How Long Do Big-Fee Transfers Take to Jell Tactically with Their New Team?
How long does it take for a big-name transfer to settle in a new team? The short answer is: It varies.
By looking at case studies for several players and managers, let's see what factors influence a new signing's adjustment to new surroundings.
World football has seen many transfers create huge impacts with clubs, but the sport has also witnessed some almighty flops.
Here's a look at why players might bottle it.
Factors to Consider
The first thing fans and pundits check when assessing a transfer is the price.
"How much was he? That seems a bit much. Nah, he's worth every penny! I'll reserve judgment 'till he plays a few games."
Every signing divides opinion, and many base their initial judgment on the fee a club has parted with. Is that fair? To a certain extent, it's not. But the real matter is the player's mentality.
If a man can't hack the pressure of the transfer fee or high expectation, can't convert when the fans hold their breath or doesn't bust a lung when the team needs it most, he's going to harm his reputation.
Manager and Colleagues
If a player is reunited with a manager, the trust is already there. That immediate vote of confidence is enough to see the new recruit flourish. Yet if the support isn't given, the weak may fall.
Similarly, if a player links up with a former colleague, the battle to achieve dressing room harmony becomes that much easier.
The key variable, in my opinion, is the formation and style of play. What position does the new man prefer, will you play him there, and how will he fare with the tempo of your game?
This becomes even more important should a player arrive from overseas.
Fans play a key part in a new signing's adaption period. If the fans take to him, the player gets more of a chance to impress and may well excel.
If the fans turn on him, the form will suffer badly—especially if he cost a bomb.
Case Study: Andriy Shevchenko
Take £30.8 million man Andriy Shevchenko, for example, a signing widely referred to when discussing the biggest flops in world football history.
Here's Sheva discussing his time at Stamford Bridge in The People:
I left Milan when I was nearly 30 years old, and I had won everything. When I arrived at Chelsea, everyone expected me to repeat the same performances. But that was impossible. I suffered many injuries and many other things.
Relations were fine between Didier Drogba and me and they still are today. The problem was that Chelsea rarely wanted to play with two strikers.
Right from the start, this felt like a signing made above then-manager Jose Mourinho's head.
Peter Kenyon went on record to express his admiration for the striker, and Roman Abramovich reportedly offered Hernan Crespo plus cash to secure the Ukrainian goal machine (via BBC Sport.)
As the Rossoneri legend suggests, Mourinho only played with one striker. With Drogba in town and in form, the Portuguese tactician leaned on his Ivorian forward, leaving Shevchenko feeling unloved, overpriced and underused.
By Sheva's own admission, he was surprised that the Blues paid the money to land him. He was almost 30—why break the British transfer record for a player this age?
Shevchenko clearly didn't feel entirely confident with the move despite settling in well in London, and didn't play regularly enough to pick up any kind of form himself.
To make matters worse, when he did come on, the fans expected fireworks. That's no fault to the fans, but a management issue higher up.
Issue: Bought for a huge price, no one ever instilled any confidence into the striker. He had no run of games, was a clear second choice and the player himself was probably still pinching himself.
Case Study: Joe Allen
The case of Joe Allen provides a brilliant contemporary example of a player slotting in to his new club with ease.
Under Brendan Rodgers at Swansea City, Allen was a pivotal cog in the passing machine residing at the Liberty Stadium, and the Ulsterman held no doubts about his influence.
He managed a staggering 91.2 percent pass-completion rate (1,985 of 2,258) throughout last season in the Premier League and averaged 60.5 passes per game.
It took a whopping £15 million, but as the Welshman told SportsMole, he is now the signal controller for the Reds midfield.
The idea is to control football matches and Liverpool should be doing that.
The ability and quality in the team suggest we should be able to. That's the most positive and beneficial way of playing football and winning games.
Sunderland was a good example of being courageous and coming away from home and controlling the match in terms of possession. It's a sign of things to come.
