Giannoulis deal proof City can navigate difficult transfer market


Norwich City's capture of Dimitris Giannoulis shows their intelligence in a very different transfer market. - Credit:

It's an old adage in football that the January transfer window is the hardest to sign players in, that statement has been proven to be factually accurate this season.

Under Stuart Webber, Norwich City haven't been the most proactive club during the mid-season window. The City chief has made little secret of his opposition to adding players erratically during this month. 

January is the month where long-term plans can be thrown out of the window. Clubs can chase the dream or look to spend their way out of trouble. The Canaries have been more considered with their recruitment choices since the Welshman joined the club in 2017.

Previous regimes have seen this month as an opportunity to paper over the cracks and chased survival in the Premier League in return for inflicting long-term debt on the football club. Some clubs in the top-flight will be looking to do the same this month. 

If that pays off, then the reward outweighs the risk. The damage it can inflict is all too painful, as City themselves are well-aware of from recent years. 

The success rate for signings in this window is typically much lower than the summer. Often, less due diligence is done because there is a finite amount of players available.

It does feel somewhat of a watershed moment for the sport. 

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Brexit regulations that have came into force on January 1 has placed significant red tape against EFL clubs. Beyond those that can attract internationally recognised players, the market has shrunk considerably. An average Championship club now has six to eight feasible markets to recruit from - including the EFL and Scotland. 

Those new rules mean clubs will be forced to recruit domestically. Around 90% of deals that take place currently are done between clubs in the same country, but there will be an increased value to those deals.

Norwich City Sporting Director Stuart Webber watches on with Neil Adams during the Pre-season friend

Sporting director Stuart Webber and head of recruitment Kieran Scott have ensured City are prepared for the changes in the transfer market. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Look at City's opponents on Saturday in Barnsley. They have successfully used the European Union market to recruit players and coaches. Their two signings have been Liam Kitching, the best ball-playing, left-footed defender in League Two, and Carlton Morris, the most physical and athletic striker in League One. 

It shows a shift in clubs recruitment strategies. They are targeting domestic players that ordinarily they may not have done. Preston have also recruited Ben Whiteman from League One. 

In doing so, these clubs are forward-thinking to the summer, when this talent will be more in-demand by more of their competitors. They are stealing a march.

Brexit will mean players progress to a higher level at a rapid rate because of the reduced market they now have to shop in. That market has become more condensed, and the quality will be reduced, but more expensive, because of it. 

City have experienced this first hand with their search for a free agent goalkeeper. The options available to them have been limited due to Brexit. Suddenly options that would have been viable a month ago are now off the table.

Add in the implications of a global pandemic, both financially and logistically, and you begin to realise the extra layers of uncertainty and difficulty of operating in his current market. 

Norwich Head Coach Daniel Farke at the end of the FA Cup match at Oakwell, Barnsley
Picture by Paul

City boss Daniel Farke is still on the lookout for more quality this month. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Clubs are less willing to depart with their talent because a possible Covid outbreak means younger players are more of an asset. Actually possessing players in the building is valuable, because those extra bodies may be required at any moment. 

Salary caps beyond Championship level means budgets are tighter to actually complete those loans. It also means any club relegated from the Championship is going to have to sell their talent to comply. Clubs like Derby or Nottingham Forest will chase their targets in order to ensure survival. 

January is frenetic. It can often be instinctive. Anyone who has watched the second series of the Sunderland documentary can tell you that. At the last moment, on Deadline Day, their owner Stewart Donald presses the button to sign Will Grigg for £3million to chase the dream. It didn't work. 

Having a long-term recruitment strategy is also tough. Because often the best players aren't available during this window, as Arsenal have learned when it comes to Emi Buendia. 

City were never going to sell their Argentine midfielder this month. The financial reward of promotion far outweighs the money they would receive for the 24-year-old. Unless the Canaries would have been compensated accordingly, then any links to Arsenal are an absolute non-starter. 


Giannoulis will join up with his teammates when his work permit application gets approved. - Credit:

It is hard for clubs to sign their top-target this month, because often it's about who is available rather than who is affordable or admirable.

If you can't buy a premium steak, at least make sure you leave with a beef burger. That captures January succinctly. 

It also illustrates why City's deal to sign Dimitris Giannoulis is so impressive. January is a month of risk and loan deals are often the best way to mitigate that, both financially and in terms of preserving a long-term strategy. 

The key to the capture of the Greek left-back was timing. But when City did act, they did so decisively, in a way that allowed them to recruit a top talent on a risk-free basis. 

You have to look beyond the current window. Short-term debt can be damaging to clubs if these deals don't come off in the correct way. Conditional loans then safeguard the future of the club and reward upon an achievement being accomplished - in Giannoulis' case, promotion. 

The current travel restrictions also made this difficult. Watching Giannoulis regularly would have been harder due to coronavirus. That is where extra care has to be taken by looking at data and gaining the full picture before pushing ahead with the transfer.

To complete this deal, in a month full of uncertainty where other clubs are struggling to find their way, is why the club's recruitment team are lauded. In football, you have to adapt and be prepared. 

City have proven they are capable of doing both and now find themselves enjoying their steak banquet whilst others are scrapping around looking for a single beef burger.

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