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Some thoughts on Clint Dempsey and “the game” within the game

23 August 2012

Perhaps my angst, or should I say global disgust, over the Clint Dempsey transfer saga stems from unfamiliarity. Fulham, the quaint EPL club I support, is finally embroiled in the kind of high-stakes, high-drama transfer saga usually reserved for the blue part of West London or either side of Manchester. While it’s nice to have the kind of players that other clubs and the notoriously aggressive and sloppy English media fawn over, the months worth of distraction have been taxing on me (and assumedly the club, as they continue to deal with this nonsense and play without one of their top players).

I think what really gets me, though, about this is how the entirety of the situation — and all the related stories about Clint going here, there, everywhere but back in Fulham’s first team — makes zero sense.

Clint has the right to want to switch clubs, especially if his driving force is participation in the Champions League, so he can test himself at the highest level of club competition. That’s even if you ignore that he already gets 14-16 matches a season in the EPL against elite and almost-elite clubs and enjoys matches at Old Trafford, the Etihad, the Emirates, Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane. He has one season left on his contract and, like the NBA, it’s very common for players to move (or force moves) in that situation, as the current club will get no compensation if he leaves when his contract expires next summer. Fine.

There’s one small problem: There’s nowhere for Clint to go (domestically, at the very least) that makes any sense, especially if UCL participation is the key objective. He’s not being bought by City or United. Despite what could have been a fit at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger avoids purchasing old players more aggressively than Mitt Romney avoids tax brackets and the Gunners already imported several new, expensive players for positions Dempsey would play. Chelsea doesn’t look like a fit. Spurs may have been, but Chelsea swiped their UCL spot last season, and despite a need for another striker, they just spent a bazillion dollars bringing in Emmanuel Adebayor on a transfer from City. Liverpool, the most cited destination, doesn’t have UCL or maybe the money to offer, at least at Fulham’s current valuation for a bid.

Then there’s the underreported side of transfers: player compensation. It was reported last week that Robin Van Persie’s move to United would cost in excess of 70 million pounds even though the transfer was for 24 million. That’s because on a transfer, the player gets a new contract, and RVP’s reportedly on a four-year deal for 200,000 pounds a week. The juxtaposition of player (and agent fee) demands and transfer price is often what makes (or scuppers) a deal. In Dempsey’s case, if you believe multiple reports that he has declined (for now) a very generous offer from Fulham, you have to believe his expectation is for a fat salary from a major club on top of a step up in club prestige.

So the question now really isn’t whether Dempsey will get a transfer before the window closes at the end of the month. The question is what’s most important to Dempsey and what is he willing to sacrifice in order to make a transfer happen.

If Clint truly wants UCL, his options are very limited. He would almost certainly have to take wages significantly less than what Fulham are reportedly offering and then enter the mix as a rotation player and see if he can work his way into a starting XI somehow. That situation neither sets him up as well financially or satisfies his need to play every week, at least for the short term.

If Clint is looking for money first under the guise of moving to a bigger club, he also may have missed his window. Perhaps a move earlier this summer could have happened, but now that many of the major teams in the league have made major investment elsewhere, the money might not be there anymore, either to satisfy Fulham now or to satisfy Dempsey’s assumed wage demands. There’s always a late flurry of activity, but it’s never a great idea to be the final purchase on a pricey list. You get squeezed.

As I have said for awhile on Twitter, it is not in Fulham’s interest to sell Dempsey on the cheap right now. If he stays on his current deal, they’re saving on increased salary plus don’t have to pay a fee to bring in a replacement plus they could qualify for Europa League, the sum of which would more than make up for Dempsey leaving on a free next summer. Nor is it in Clint’s best interest to be frozen out of the first team until January and rot with the youth side in training. The U.S. has four more World Cup Qualifying matches this calendar year, but more importantly, if Dempsey wants to set himself up for a transfer and/or a big-money Bosman move in the summer, he *has* to be playing now. If no one wants to overpay for a 29-year-old who has potted 29 Prem goals the last two seasons, they surely won’t when that 29-year-old hasn’t played since May.

So right now, Fulham hold the cards, and depending on how Dempsey comes to view the situation come Sept. 1, Fulham may end up being his best option. There are a lot worse situations in the world than to be an every-week starter on a top-10 side making around US $5M a season. Unless something changes radically in the next week or so, I expect Dempsey to still be with Fulham for the time being, and it could morph into a second marriage. Whether or not it would end up as one of love or convenience would depend on both parties. Sometimes, the one you got is the one you should be with.

Editor’s note: A reader points out that media reports put Adebayor’s transfer to Spurs at 5m pounds and that City also is picking up 95K of his 175K weekly wage, leaving Spurs “only” to pay 80K a week. Two thoughts: 1) If true, that’s a ridiculous steal for Spurs. An outlay of around 8-8.5 million pounds for this first season, including the transfer fee, is tremendous value for a striker of Adebayor’s quality. 2) If that’s all City could glean from a sale of Adebayor, Dempsey and/or Fulham will have to markedly readjust their ask prior to the deadline for him to move somewhere, because it’s hard to believe anyone will pay more in fee + salary for Dempsey than Adebayor.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. 23 August 2012 4.21pm

    Excellent article and you should write more often!

    We see this with different teams each summer. It can be painful for fans but many transfers don’t take place until the very last minute for one reason or another. Frankly I think there might be much going on that the public either doesn’t know about (perhaps involving a club hardly even mentioned) or an issue that’s never even been considered going on behind the scenes.

    Other thoughts…
    1) Arsenal supporter here – I wish we WOULD go for Clint. Who knows, we may still yet.
    2) A notable “hard-working” player and family man that’s devoted several years to Fulham’s success and stayed out of trouble has had his reputation marred by a careless soundbyte. Jol really stitched Dempsey up publicly suggesting he “would not play” for Fulham. This is not in the best interest of either party… especially if Clint ends up staying at Fulham. I understand that JOL decided to sideline Dempsey because he didn’t believe him to be committed enough, having put in a transfer request. This is understandable but not the reckless comment.
    3) Clint’s not blameless either. It may be hard from some to understand where he’s coming from but he’s a icon for the US. His talk of “making it big” someday is exactly the kind of talk that’s endeared and gained the respect of so many fans. He’s walked the walk to earn it. Where he may’ve erred however is in making his intent TOO well-known to other teams who would use his wantaway status to their advantage by low-balling Mo/Fulham until deadline day. MAF’s got a rep and a club to protect.
    4) On Mo: One would hope that having procured Dempsey on the cheap and gotten more than his money’s worth over the years that MAF would not insist on MAX return and deny Clint an opportunity. Rather seek a “fair” price for his player and wish Dempsey well.

    All that said, WHO KNOWS what’s really going on. 😉 I hope it ends soon. Great club, great owner, great manager, great fans and great player… none of you deserve this.

  2. milesffc permalink
    24 August 2012 7.26am

    Hi mate – great article. I wrote something about Dempsey a few weeks ago – the link is here http://milesffc.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/my-thoughts-on-the-dempsey-saga/ . I write a Fulham blog and update it every day so please provide some feedback as I’d like to learn. COYW!!

  3. 28 August 2012 2.21pm

    The first transfer saga of the summer involving Liverpool ends with Gylfi Sigurðsson, who’s been heavily linked with an Anfield move since Brendan Rodgers arrived, joining Tottenham Hotspur and the higher wages that the London club have been rumored to offer. It’s a blow for Liverpool given Sigurðsson’s talent, but hopefully it gives way to some sort of urgency as they (hopefully) search to better the squad.

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