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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb 2, 2007

'January transfer window holds clubs to ransom'

One of football's top agents believes the January transfer window sees clubs being 'held to ransom with ridiculously inflated prices'.

Phil Smith, chief operating officer at First Artist - the agency who handled last month's most expensive switch when Ashley Young joined Aston Villa - has revealed the 'majority' of his negotiations fell through over player valuation.

'I don't think clubs like spending in the [January] transfer window because they get held to ransom with ridiculously inflated prices,' Smith told PA Sport.

Watford sold Young for a figure that could eventually rise to £9.65million, and Smith believes Villa were forced into paying over the odds for the England Under-21 starlet.

'It was definitely an inflated deal,' he said.

'Had it been in the summer, it definitely wouldn't have been as big as that.

'It's a high figure for someone whose played a limited number of games in the Premier League, however talented he is. Maybe it will prove to be a very astute deal but I don't think they'd have chosen to pay that.

'But there's a month to do it in and that's it.'

Smith revealed the frustrations of negotiating with clubs in January, claiming some sides would claim they were unwilling to sell before asking how much he was prepared to offer.

'A lot of conversations were `he's not available - how much?'' Smith said.

Smith's views are supported by the figures on the January spending of Barclays Premiership clubs, which dipped from the previous year for the first time since the transfer window's inception.

The total expenditure of top-flight teams was just over £60million last month, £10m down on the record total paid out over the same period last year.

However, the figure is still the second-largest amount spent in the four years of the window, beating the £50m of 2004 and 2005 and the £35m from 2003.

Many of last month's purchases were carried out by sides fighting to avoid relegation, with the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal not spending a penny.

Smith is unsurprised by this development.

'The continental way of doing thing - and those clubs are classed as continental clubs - is that they do it year to year, not six months to six months,' he said.

'Even though Arsenal might have decided to bring players on loan to give them more bodies before the end of the season, they don't want to upset the equilibrium and cause any unrest by bringing in panic buys.'

He also understands why most business has been transacted at the wrong end of the table, with the arrival of a three-year £2.725billion television contract next year - £1billion more than the current deal - meaning survival will be more lucrative than ever.

But he added: 'It doesn't mean they've all made bad decisions - far from it.

'They'll say it isn't panic, just trying to have a change of fortune or shifting personnel.

'It's not just the television money. People want to succeed, they want to win.'

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