(Image via wolves.co.uk)
As we delve deeper into January and the transfer window draws nearer to an end, Tom Tracey looks at whether the way Wolves conduct their business financially is actually best for business.
Jez Moxey often comes under fire from fans for being too frugal with the club’s coffers. A lack of spending on transfers often appears to be the reason many of our ‘close’ transfer deals fail. But there is a fine line between penny pinching to the point of failing to acquire quality signings and the free spending that sees many clubs spiral into debt.
Andy Delort is a notable example in the 2014 summer transfer window. He joined Wigan from Tours for a fee believed to be around the £3 million mark. Wolves were confirmed as an interested party by Jackett but an agreement could not be reached and he has since played only 8 league games for the Latics without scoring for them. Fortunately for us, it looks like a flop was avoided here for Wolves. This sort of money is unlikely to be spent by Wolves in the near future, with the £2 million fee bandied around for Benik Afobe quite surprisingly high and quite a bold move from the Wolves management.
Wolves are a club who have been marred by overly lucrative contracts. Jamie O’Hara is the most obvious candidate to mention here: the fee, thought to be between £3.5-5 million, is probably fair for what he brought to us at the time but crucially he was given a 5 year contract which is an extremely long one for a player with a questionable injury record. As one of the highest earning players at the club, Jamie was getting paid vast sums of money for another two seasons after relegation from the Premier League before finally moving on, costing Wolves a miniature fortune in the process before his contract was mutually terminated. Let’s not mention Roger Johnson who is raking in the money from the club for minimal effort.
It is obvious that the club have become more cautious in their approach to transfers since being stung by these high earning flops. Short deals are becoming more common – club captain Sam Ricketts is already nearing the end of his contract despite only signing in 2013, whilst Leon Clarke only joined in January 2014 and is already out of contract this summer. It seems to be only players such as local lad Danny Batth, who signed a 3-and-a-half year deal last January, who are going to get anything over three years. Another common feature that is prevalent in the younger players’ contracts is a clause allowing a 12-month extension to the contract at the club’s disposal; the new deals given to Ebanks-Landell and Dominic Iorfa include this option. If these players do not progress as Wolves hope, they are not stuck paying their wages for the extra length of time.
Where Wolves are now looking to streamline their wage bill and make sure the contracts given to the players favour the club as well as the player, there comes the problem of these assets leaving for free. All Wolves fans know that star winger Bakary Sako is out of contract in the summer, with the ability to now talk to clubs outside of England and be able to walk away for nothing in the summer. Whilst he has (unusually for Wolves) provided great value for money and remained professional in his attitude, it is widely unknown what the outcome of his contract situation will be. Many feel that he will leave for the Premier League if we do not get promoted as we cannot (or will not ) offer him an improvement on his wages of around £25,000 a week, which will be a great shame not just to lose him as a player but to lose him for nothing.
The question remains: how beneficial is Wolves’ contract structure? A restriction on contract length may prevent another Jamie O’Hara situation but is it worth the risk of losing a Bakary Sako?