Blog: Freakonomics, Brexit and the bizarre – why Scotland’s January window could be so influential – BBC News

Nathan Patterson
Rangers received a club-record fee from Everton for 20-year-old full-back Nathan Patterson

Nobody in Scotland needs a statistic to back up the gobsmacking difference in the spending power of the Premier League in England and the top flight in this country, but here’s another one in any case.

When Nathan Patterson signed for Everton the other day, the fee of £10m-plus was the most money the Ibrox club had ever received for a player in its history. For Everton, it wasn’t even the most money they’d spent on a player this week.

In bringing the young Scotland international to Goodison Park, Patterson became Everton’s 20th most expensive signing – in the past five years. Add it all up and it comes to half a billion, give or take the price of a Jean-Phillipe Gbamin or a Cenk Tosun or a Moise Keane.

This one looks like a good deal for Everton given, for them, the money involved is chicken feed. It’s less than half a Ben Godfrey and a third of an Alex Iwobi.

But in a world where freakonomics doesn’t exist – Scotland – that kind of cash for a 20-year-old with bags of potential but only limited exposure to first-team football, a multi-million pound fee with extras possibly to follow, is good business for Rangers. They’re naturally sorry to see him go, but they’ve done well out of him.

There’s a reason for that – and it doesn’t begin and end with Patterson’s age and promise. Since Brexit, the English clubs who have been previously minded to hoover up the best young talent from around Europe and the rest of the world are a touch stymied in that pursuit. It’s much harder to get playing permits for these English clubs to get young foreigners now, unless they’re teenage sensations with first-team experience and possibly international caps to boot. Those players come at a premium, of course.

It’s why clubs in England – the Premier League and the more monied ones in the Championship – may be paying more attention to the clubs north of the border nowadays. If getting tyros from overseas is now a bureaucratic nightmare for them it stands to reason they’ll look closer to home for prospects, as Everton did with Patterson, as other clubs are said to be doing with Aberdeen’s Calvin Ramsay and Dundee United’s Kerr Smith.

Aberdeen have not put a price on Ramsay’s head, as has been stated. It would be daft to do so. Why set a ceiling when they don’t know what a wealthy club is prepared to pay. Brexit has changed the picture. If English clubs want Ramsay or Smith or Josh Doig or any other talented young player in the Scottish leagues then the selling club is holding a few more aces now.

Aberdeen, who don’t need to sell, are entitled to tell all-comers that the price is not £4m as has been reported and is more in the Patterson ballpark. They should feel emboldened by the alterations in the political landscape. Every Scottish club should be thinking about how effective their academy is, now more than ever. Dundee United are well-placed on that front.

There is talk at a number of Scottish clubs about the ramifications of Brexit. If an English club wants to bring in a player – a youngster or an unheralded older player with promise – who doesn’t have the required number of points to gain a playing visa, then what do they do?

Could they sign the player and place him with a Scottish club as a form of clearing house, a device used to circumvent employment law? The Scottish club gets a talented player until he has earned his visa and moves south to the club that bought him.

FIFA has strict rules on what they call bridging transfers, and government wouldn’t be slow in clamping down either, but these conversations are being had at certain Scottish clubs where the restrictions don’t exist to anything like the same extent as they do down south. These Scottish clubs are looking into how Brexit can work for them.

Calvin Ramsay
Aberdeen teenager Calvin Ramsay has been linked with a move to England

Of course, there’s a far easier way of doing all of this. If you’re Celtic you just sign three fascinating players from Japan in quick order. No messing about. January is normally a time for endless faffing and bad decision-making at Celtic. It was in the previous five January windows they signed – on loan or permanently – Patryk Klimala and Jonjoe Kenny, Vakoun Bayo and Marian Shved, Oli Burke and Timothy Weah, Andrew Gutman and Manny Perez, Jeremy Toljan and Charly Musonda, Marvin Compper and Eboue Kouassi.

