Talk of transfers galore - but deals will have to wait (Feature)
By Andy Goldberg and Michael Rossmann Jun 29, 2010, 12:14 GMT
Port Elizabeth, South Africa - Rumours of transfers at this World Cup have been as incessant as the drone of vuvuzelas. But despite one exception, actual deals have been as rare as Italian goals.
Real Madrid did announce a 25-million-euro (31 million dollars) deal to buy Argentine winger Angel Di Maria from Benfica. But that's the only confirmed deal so far amid a swirl of rumour and speculation that has linked winger Juan Mata with Barcelona, US striker Landon Donovan with Manchester City, and Uruguayan sensation Luis Suarez with any number of top clubs.
The all-talk, no action paradigm is likely to continue at least till the end of the World Cup, says scout Ori Cooper. Though there is no doubt that the premier football tournament in the world is also its greatest showcase for talent, the realities of the transfer market make it difficult to do any quick business, he explains.
Cooper is the director of scouting for IMScouting.com, which he claims is the world's largest scouting company. Employing more than 60 scouts worldwide, it has contracts with over 180 clubs - ranging from semi-professional outfits in Scandinavia to top level clubs like Bolton Wanderers in England and Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen in Germany.
'It is difficult to close deals now, people are starting negotiations but not closing deals,' he says. 'Players are involved in the World Cup, others have gone on holiday, people are in South Africa. But in the week after the World Cup you will see at least 15 players change clubs,' he predicts.
The World Cup, he says, is not the place to trade established big name players. 'Everyone knows what they can do, the World Cup doesn't teach us anything about them.'
It's for players just below this level that the tournament can change everything. 'The World Cup gives a stage to turn from a good prospect to the real thing at the top level,' he says.
He mentions names like Ghana midfielder Anthony Annan, 23, who has played for Norwegian club Rosenborg for two seasons, but whose strong showings in propelling Ghana to the quarter-finals is likely to earn him a move to a top level club.
'There are not a lot of new names at this World Cup,' Cooper says. 'Most were very familiar to the scouts, if not to the public. No-one really popped out of nowhere.'
'Annan was well known before, but people were not sure - for these kind of players the World Cup is the best - they can prove themselves at this level of competition.'
Even Uruguay's Luis Suarez falls into this category. 'He played for Ajax but it's easy to score goals in the Dutch league,' says Cooper. 'Scouts can now see him play at another level.' The same goes for Germany's new wunderkind, Mesut Oezil who always impressed for Werder Bremen but has now proved he is world class.
The World Cup is also a useful showcase for players slightly lower down the value chain. Cooper mentions South African midfielder Reneilwe Letsholonyane as a player who is attracting interest from lower level clubs in average leagues like Greece, Israel and Romania after performing well for his country.
The lack of transfer deals doesn't mean that player agents are spending the whole time on safari, however. Cooper says that many agents are running around feverishly attempting to secure the rights to sell players to specific countries, or even specific clubs.
But clubs in major leagues do regard the World Cup as a good place to see many players in a short space of time. Still, it's not easy to do business, says Giovani Elber, the former striker of Bayern Munich, Lyon and Stuttgart who is now at the World Cup as a scout for Bayern.
Asked by the German Press Agency dpa who he could recommend to team managers Uli Hoeness, Christian Nerlinger and Louis van Gaal, Elber said one word: 'Messi,' Argentina's superstar.
'Everyone already has a contract in Europe,' he complains. 'Everyone is known, and everyone is expensive.'