HULL CITY vice chairman Ehab Allam believes transfer deals are becoming harder to strike due to clubs knowing sky-high inflationary pressure will send prices soaring by the next window.
The Tigers brought in two new faces during January as Barnsley defender Angus MacDonald and Liverpool winger Harry Wilson joined the fight to avoid relegation.
Other targets were chased, but Aberdeen rejected several bids for defender Scott McKenna, while manager Nigel Adkins revealed yesterday that agreement had been reached over a loan switch for Newcastle United’s Rolando Aarons only for the Jamaican to opt instead to join Serie A strugglers Verona.
Hull were far from the only club to suffer frustration in the window with Manchester City unable to prise Riyad Mahrez out of Leicester City despite bidding £60m and West Bromwich Albion rejecting a £12m offer for Jonny Evans from Arsenal.
Further down the football pyramid, similar tales abounded, albeit on a lesser scale financially, and Allam believes ever-increasing player valuations are behind the stalling of so many moves.
“It is a bit like the property market a few years ago,” said the Tigers’ chief when speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post about the transfer market.
“Everyone was holding on to their investments as an asset value as they knew the price of their house was going to keep going up and up.
“Now clubs are behaving in a similar way by holding on to their players. They are happy to do so because a player is going to be worth more in the summer. The level of inflation is so high at the moment, in terms of player valuations, that clubs can just sit tight.
“A player that is rated at £2m in this window could be £6m or £7m in the next window and the one after that even more.
“That level of inflation just wasn’t there a few years ago, and that made it easier to strike deals. Not too long ago a player needed two good seasons before hitting peak valuation. Now it can be half a season and that is influencing decision making.”
Hull’s pursuit of McKenna was one of the window’s more drawn-out sagas as Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes stuck to the view his player would not be sold in January.
It was a very different story to the summer of 2014 when Hull pursued another highly-rated Scottish defender, Andrew Robertson. A £2.85m deal was eventually struck with Dundee United for the Scot, who the Tigers sold last summer to Liverpool for £8m.
“We were looking at a player recently in Scotland,” added Allam. “As everyone knows, our interest became public knowledge. Not from our end, but elsewhere.
“In the past, if we had offered £2m in similar circumstances it would have been accepted. The selling club would know the price wouldn’t rise too much by the summer, even if the player had an incredible final few months of the season.
“His price might have gone up to £2.5m, but that would have been it. Now that £2m player could be valued at £8m in a few months’ time.”
Along with attempting to strengthen in January, Hull also fielded serious interest in their own players.
Kamil Grosicki, Adkins has confirmed, was the subject of a late loan enquiry from Derby County that was firmly rebuffed.
Michael Dawson was also a man in demand after Nottingham Forest, the Hull captain’s first club, made a concerted effort to take the defender back to the City Ground.
The offer of a two-and-a-half year contract is understood to have been made to the 34-year-old, but, again, the Tigers were determined not to allow their squad to be weakened.
“The window, for a club in our position, is also about holding on to existing players and we did that,” added vice chairman Allam.
“People might say, ‘You only brought in two signings during the window’. But we kept hold of important players that other clubs wanted.
“You mentioned Dawson, not me. But he is a good example of someone we wanted to keep. There was interest from elsewhere, but we could only have let him out if the guy from Scotland had come in.
“We had to protect ourselves. In many ways, it was a difficult window. When you are only outside the bottom three on goal difference, it is a hard job to bring players in.”
Some players, of course, simply don’t fancy a relegation scrap. Others are put off by clauses in contracts that mean a wage cut if the club is relegated.
Not that Allam believes Hull will be dropping out of the Championship. He added: “I am very confident in our team. Performances have been good under Nigel. The results have not yet reflected those performances, but I believe they soon will.
“Our league position should be higher and I am confident this group of players, including those about to return from injury, will soon have us much higher.”