club. For example, N’Golo Kanté moved from Leicester City to Chelsea in the 2015-16 season and picked up player of the year. Yes, Kanté was already a success at Leicester, but to win the award twice surely says something about the quality of the player and the talent he brings to his club(s).

    But the subjects of this article are AC Millan and Tottenham Hotspur. You would be hard pressed to find a starker comparison. One has signed ten new players for a total cost of €215.3 million (A$322 million) and the other has been relatively quiet so far.

    The question I propose to you is simple: which side is right?

    First let’s take a look at AC Millan. I’m no football expert, but I hardly think signing ten new players, such as Mateo Musachio, André Silva, Fabio Borini, Hakan Calhanoglu and Leonardo Bonucci can be dismissed as simply building squad depth.

    A football club is ultimately a business concerned with profit and results. The players are the employees. I encourage you to imagine yourself in the position of a footballer currently at AC Millan. Got it? Good.

    Now, your manager has walked in and announced to the club that they have signed someone. No biggie, you think – but then as the days go on and more and more players are brought into the club, maybe even someone who plays in your position starts to wonder. Is the boss trying to get rid of you?

    One of two things is going to happen from here. Either you’ll think, “Well if he won’t play me, then I’ll leave for a club that understands me,” or you’ll say “Huh, looks like I’ve got some pressure to perform now”.

    (Image: John Walton/PA via AP)

    I believe this is the current situation at AC Millan, who presumably want more of the second option than the first. However, we know that footballers can at times behave like spoilt children, and there are numerous cases of players forcing leaves or better conditions due to a lack of playing time or a contract dispute.

    I bring to light AC Millan wonder-keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who only recently signed a five-year contract with a £44 million (A$72 million) buyout clause with an increase to £88 million (A$145 million) should the club reach the Champions League.

    It would be reasonable to assume that players for the club may want to move on following AC Millan’s spending spree, which could also push some squad players out of the club, including Carlos Bacca, who appears ready to move on presumably to make way for more fresh blood. Another key example is Hakan Calhanoglu, who looks to replace fan-favourite Keisuke Honda.

    The obvious reason Milan would spend so much is for results. The new club owners certainly would like to see the club succeed, and it would appear to them that the best way of doing so is with money – lots and lots of money.

    What impact does this have on squad chemistry? Whether people admit it or not, team chemistry does have an impact on success.

    Who could forget Leicester City’s dream campaign with a relatively small squad? Granted, numerous other factors make a title winning team, but the connections between the players and the sense of comradery formed in that team were unmistakable. Ranieri offering pizza to his players after a win and referring to the overall experience as “a good feeling between me and the owner, between me and the players and between me and the other staff. It was amazing”.

    No-one is saying that forming this squad connection at AC Milan would be impossible, but it may take time. New players need time to settle in, to understand the league – but it’s time Yonghong Li and the Rossoneri Sport Investment team cannot afford.

    In comparison, the Spurs have been quiet in the transfer window. With Daniel Levy citing the window as being “impossible for it to be sustainable,”. The crazy spending in the modern era of football in addition to Spurs’ new stadium costs means it makes sense for them to be silent in this window.

    (Image: AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

    Yes, I understand that Mauricio Pochettino has stated to expect some action, but I strongly believe that it will be nowhere near the level of the two Manchester sides and of Chelsea this season.

    So is this secretly brilliant?

    Time will tell if this ‘forced handicap’ on Spurs is actually an advantage. The squad already has some fantastic players in the form of Harry Kane and Dele Ali, with bookmarkers labeling them as 9/1 odds to win the title.

    Talented players adding to the established squad harmony could make them a threat – as we have seen with Leicester, a tight and well-balanced squad can lead to unimaginable heights.

    However, not signing players also puts Hotspur in a dangerous position. Should the squad find themselves in an injury crisis that leaves both Kane and Heung-min Son out of action, Pochettino may be limited in to what tactics he can employ based on which players are available.

    Overall a balance is needed if any of these sides should be successful. Signing too many players may lead to players being prematurely forced out of the club or upset by a perceived lack of faith shown by their manager. In contrast not signing players opens a club up to lack of squad depth and a crisis situation should there be one too many injuries.

    Of course time will tell if either of these teams has the right transfer philosophy, and while I understand comparing Serie A and the EPL is a lot like comparing apples and oranges, I believe that this is an interesting point of comparison nevertheless.

    May the best team win.

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