Now they’ve got Daizen Maeda, the joint leading scorer in the J-League last season with Yokohama Marinos, and Reo Hatate, a player so versatile that he started his campaign at the champions Kawasaki Frontale as a left-back, then moved up to left wing-back before being named in the team of the season as a forward.

They also signed Yosuke Ideguchi, a Japan international midfielder with a pedigree. All of them are at an excellent age and all have been recruited for small money.

“Frontale and Marinos fans, in particular, would be justified in feeling as though their clubs have been robbed in broad daylight,” wrote Dan Orlowitz in the Japan Times on Tuesday.

It’s still incredible that given the sophistication of scouting networks in Europe no club in a more glamorous league saw what Ange Postecoglou could see in Kyogo Furuhashi, a revelation since his move to Celtic in the summer. The way he settled in so quickly and reached icon status so rapidly was astonishing.

Everybody in football is looking for gems and Postecoglou found one in Furuhashi. What are his chances of finding another three? Furuhashi’s success – coupled with Postecoglou’s triumphs in Japan – illustrate that the Celtic manager understands the psyche of these players. Their culture is entirely different, but Postecoglou gets it. The progress of his three new men from the east will be intriguing to observe.

For many reasons, the second half of the season promises to be absorbing. Rangers experienced turbulence – and an eruption from Connor Goldson – but Giovanni van Bronkhorst settled them down the minute he walked in the door as Steven Gerrard’s replacement. Gerrard’s exit might yet prove a blessing. Rangers look solid and focused again. They lead the league by six points.

Celtic’s recruitment has been breakneck – and it’s probably not done yet – while Rangers are still easing themselves into it. James Sands, the versatile American, completed a loan deal on Wednesday, and Andreas Skov Olsen, of Bologna and Denmark, appears to be near the top of their priority list too.

Skov Olsen is an attacking, right-sided midfielder with plenty of international experience even though he’s only 22. He’s classy and he won’t be cheap, but what a prize they’re playing for this season. Barring a major turnaround, the champions of Scotland will go straight into the Champions League group stage. This is a £30m title.

We’re less than week into the window and all sorts of things are already happening. Shaun Maloney’s first signing as Hibs manager is Elias Melkersen, a 19-year-old who scored prolifically in the second tier in Norway last season. They’ve also got the American wide midfielder, Chris Mueller, coming in. So far, Maloney’s focus has been on strengthening an attack that looks good on paper but doesn’t deliver nearly often enough in reality. Celtic’s fine young winger, Ewan Henderson, is said to be another on Maloney’s list.

Chris Mueller
Chris Mueller arrived in Edinburgh last month to begin training with Hibernian

Their city rivals have made one significant play in the signing of Australian right-back Nathaniel Atkinson, one of the stars of his country’s victory over Argentina and their narrow loss to Spain in the Olympics last year. Atkinson is 22 and highly regarded.

All of those clubs are thinking of Europe. At the other end, the only thing on St Johnstone’s mind is surviving. At the halfway point they’re rock bottom. The Cinderella story has ended and it’s a horror tale now. Their last transfer window was a catastrophe with the twin totems of the team, Jason Kerr and Ali McCann, leaving on deadline day.

The club did awfully in trying to replace them. They seemed to be gripped by indecision and panic and here they are. Their situation is serious but salvageable. Daniel Cleary looks a decent beginning to their rebuild, an honest centre-half from Dundalk in the League of Ireland. Saints have lost their last eight games. They need some steel in there.

Davidson has also brought in left-back Tony Gallacher – once of Falkirk, then of Liverpool and Toronto – in a bid to bolster an awful defence. On Wednesday, in an attempt to create an attack where only a barren wasteland exists right now, Davidson dug up Nadir Ciftci, the former Dundee United and Celtic player.

Quite what Ciftci has going for him these days is hard to know. In a fast-moving opening week of the transfer window, with Dundee United attempting to fast-track Tony Watt’s capture from Motherwell, Ciftci’s reappearance on the scene was the most bizarre story of all. There will be others, nothing surer.

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