This tells you everything you need to know: Allen is already speaking for the team. Rodgers has placed a responsibility, a trust on his shoulders like he did in Wales and he's responding to it.
Has his role changed with his new club? Not even slightly. It's the same pass-oriented system, the same shape. Allen has literally swapped pitches.
He's up to a 93-percent pass-completion rate, averaging 75.3 passes per game and even managed a 100 percent completion rate in the first half of Liverpool vs. Manchester City.
Verdict: This is how you handle a big-money transfer. Instill faith, make them comfortable. Allen benefits from linking up with the same manager and system, but Rodgers' support should not be underestimated.
Case Study: James Milner
Whereas Joe Allen swapped Swansea for Liverpool while retaining the same role, responsibility and position, James Milner can only wish his fairy-tale move was even remotely similar.
Here, the England international outlines his initial thoughts to The Telegraph following a £24 million move from Aston Villa to Manchester City in 2010.
Wherever the manager wants me to play, I'll do it to the best of my ability.
But I enjoy playing in the middle. That's probably my best position and where I've shown by best form over the past 18 months.
I've been most creative and scored goals from there and I've enjoyed it immensely.
I think that's where the boss has signed me to play, but if he asks me to play anywhere else I'll do what is best for the team.”
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but we can safely say Milner has never enjoyed a consistent run in the side at central midfield. He's played there, sure, but in truth his versatility is his own downfall.
He is Roberto Mancini's utility player—he does the boss' bidding, no questions, but it's a disadvantage to him.
His debut for the Citizens saw him turn out on the right wing, but he hadn't played there for more than 12 months. Martin O'Neill utilized him as a box-to-box central midfielder once Gareth Barry had left Aston Villa, so to be pushed out onto the right-hand side was uncomfortable for him.
Issue: Signed for a high price, played out of position. Milner's confidence dipped (temporarily) and it harmed his entire first season for both club and country.
Case Study: Christian Benteke
Aston Villa's new striker Christian Benteke is a wonderful example of what fans can do for a player's confidence and early form.
Aside from Bleacher Report's Allan Jiang, I don't know anyone who had heard of this man before joining the Midlands club in a £7 million deal.
The hype surrounding the new man was unreal amongst Villans, and the Belgian international told AVFC.co.uk that he did his homework on the club by "checking them out on the Internet."
99 percent of Villa Park had never seen the man play before he came on as a substitute against Swansea, but the applause was as raucous as the stadium has experienced in recent years.
Twitter is a powerful tool, and with just two weeks of employment in B6 under his belt, Benteke is aleady the subject of a #Bentekefacts campaign. Villa fans are currently trying to liken their Belgian favourite to Chuck Norris.
"Benteke doesn’t call the wrong number. You answer the wrong phone."
"When Benteke goes swimming, he doesn’t get wet, the water gets Benteke."
Whether the player reads this is a different question, but the cult-hero status this relative unknown is enjoying right now is just incredible.
Twenty days as a Villa player, 18 minutes on the pitch, one goal and already he's everyone's favourite player.
Verdict: We still don't know if he's actually any good (he hasn't played 90 minutes,) but Villa fans absolutely adore the man. If he goes on to have a successful career with the claret and blue side, it's arguable that this adulation will be a major factor.
The short answer on the introduction (it varies) is still the right answer, but the wide range of factors that are called into play are astounding.
A world-class player performs poorly, but an unheard-of player instantly attains cult-hero status. One good player performs exactly the same due to his positional similarity, but another good player underperforms when his position is changed.
By no means are these four case studies a blueprint that you could follow to the letter and use to accurately predict the settling-in period for the next expensive transfer.
But you can draw one definitive conclusion: Players are fragile like everyone else.
All of these factors and issues can be narrowed down to how a player is treated. Everyone just wants to feel comfortable. Players know how much they cost, they know what the fans think of them and, yes, they will be perturbed by a culture shock or different language.