There is a scene in Friends where Ross is looking for a date. He makes his way around the coffee shop, approaching different women attempting to chat them up.
You see him get rebuff ed a few times and then the scene ends. The other characters’ stories are moved along and we return to Ross.
He is still in the coffee shop and is trying to flirt with another lady. Only he has already spoken to this one. And like everyone else in the coffee shop, turned off by his evident desperation, she has already rejected him.
I bring this up, not because I am a great fan of the show but because there are parallels between Ross in this scene and our transfer policy. And I mean beyond the fact that they are both a joke. We, like Ross, keep fishing in the same pond despite regularly coming up with nothing.
Each window we publicly declare that we have ‘x’ budget or are prepared to pay ‘y’ wages for a top player. We then go around a multitude of Europe’s top clubs attempting to woo them into selling their players. More often than not we are aiming at talent way out of our league. We are rejected and publicly too.
So we go around again, this time aiming a tier lower in terms of players. Our desperation is obvious and the selling club or the player’s agent can play hard ball.
We then either end up paying more than we should or we give up and drop down a level again.
The result of this approach, and the lack of any real long-term planning, has left us with an unbalanced squad, that has one of the oldest average ages in the league (29 years old).
And it shows in the work ethic and energy levels we see on the pitch on a weekly basis.
We need to start looking elsewhere. We need to leave the coffee shop that is the European market and try further afield. The obvious choice is the Chinese Super League. There are still some big names plying their trade in the East and they are players that would, in theory, improve our starting eleven.
Graziano Pelle was a very solid striker for Southampton and could be a more mobile, less breakabl target man than Carroll. The former Chelsea midfielder Ramires was an all action box-to-box midfielder that would add energy and goal scoring to our lethargic central midfield.
Yet whilst it would satisfy the criteria of not being Europe, the players targeted would be no different to our last few windows. They are players that we would have to pay over the odds for and that are (with the exception of Oscar who is still 26) past the peak of their powers.
What we need is players that are hungry, talented and that would see playing in the Premier League with us as a positive step in their career. The MLS in America may be our playing field.
Now before you say anything, one of our most successful signings over the last five years or so is Lanzini and we picked him up from Al Jazira in the UAE Arabian Gulf League. There is talent outside of the European leagues. And there is some promising stuff in the MLS.
Jack Harrison is a young Englishman who operates on the right wing. He has pace and a trick or two. He likes to cut inside to get shots away and has registered 14 goals in 53 games. His form has been rewarded with two caps for the England U21s. He has attracted interest from both Manchester clubs.
Miguel Almiron is a playmaker, who ghosts past players and can play some delightful through balls. He also has a knack of arriving late in the box to get shots away at goal.
He has nine goals in his first MLS season and was voted Newcomer of the Year. He has been capped by Paraguay 10 times. At 23 he is considered a bright prospect for the national team.
His team mate at Atlanta United is Josef Martinez. The striker possesses quick feet. has pace and likes to play on the shoulder of the defender. The Venezuelan had stints in Europe as a youngster at Young Boys Bern and Torino. Still only 24 he has hit 19 goals in 20 games since arriving in the MLS.
The”big name” in the MLS still worth a look is Sebastian Giovinco. The former Juventus and Parma forward has always been a talent and he has flourished in the States, so much so that he is still being touted by the Italian media for a place in their now ill-fated World Cup qualifiers.
He has scored 55 goals in 86 games so far in his American adventure and whilst he turns 31 in January, a loan until the end of the season (when the MLS is on its break) may give us a spark.
There are others worth a look at such as defensive midfielder Kellyn Acosta and Jordan Morris, who scored twice against us for Seattle in pre-season last summer. The point is that the MLS is an untapped market and there may well be some hidden gems if we are willing to look.
The alternative is to keep doing the same dance in Europe and hoping our lucks in. Or like Ross we will continue to be the butt of the joke as we fail to land our targets. B