Han-Noah Massengo arrives for a match at Ashton Gate.
The transfer window continues to bite Bristol City, just as the frost does around the Bedminster pavements at this time of year.
The collapse of the transfer market was cited by the club when they announced a record pre-tax loss of £38.4m for the 2020/21 financial year.
And following being unable to sell players for significant fees in the previous window, the same is happening in the next.
BristolWorld can reveal that despite reports from Germany, there have been no offers put on the table for coveted midfielder Han-Noah Massengo.
There is significant interest in the player, carrying on from the last window, but given that we are approaching the halfway point of January, it suggests an acceptance all round that the 20-year-old will remain in BS3 for now.
Manager Nigel Pearson has confirmed that a new contract offer has been made to the player and there is hope within the club that Massengo may yet remain with the West Country men, with his existing deal set to end in 2023.
“He’s happy and content and he doesn’t allow things like that to distract him,” Pearson told BristolWorld on the weekend, going on to explain that contracts are often given too much significance in this country, saying that on the continent it was fairly routine for players to be open that they would leave the next summer.
Further, QPR’s interest in Kasey Palmer has ended for now, though the west London side may follow up in the summer. Birmingham remain keen on the Jamaica international but only if a swap deal emerges or funds are freed up at the Blues end and, like for many EFL sides without parachute payments, that is unlikely.
Bristol City would listen to offers for other senior players not considered to be part of the club’s future but no serious interest has materialised.
BristolWorld reported recently that interest from a lower league Championship side in striker Nahki Wells has failed to progress.
Pearson spoke earlier this season about some players “not being on the bus” and questioning their long-term future at the club. That bus appears to not have any doors currently, as nobody is being allowed off it.
With no outgoings, and financial pressures to meet the EFL’s profit and sustainability rules (a three-year rolling assessment that allows for losses of no more than £39m; though there is expected to be some leniency for the impact of COVID-19 in the last two years), the heat is on.
And so CEO Richard Gould has conducted interviews with selected media outlets to put pressure on the EFL to reform.
Gould suggested to The Telegraph that the club may even deliberately break P&S rules next summer, and suck up a points penalty that may be similar to Reading’s 6 points deduction this year, to avoid having to sell the club’s best players.
“We’ve got this big bow wave about to hit us next year on Profit and Sustainability,” said Gould. “We can see it coming and it’s only been brought about because the transfer market has crashed.
“Otherwise the business plan, which albeit required quite a lot of investment from the owner, was relatively sound.
“But now this big bow wave is coming, we know that we’re probably going to breach it next year unless we sell a lot of our best players. And we don’t want to sell a lot of our best players”, he told The Telegraph.
Is it a case of the chickens have come home to roost and there is no market for the unwanted players who have fine salaries at Bristol City?
Or is this the tip of the iceberg, caused by Covid-19, and with plenty of clubs to now battle against financial downgrading and subsequent punishment? In the Championship, only Millwall have released their accounts so far this season, along with City.
For Bristol City supporters, it makes tough reading when at the same time, Championship rivals Middlesbrough, Stoke City, Swansea City and Nottingham Forest have all reinforced their squad this window, but the Robins are unable to do similar and are having to consider player sales instead.
Pearson explained last week that he would yet like to bring in one player this January. But that does not look doable given the lack of outgoings, failure to free up finance, and overhanging balance sheet.
It could be a long second half of the season for Robins fans.
It’s interesting timing for Gould to make these statements now and some supporters may question if this is simply the paving of the way for some hardships to come: either the sale of players or if not, then the release of players in a similar way to how midfielder Adam Nagy was effectively released on a free transfer to join Serie B side Pisa last August.
Gould, no doubt, intends to apply pressure to the EFL to reform and he has spoken out on more than one occasion to highlight the disparities at play in the English second tier.
The club are in favour of a soft wage cap in the Championship.
A legitimate question is how much of this situation is of the club’s making and how much is down to the pandemic. A middling wage bill and clubs elsewhere making transfers hints at the former.
No offers for Massengo to date suggests the player has decided to remain at Bristol City until the summer before reassessing. The club will hope the former Monaco man puts pen to paper, but the midfielder may wish to examine his options with the opportunity to play top tier football likely to be forthcoming.
Nigel Pearson has predicted a quiet January and it looks like it will play out that way - though there is still a way to go, with the market likely to hot up in the last days.
City trust they have enough to survive this Championship season, and they do. They will continue developing their young players and academy talents, and examine their options in the next window.
But this issue will not go away. A host of key players are out of contract in 2023 and major decisions loom on the horizon for Pearson, Gould and co over which players to keep and sell.