Premier League

The Pressure Transfer Talk Can Put On Footballers

 • by Simon Collings
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For football fans, the summer transfer window can be one of the most exciting times of the year.

With the new season set to begin, supporters can be filled with optimism by their clubs latest acquisition and foray into the market.

However, for the players it is a different story.

The transfer window is when the rumour mill kicks into overdrive and, while speculation may have been growing during the season about a player’s future, now the action has stopped it is headline news.

For the game’s biggest stars and experienced professionals, transfer talk is something they are used to. The likes of Lionel Messi, for example, are continually linked with incredibly lucrative moves – despite the fact he has spent his whole career at Barcelona.

Seeing your name linked with a new club, and the riches that will come with it, is enough to impact even the most seasoned of pros, so imagine the affect it can have on those just starting out in the game.

Watford’s new midfielder Will Hughes is one such case. After making his debut for Derby County in 2011 when he was just 16, naturally the transfer talk began to start. English football loves nothing more than a teenage prodigy – and he was the latest one to turn heads.

Within three months, the midfielder was being touted as a target for both Manchester City and Manchester United. While, by the end of the year, Arsenal and Liverpool were also said to have joined the race for the teenage sensation.

So was Hughes, who now at the age of 22 has finally left Derby to join Watford, actually ever close to leaving Derby when all those big clubs were reportedly fighting it out for him?

“Not at all,” says Hughes. “The rumours became quite boring in the end.

“Ever since I was 16 I have been touted for big clubs. 90 per cent of them were that – they were just rumours that papers made up.

“I let it go over my head, but now that I am here I am looking forward to it.”

But surely being linked with some of the biggest clubs in the country must have had an impact on someone so young?

“A bit,” admits Hughes. “Especially when I was 16. I think it is normal when you are coming through the ranks as it is a massive change.

“Then you see yourself linked with these big clubs, so it was difficult.

“But the more it went on, the more people I spoke to, I realised that it was just rumours and that nothing ever came of it.”

Hughes’ admission that young players can be impacted by transfer talk gives an insight into the modern game.

Managers often explain to the media how a player ‘has had his head turned’ by another offer, but thankfully for Hughes those around him kept him level headed.

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The rumour that had the biggest sway over him, however, was the supposed interest from Liverpool, the club he supported as a kid growing up.

Hughes used to visit Anfield as a fan during his youth, sitting in the Kop or wherever he could get tickets, so as a teenager the prospect of playing for the club you used to support would understandably be an alluring prospect.

However, the reality of their interest was once again far from the truth.

“Obviously I think that is normal with me being a Liverpool fan,” says Hughes as he reflects on why he was heavily linked with a move to Anfield.

“But as I say the more you read about it, the more people you speak to, the more you realise people put two and two together and make 26.”

Now, Hughes has finally reached the Premier League – albeit by joining not one of the many clubs he was linked with during his youth.

In doing so, he has fulfilled the potential that Brian Clough saw in him when he gave him his debut at Derby as a 16-year-old.

The Rams manager believed Hughes was destined for the Premier League and, despite speculation trying to lead him astray, he is still on the path to the top.

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