Hulk and Axel Witsel Transfers Show Need for a Shared European Transfer Window

Andrew Jordan@@Andrew_JordanSenior Writer ISeptember 4, 2012

PORTO, PORTUGAL - AUGUST 25:  Hulk of FC Porto looks on during the Liga Zon Sagres match between FC Porto and Vitoria Guimaraes at Estadio do Dragao on August 25, 2012 in Porto, Portugal.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

For many European clubs, deadline day was filled with late transfers and organized chaos across the spectrum. Altogether, Premier League clubs spent a reported £490 million this summer, according to the BBC.

There were other big transfers that occurred, including Bayern Munich spending a Bundesliga record €40 million on Spanish phenom Javi Martinez.

With the completion of the English, German, Spanish, Italian and Scottish transfer windows on Aug. 31, it appeared that for at least three months, money would no longer be splashed around.

After all, almost all transfer speculation dies with the transfer window, except with some free agents like Michael Owen.

But Monday, news broke from Russia that Zenit St. Petersburg bought Porto striker Hulk and Benfica midfielder Axel Witsel in a combined €80 million move. Though Zenit had already watched an earlier bid for Hulk get shot down, this move was still surprising since it was presumed that Hulk would be sold to Chelsea.

Zenit were not the only club to announce a major transfer yesterday. Fellow Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala, who last year bought Samuel Eto'o and made him one of the richest players in the world, made a notable purchase of their own when they bought Real Madrid midfielder Lassana Diarra.

In Turkey, Fenerbahce also declared a transfer, with Portuguese midfielder Raul Meireles joining his former Liverpool teammate, Dirk Kuyt, at the club.

Though clubs in Russia and Turkey are currently allowed to make transfers at this time, something has to be done in order to help fix what is becoming an expanding loophole in the transfer market.

The fact that clubs can buy players from each other following the closure of their own transfer window hurts the clubs that are giving up their players. Though they get additional transfer funds, they do not have the opportunity to use those funds for months.

In Portugal, both Benfica and Porto are hurt because they each gave up outstanding players. Even though clubs ultimately make the final decisions when selling players, these two clubs will have to suffer until January, when they can use those funds.

It also hurts both clubs, considering they both qualified for this seasons' Champions League group stage, with Porto being one of the top-eight seeds in the tournament.

So, the acquisitions of these two stars will allow Zenit to all but secure a spot in the round of 16, considering AC Milan are the only other "strong" club in their group.

According to the EFPL's website, there are only two places in which the transfer market is open as of Sept. 4: France and Russia. Though France's transfer window ends later today, the Russian window doesn't end until Sept. 6, a full week after the closure of many notable European markets.

With several Russian clubs possessing the money that many clubs could only dream of, they are allowed to exploit the system to their advantage. And many Western European sides comply.

In the case of Porto, they initially rejected a €50 million bid from Zenit for Hulk on Aug. 29, just two days before the close of most European transfer windows. But according to Reuters, Zenit bought both Hulk and Witsel for €40 million each.

What probably happened was that Porto used the "supposed" €50 million bid as a bargaining chip with clubs like Chelsea, hoping that they would spend even more money to land the Brazilian. But once the English window closed, Zenit effectively had a monopoly on the purchase of Hulk.

Though Porto should have kept the earlier price that they claimed Zenit attempted to use on the striker, it is feasible to speculate that a deal was probably confirmed weeks ago that Hulk would be bought for €40 million. When you also consider that Witsel was purchased for the same price, Zenit probably did the same with Benfica.

Following the closure of the French market for two days, Russian clubs will be the only European sides that can purchase players.

But even with the French clock open, the likes of Paris Saint-Germain are still able to purchase players. In the past two years, PSG have made 10 percent of the richest transfers in football history by buying Javier Pastore, Lucas and Thiago Silva for a combined €105 million.

With leagues like France and Russia adding owners who are among the wealthiest people in the world, creating a shared European transfer window is needed more than ever. 

If we were just using the transfer window that the majority of Europe does for the summer that lasts from the beginning of July until the end of August, it would give each club two months to make most of their transfers. It would be fair for clubs that play their fixtures on an August-through-May timetable, along with a timetable that lasts from March until November-December.

A universal winter transfer window could also exist through the month of January, which is when most clubs on an August-through-May timetable are on winter break.

By no means should this change the transfer windows for leagues outside of Europe. The primary reason why a universal European transfer window needs to exist is to make sure that some form of equality remains in the European game.

After all, with increased networking in Europe and each league finding a new way to get stronger, a shared timetable for transfers would allow for each European league to fight on a more even playing surface.


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