WhatsApp, phantom medic and agent “Hail Marys” – Archyde

The agent smiles when asked if his phone is busy on the deadline day. “To be honest, I don’t know what the football industry was doing before Whatsapp,” he says.

“Every morning in January you wake up to five or six messages sent after midnight. I think everyone in football sends these messages late at night or first thing in the morning throughout the month.

“It’s like the industry lives on Red Bull or Espresso and just do deals that mostly don’t happen, but they work on it just in case.

“Then all hell breaks loose on Deadline Day. The cell phone lights up all day. Ten or 15 years ago it might just have been the manager or the chairman spearheading the deal, but nowadays there’s a team of analysts, the loan manager, the data scientist – they all want to know information about a player.

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“There is an incredible amount of work in almost every transfer. It’s a bit crazy when you imagine that so much can happen in just a few hours on the last day.”

Deadline Day is football’s 24-hour soap opera. “Footballers enjoy watching everything play out,” said Jose Enrique, the former Newcastle and Liverpool player-turned-players-agent who spoke to inews in connection with Boylesports football betting.

He was a year in the thick of things, unhappy at Anfield, available for a transfer but priced out by a Reds move away. Not that the message got through to everyone.

“I was sitting on my couch with my wife and they mentioned my name. I turned up the volume and they said I was with the Hawthorns and I was about to sign for West Brom. I just said, ‘Am I?’ It was really quite funny.”

He was glued to the TV for another year when his Newcastle team-mate Andy Carroll was flown to Anfield by helicopter. “None of us knew it was happening, not even him. We had seen him the day before. He was a big player and it just sucked the life out of us,” he said.

Deals like Carroll’s are vanishingly rare on the deadline. But that’s not due to a lack of effort.

In offices across the country, the lights don’t go out until the early hours of the morning. “The cliche is true,” says one executive.

Carroll’s deadline day move to Liverpool was not deemed a success (Picture: Getty)

“It’s scattered pizza boxes, lots of coffee. Even if you don’t buy anyone, there are expenses, players under 23, that you need to take care of. And you’re always ready to get that call for a deal you put the work into. It’s always late.”

Deadline offers fall into three categories. The most common is the transfer being revived because something else went haywire.

Then there are the ‘Hail Mary’ punts of agents, aimed at desperate clubs who hit the panic button before the 11pm deadline. An executive who spoke to the I believes these are becoming “less common” as even teams in Leagues One and Two have now assembled sophisticated recruiting teams.

But they still happen: “We get folders of clips via email, unsolicited, at 3 or 4 p.m., about seven hours before the deadline. Somebody has to bite that because it happens every year – and it’s always a bit of a surprise to see that the player you received an email about actually made that move,” said one manager.

The last category is the move, which has been brewing for weeks – but it’s not until the deadline that a club is willing to actually sanction it.

“It is not possible to close a deal only on the deadline. Any deals you see have been prepared well in advance and you’re waiting for things to happen,” Brentford director of football Phil Giles told me.

“You never work on just one deal, you work on three or four. You have your favorite over here and it’s a classic thing of spinning plates.

Could we see more big-name players moving on transfer deadline day? (Photo: PA)

“You try to do your favorite one, but if that’s not possible and they’ve gone somewhere else, you have to move on to the next one and try to get that done in time.”

The mid-season deadline is much more hectic as all EFL clubs have played 48 hours before the deadline.

“Everyone holds their breath when injured. A deal fell through for me because two central defenders got injured in the same game, they had to make a backup deal and so a month’s work went down the drain,” says the agent.

For most executives, the deadline follows a strict script designed to ensure no-chance transfers can be brokered. “There’s a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes and there’s usually not much to show,” said one I.

One says he plans to call colleagues at 8am on the deadline day to see if any of their “priority deals” can be revived. Several slots are booked in private hospitals “just in case” that doctors are needed at short notice.

That’s not a problem in the biggest clubs in the country. Manchester United have an MRI scanner at their Carrington training ground for this purpose.

As a result of Brexit and the Covid pandemic, almost only domestic transactions are now possible at short notice.

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Clubs require Board approval from the FA before signing and the paperwork takes longer for overseas players.

“In the past, you could have booked a player and flown him in first thing in the morning, had his medical checked in the afternoon and signed him. But that’s no longer possible – it must be much more advanced by that final day,” admitted one executive.

“Clubs in Europe are starting to see that. January was a lot more realistic – when clubs need the money they were more willing to talk.”

The next morning, “everybody takes a break from football”. Except for the players who just keep going fast. “It’s such a resilient job. There might be a joke and then they just keep going,” the agent said.

“When you’re in a situation where you want to leave, it can be a really frustrating day,” agrees Enrique.

“January feels like the longest month – they’ve been in talks maybe three or four weeks and it’s going into the final hours. But if you don’t get your move, you just keep going.”


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