It was another typical Championship transfer window for Brentford, with their summer business concluding in positive style with the retention of important assets Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma.
Neal Maupay and Ezri Konsa were two notable departures, moving on to Premier League clubs Brighton and Aston Villa respectively. While it can be difficult for fans to see leading players depart, the blow is softened by trust in the club to recruit intelligently.
The money also helps, with Maupay commanding a fee of £18 million and Konsa bringing in £12 million. Brentford’s commitment to the Moneyball approach is well known, with a key tenet of that strategy being a willingness to accept offers that reflect a player’s value. While Maupay, Konsa and Romaine Sawyers will be missed, Bees’ fans will be confident that most, if not all, of the new arrivals will benefit the club as a whole.
You can find a full summary of Brentford’s transfer business here, with the overall theme to the Bees’ business once again being the acquisition of high-potential, young players for relatively low fees. Teenagers Bryan Mbuemo and Dru Yearwood arrive with exciting reputations, while Mathias Jensen and Christian Nörgaard have traded the Spanish and Italian top flights for Brentford’s project.
Whether these signings take Brentford to the next level remain to be seen, but their eye for talent and strict financial model should ensure that the club continues to be at the right end of the table. It would be easy to sacrifice principles as transfer fees and wage bills in the Championship continue to grow. Several clubs brought in players for fees of more than £7 million: Reading (George Puscas), Birmingham (Ivan Sunjic), Bristol City (Tomas Kalas and Han-Noah Massengo), West Brom (Kenneth Zohore), and Derby County (Krystian Bielik).
Perhaps more significantly, many clubs splashed out on hefty wages to attract big names to England’s second tier. The most surprising signing of the window was Wayne Rooney’s agreement to join Derby as a player/coach in January, bringing his MLS stint with DC United to an end. It is fair to say that, when Rooney left the Premier League, most expected him to finish his career in the US. Even last week, few would have predicted he’d finish the season playing alongside Richard Keogh.
An interesting indication of how dramatic Wayne Rooney’s career progression has been comes from the unlikely source of casino slots. The Top Trumps Football Stars: Sporting Legends slot used the world’s best players ahead of the 2018 World Cup as symbols on its reels. That selection of players included illustrious names like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar. Rooney was one of 30 players to make the cut, demonstrating how it not so long ago the English forward was considered among the world’s elite.
Instead, Rooney will be trading away days in Chicago and Philadelphia for trips to Cardiff and Preston when he joins up with his Derby team-mates in January. It may be cynical to suggest that this is more for publicity than for footballing reasons, but the move doesn’t feel like it is part of a carefully thought-out transfer strategy. It could be the kind of signing that has huge short-term benefits on the pitch. Equally, it could disrupt the dressing room or have tough financial ramifications in the longer term.
While other Championship clubs appear to be risking their stability in the hope of winning promotion, fans will be hoping that Brentford’s more considered and sustainable approach is bringing the Bees closer to their Premier League debut.