Looking under the bonnet!

Behind every successful Premier League deadline day transfer there is a dedicated medical team helping decide whether a player signs or not.

Strict evaluation: Lazio’s new signing Nani during the club’s medical tests in August last year. Even EPL clubs have such elaborate programmes for new players.   -  GETTY IMAGES

You won’t see them on the television news reports. You won’t hear them discussing ongoing negotiations. You won’t read about the work they do on the back-pages. But behind every successful Premier League deadline day transfer there is a dedicated medical team helping decide whether a player signs or not.

They are the silent partners in the deal, efficiently analysing each potential new recruit, and partaking in the most overlooked role as the transfer window comes to a close. When the numbers are crunched, fees and personal terms agreed, it is the medical staff that complete the final assessment before the transfer is concluded.

At a time when multimillion-dollar deals are growing bigger and bigger, the job of the medical team to judge if a player is physically suitable is becoming all the more crucial. One poor transfer resulting from an underlying injury can contribute significantly towards a team losing its place in the League.

So the medical staff must look beyond the skills and footballing ability displayed on the pitch and evaluate new signings for their physical attributes alone. As Burnley team doctor, Simon Morris, once put it: “If you want to buy a really expensive sports car, you would want to look under the bonnet.”

Two distinct stages

Most medicals consist of two distinct stages, designed to assess the player’s health and fitness, and can take place over two days. First the club doctor investigates previous injuries the footballer may have suffered from and operations conducted to remedy the problems. Once this is ascertained, the player’s family history is looked at for any hereditary conditions that may result in future ailments.

Now more than ever before, stringent cardiac screenings are undertaken, following the notable incident involving former Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba, when he collapsed from a heart attack while playing at White Hart Lane.

Suddenly stricken: Fabrice Muamba of Bolton lies incapacitated on the pitch during a FA Cup Sixth Round match against Tottenham Hotspur on March 17, 2012 in London. Cardiac tests for players, especially new recruits, has been intensified after this incident.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

The second stage of a medical involves an examination of muscle strength and joint flexibility, alongside blood pressure, body fat, lung capacity, and pulse rate. Devices such as an isokinetics machine are used for musculoskeletal stability tests too, checking for disparities between major muscles that will need to be corrected.

Once completed, the doctors’ findings are passed on to the head coach/manager, sporting director and chief executives, who use the information to decide if they want to carry on with the transfer.

Aiding a complex decision

As fans, we only ever hear about the medical results as having either been passed or failed. However, that is far too simplistic a breakdown of a rigorous process intended to aid a complex decision. Quite what the player needs to be capable of changes from club to club.

Then you have to consider how each player is different. Players possess a unique physical history, which has to be reflected in the tests they are subjected to. If a proposed new player has suffered from knee issues before, he will face a more demanding set of tests in that area than others, to ensure he will hold up under the stresses of Premier League football. Then there are the differing briefs for each position. What’s required of a defender is not the same for a striker.

How extensive the physical examinations are varies from club to club too. The ever-approaching deadline can determine matters as well.

If there is not enough time for an overseas player to travel to Britain, sometimes his medical will take place in trusted facilities closer to him.

Also, depending on how desperate a club are to bring a player in, the requirements for some may not be as strenuous as for others. For instance, in the summer of 2014, French striker Loic Remy’s proposed move to Liverpool collapsed after an issue was raised during his medical. A little over a month later though, title rivals Chelsea signed Remy on deadline day, keen to boost their forward line.

Conditions relaxed: Loic Remy of Chelsea celebrates after scoring the team’s fourth goal against Swansea in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge on September 13, 2014 in London. Rejected by Liverpool on medical grounds, Remy was picked up by Chelsea that year.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

While clubs may still go ahead with a signing even when there are concerns that a player is not at full fitness, the knowledge gained may dictate that they switch the offer to a short-term deal in order to safeguard the club.

So the next time your team signs a new player, spare a thought for those working away from the spotlight, they may just be the last line of defence between your club making a good or bad decision.

RELOCATING!

Philippe Coutinho — Liverpool to Barcelona

No prizes for guessing, the skilful Philippe Coutinho tops the transfer deadline list. The Brazilian’s move to Barcelona was long expected and he finally signed the on the dotted line for a record transfer fee of a staggering €160 million. The move, which will see Coutinho at Camp Nou for five-and-a-half-years, made him the third most expensive player in history. 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang — Borussia Dortmund to Arsenal

Arsenal successfully signed Borussia Dortmund’s wantaway striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on transfer deadline for a club-record fee of € 64million. Auba will play a very crucial role in Arsene Wenger’s scheme of things, following Alexis Sanchez’s switch to Manchester United.

Alexis Sanchez — Arsenal to Manchester United

In a major move between two EPL clubs, Alexis Sanchez made his way to Old Trafford in a swap deal that saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan head to the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal had initially demanded close to €40 million for Sanchez, but ultimately accepted a trade for the Armenia international to avoid getting nothing for Sanchez.

Virgil Van Dijk — Southampton to Liverpool

Dutch defender Virgil Van Dijk completed a sensational move from Southampton to Liverpool for a massive €85 million, making him the world’s most expensive defender.

His arrival will boost Liverpool’s defence, which has come in for heavy criticism after conceding 29 Premier League goals this season, the most among the top-four clubs on the table.

Olivier Giroud — Arsenal to Chelsea

Chelsea roped in Olivier Giroud from Arsenal for a reported fee of €20 million, ending the club’s long hunt for a new centre-forward. The Frenchman had for long been struggling for game-time at Arsenal and with the FIFA World Cup approaching, he will look to impress when he plays for the EPL champion side.

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