With the rumoured £1.5 million deal to take Adam Clayton to Middlesbrough looking all but tied up, one of the more protracted transfer sagas in recent Huddersfield Town memory is set to be put to bed. It represents decent business for both sides in the end; the Terriers are rewarded fairly handsomely for getting a wantaway midfielder off their books with just a year left on his contract, while Boro look likely to strengthen their midfield with a player who should be comfortable at Championship level whichever club he is playing for.
The deal itself, then, the money involved and the player involved, look beneficial on both sides. Yet the football season starts in less than four days. Both teams have been through a pre-season in the opposite ownership position of Clayton that they now find themselves in, and both squads will have got used to that.
For a deal that has been rumbling on for a long time to come to a head at this point is almost counter-productive and reminds me strongly of the move of Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham Hotspur to Manchester United in the summer of 2008. Daniel Levy, a man well known for ‘driving a hard bargain’, wanted to eke every penny out of the Red Devils that he could. When he finally settled on a fee, Berbatov left Spurs at the very end of the transfer window, meaning the club had £30m to spend, but no time to spend it.
While the lesson seemed to have been learned to a point, 2012 brought an end to Luka Modric’s Tottenham career – his sale to Real Madrid being one that hogged a great many of the headlines that summer. This time, Villas-Boas was granted a little time to integrate new players into his squad, but his pre-season ended up being disjointed and difficult.
Dean Hoyle is cut from the same cloth as Daniel Levy, it seems; though his stock in trade is add-ons within deals, sell-on clauses, and generally parts of transfers that will allow Huddersfield Town to keep benefitting from the sale of players years after they have left the club. Taking that into account, it is no surprise to see Adam Clayton leave the Terriers; the bid from Middlesbrough must have reached an acceptable level for Huddersfield Town to do business, and the player himself, in not having an extended contract by this stage, meaning he could leave for free next summer, had made cashing in on him almost inevitable.
There is now a choice facing Hoyle, and perhaps equally Mark Robins and Ross Wilson, the other two men upon whose heads such decisions lie. That choice is whether or not the money from the Clayton sale is to be used on player recruitment or should simply go to plug a hole in the budget. If the former, the dance begins – that of which players are available of sufficient ability to fulfil a first team need. There is time to acquire said players, just under four weeks; but the sooner they can be added to Robins’ squad the better.
The lessons here, of Daniel Levy, should be learned by Hoyle, and actions should be taken accordingly. The craw-sticking act of paying slightly more than what you think a player is worth might be balanced out by the fact that they can play for the team in 46 rather than 42 games, for example (for a £1,000,000 player – that would be a cost difference of 9% – £23,809/game over 42 games to £21,739/game over 46). They’re the kind of decisions that the hierarchy at Huddersfield Town need to reckon with. The sooner the squad can be put together, the better.
What can be gained in money, in other words, can be lost in time; and only one can be recouped.