The 2022 FIFA World Cup is already throwing domestic football calendars out of sync and altering players’ workloads, but its impact on club football could extend even further.
The World Cup usually takes place in June and July when most leagues around the world are in their offseason, but this edition is being played in the northern hemisphere’s autumn months for the first time ever in order to avoid the sweltering summer months of the host nation , Qatar.
As well as affecting the timing of club seasons, this unusual scheduling could also have an effect on one of the most high-profile and potentially lucrative aspects of global football—the transfer market.
Even when scheduled at its usual time, the World Cup can affect the movement of players.
In the buildup to these tournaments, players can naturally tend to put their international careers before their club careers, prioritizing the chance to be fit for, or even just be chosen for, their national teams ahead of the big tournament.
This can see players put opportunities for bigger contracts on hold if they think they might not play as much at their new club, and choose to remain at a one where they are already considered successful and in the national team picture as a result, even if many consider them to have outgrown said club.
If they perform well at the upcoming tournament, even more lucrative, high-profile moves may be just around the corner anyway.
The Qatar 2022 World Cup adds a whole new dynamic to the transfer market, given it falls just before the opening of a January transfer window, and not during the summer transfer window as is usually the case.
Seeing as the tournament ends on December 18 and the domestic seasons that took a break for it will be due to restart at the end of that month, just before the January transfer window, teams could begin looking to get deals over the line once their seasons break for the World Cup in early November.
This means the January window could effectively be almost three months long. It is almost another offseason—another period of transfer activity that matches the longer summer transfer window, as opposed to one that’s just a month long.
Even though players cannot be registered or play for their new clubs until a transfer (and registration) window is open, deals being completed outside of these periods is a reasonably regular occurrence.
Clubs can be put off making approaches for players during this time, as a hypothetical, unwritten rule for good etiquette in the transfer market could involve not upsetting a player while they are still playing for the club that currently holds their contract.
Transfer etiquette is not really commonplace as, in the cut-and-thrust world of football transfer business, clubs and agents will often work to get what they want regardless of the effects on a player’s current club. Selling clubs can also be happy to deal at these times as it gives them time to look for a replacement.
Even so, it will be much easier for clubs and players to arrange moves when there is a break in the season, than it would be if games were continuing as normal in November and December ahead of the January window.
There is the obvious stumbling block that many players likely to be of interest to clubs will be participating in the World Cup, but there is plenty of down time at these tournaments for deals to be done and contracts to be ironed out.
Technically nothing has changed. The January transfer window is still one month long and players who move clubs can only begin to play for their new teams once the window is open. But seeing as there is little to no club football in the two months prior, transfer business could pick up much sooner than usual.