Anthony Evgenidis

Ah, the off-season. It’s the time of the year where football players have time off and agents are kicking into their version of the “playoffs.” The names are endless ranging from “front pages gone wild”, to the “gossip window” and my personal favourite – the “silly season”. Summer is in full swing and for players that can only mean more beaches, women, parties and change of address.

The off-season is a season in and of itself and when you think about all the activity that takes place it is quite extraordinary what actually gets done. Player signings and presentations combined with airport mob scenes are happening events. The tabloids and paparazzi drool at all the off-the-field player “activity”. Combine that with all the yachts, exotic locations, tan/burn lines and you have a storyline unlike any other. The off-season has it all and some would argue is just as entertaining as the season itself.   

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid transfer and presentation set Madrid in full flight madness, with an audience of approximately 80,000 in the Bernabeu. That attendance figure and theatre is nothing to sneeze at. It goes without saying that the extravagant cars and legend Alfredo Di Stefano are always a treat for football fans to feast on. The mob scenes across European airports upon marquee players’ arrival have become the signature moment for teams’ ambitions.

Last year we had the Ronaldo-Madrid soap opera captivating all of Europe after the Champions League final. Newspapers in Spain claiming the player had signed an agreement to join the club and going so far as to show the vehicle with which he would be driven to the stadium. Unbelievable denials and messages through the press took place between Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon and Manchester United. In the end Ronaldo stayed but little did everyone know the future transfer arrangement rumours were not pure fantasy after all. The £80M paid upfront for Ronaldo made history; this of course coming hot on the heels of a more “subtle” £56M a few days earlier for Kaka. Football Manager Players were weeping across the globe at the sight and thought of such a fantasy week.  

The “Lover boys” league kicks into full high gear and the “competition” heats up exponentially. Wags, hotties, babes, birds, ladies, we have seen their pictures at striking locations. We all hear whispers during the season about the off-the-field activities.

The following names are almost certainly guaranteed a spot on the off-season first-team and in no particular order: Cristiano Ronaldo, Christian “Bobo” Vieri, Francesco Totti, Ronaldo, Antonio Cassano, Frank Lampard and Ronaldinho. Charm, physique, charisma, prestige, talent, they’ve got loads of it and the tabloids simply cannot get enough of their “form”.

Speaking of tabloids, the newspapers aren’t exactly immune to a little innocent gossip and speculation themselves. You can’t help but love the front page battle between newspapers during the summer. Phrases such as “sources close to the situation”, “there are strong indications” and “it’s a done deal” are but a few of the classic lines you can expect to read. Big fat titled names and coloured sections of the newspaper that appear to be an NFL play call sheet.

You just never know what you are going to read or find in the papers day in and day out. If you try and keep track of the number of players linked with a particular club you would easily reach a hundred or so. In fact, the best advertisement for the front page speculation mirrors that of an alcoholic beverage. Absolute nonsense “strongly” comes to mind and should definitely be placed on every front page as a warning. Each day papers and reporters are fighting it out to break a story first, and upon news surfacing you hear another 50 or so versions of the truth.

July and August are the months where the transfer window officially starts to heat up. Quite literally, players and teams alike are flying all over the place from region to region whether it be Asia, Europe or North America. Teams are doing their pre-season tours where they make tons of money from sponsors and market their global brand i.e. Manchester United in Asia. The business part of the year does not get the credit or status that it truly deserves, and it could be argued that titles have been won or lost before a single ball was ever kicked. Teams addressing glaring needs in their squad, or not attending to squad depth for injury scenarios are but a few examples of the decision making needed. Teams overspending on one or more players can definitely limit their budget and signing options for years to come. Failed big name signings are essentially cancerous cells, because no-one wants any part of them once their true value and ability has been established.

Expectations are generated with certain signings and managerial appointments. This summer Manchester City has been the team to grab Europe’s attention as a rising force. Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, and Gareth Barry are some landmark signings made by the mid-table club. Bids for players the calibre of John Terry and Kaka are clear indicators of grand intent and need be taken seriously. Such actions encourage fans to cast aside their doubts and reinvigorate their support via tickets and shirt sales.

All in all, the off-season can catapult a player or team overnight into a different situation than previously imagined. A lot of momentum can swing one way or another, and it has been well documented over the years that you cannot discount the improbable. In fact, at times it seems as if that has become the norm and the regular season is the downtime for the off-season. So this summer remember, hope springs eternal and your club has an opportunity to make a big splash in the transfer window that will either make you shout for joy or cry for help.

When the transfer window formally closes and 1st September rolls around, just remember there is an entire football season to be played. That nothing has been won or lost yet, even if the experts and your heart and mind tell you otherwise. 

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