As the dust settles over what has become the annual madness that is the closing of the summer transfer window for football leagues across Europe and journalists can end their month long fantastical speculation based on little more than gut feelings or third or fourth party information one thing has become clear from this summer of madness; football clubs need to work on their communication skills with each other.
Late night conference calls between clubs and agents seems to have been replaced with solely communicating through the press or digitally; which obviously leaves huge scope for misinterpretation and misrepresentation.
This transfer window appears to have been conducted with a level of Machiavellianism unmatched in an already duplicitous world.
Players and their representatives leaking stories to the press in an effort to strengthen their bargaining position and journalists ever more pressed to lead with sensational stories feed off each other in a symbiosis that leaves neither party in a particularly pleasant light.
For all their power, even the largest clubs seem unable to control the pantomime that occurs every transfer window.
In the not too distant past, club business was conducted in a much less public manner.
Managers and chairmen would pick up the telephone and communicate with their opposite numbers, circumventing the vast numbers of wilful opponents, all eager to justify and increase their fees.
What we saw this transfer window was the drawn out David De Gea affair.
The player wanted to leave, the clubs both knew that it was an inevitability from the very start of the summer, yet incredibly, neither clubs initiated any form of contact, instead allowing the press and third parties to speculate and voice opinions regardless of their accuracy or authority.
Consequently, what should have been a fairly straightforward transaction became a bloated, turgid and ultimately farcical situation.
Whether Real Madrid were intentionally running down the clock to force Manchester United’s hand in accepting their lower offer or Manchester United were being purposely obstinate, neither club comes out of this a winner.
From Manchester United’s point of view they have a world-class player who doesn’t want to be there and can leave for free at the end of the season. Real Madrid has missed out on their man and for one of the most powerful clubs in world football, look like they are incompetent in dealing with football administration. Both clubs must surely look back over the summer and wish that they had simply picked up the phone and scheduled a conference call.
The question is of course; will football learn from their mistakes? Unfortunately, for those who have watched the evolution of the game over the past twenty years, the answer is a resounding no!
Football has allowed itself to fall into the grips of a parasitic class whose self-interest has changed the very soul of the game and performed a miraculous power shift that football seems unable or unwilling to reverse.
Gone are the days of Sir Alex Ferguson casually enquiring about the availability of Eric Cantona at the tail end of a conference call between the Leeds chairman Bill Fotherby, Martin Edwards and Sir Alex enabling the deal to be concluded within a couple of days. No sponsors, agents, directors of football, communication or brand developers were involved – a purely football decision conducted by football people with a simple conference call.
Of course the world has changed since 1992, the way we communicate has changed enormously and the media is a very different beast today with a very different remit and appetite to the pre rolling news where headlines are needed constantly.
However, regardless of all the changes, the principles for communication remain the same.
In business, the possibility for ambiguity and misinterpretation that is so inherent in the faceless communication of the modern era can be disastrous. The calamitous example of these two giants of world football should give pause to all business, not just the topsy-turvy world of European football.