Tuesday, 1 February 2011

How much??? Deadline Day Observations - 31st Jan 2011

And so another Transfer window draws to a dramatic close. January 31st has come and gone, clubs have concluded their transfer business for the season (emergency loan nonsense aside) and will have to make do with their lot from now until the end of the campaign.

Is Deadline day is fast becoming one of the most significant dates of the entire year? Ask a lot of football fans and you'll probably find it means more to them than Shrove Tuesday or Boxing Day or Valentines.

This particular day in the footballing calender tends to stir up a mix of emotions as supporters feel everything from excitement, to anger, to fear and even confusion as teams desperately and recklessly throw around their cash trying to strengthen their squads in a manner not dissimilar to shopaholics on the last day of some department store sale. Like these shoppers, football clubs often find that they have not invested wisely and end up going home with ill-fitting and unwanted items they cannot return.

Cynicism toward the whole idea of a transfer window is widespread and totally understandable given the limits, restrcitions and pressure it places on clubs, managers and players. However, I've decided that it is time to embrace the madness. I love days like this because of the unpredictability and insanity - even if they do serve as a reminder of how much of a ridiculous circus the 'sport' of football has become.

A whole day spent sat glued to Sky Sports News with my MacBook by my side as I constantly refreshed the BBC website and obsessively trawled through Twitter for any nugget of vaguely relevant transfer gossip was probably not the most productive use of my time. Some might even say it was a complete waste of a day off. A day that could have been spent doing something far more fulfilling. Tragically, there are actually very few things in the world not involving Megan Fox and a Jacuzzi that I would have rather been doing...

Why does the deadline time change every window? In the past it has been 5pm, Midnight and on this occasion, 11pm. There's probably a simple explanation that I am unaware of so if anyone can enlighten me, I'd be rather grateful.

People talk about inflated transfer fees and and paying over the odds for individuals but in truth, who are any of us to judge how much someone is worth? Footballers are worth exactly what a team/Chairman/Cash-rich Arab can (hopefully) afford and is prepared to pay. There is no official valuation criteria for players to meet so not one of us can justifiably say that "x is a waste of money" or "y is a bargain".

Having said that, for the sake of argument, I'm going to ignore this completely...

Without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest story of the day was dedicated, badge-kissing Liverpool diehard Fernando Torres swapping his red armband for a blue one as he joined rivals Chelsea for something like 50 million quid of Roman Abramovich's fortune, breaking the British transfer record in the process! The blues also spunked £22m on David Luiz from Benfica but I literally know nothing about the Brazilian defender to say whether this transfer is worthwhile or not so I'll move on.

Amidst all the hype and hysteria surrounding the Torres deal, people seem to have ignored the fact that 'Nando' has actually been quite rubbish this season. Imagine how much he would have cost in he hadn't been playing like some kind of Spanish Chris Armstrong for the past 5 months. He also spent so much time on the treatment table that Liverpool physios were actually charging him rent.

Of course, when fit, firing and on form he is arguably the best striker in Europe and if Carlo Ancelloti can get him to form a half decent partnership with Didier Drogba then quite frankly, the rest of us are doomed! To completely bastardise the famous Mark Twain quote, rumours of Chelsea's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Naturally, the move has led to widespread calls of disloyalty and betrayal from dismayed Liverpool fans, some of whom even took to making the extreme gesture of burning replica shirts as a means of expressing their displeasure. Talk about taking things too seriously.

It was not all bad news for the scousers though, especially given the fact that someone, somewhere in Liverpool decided that Andy Carroll was worth 35,000,000 pounds Stirling and paid Newcastle this very amount to bring take him to Anfield. Seriously, £35million? Did they forget to add a decimal point in there somewhere? Who sanctioned this transfer? Fred Goodwin???

If a player with half a season's top flight experience and less than a hundred professional appearances to his name is valued at that price then we may as well all just pack up and go home. Forget women linesmen, THIS is the sign that the game has gone mad. If we were to say that Mr. Carroll is 100 times a better footballer than me then the would still place me at about £350,000! If anyone is looking for a clumsy, bumbling Saturday league centre back, I'm your man! Darren Bent all of a sudden looks a snip.

The most curious thing about this was that Newcastle had apparently initially turned down £30million. Why? Fair play to them for holding out for more but anything above £10m is surely too much for Carroll who has now become the 8th most expensive player in world football despite not even being one of the top 20 best players in the Premier League.

The 'experts' on Sky tried to justify the transfer, by suggesting that 'King' Kenny was trying to sign players that fans could identify with. It would be too easy to make a joke about Carroll's criminal record so I'll leave it well alone.

Signing overrated jailbird Geordies wasn't the only business Liverpool did on deadline day. The NESV owned club also completed the deal to bring in another striker in Uruguayan Luis Suarez – yes, he of notorious World Cup handball fame – for a cool £23m.

Suarez has one of those frightening goal-scoring records in the Dutch league but as we've seen in the past an Eredivisie golden boot can prove to be about as valuable as shares in BP this morning. For every Ruud van Nistelrooy, there's a Mateja Kezman, or even worse, an Alfonso Alves!

Liverpool fans will be hoping their new man will be more like the former (as well as letting his feet rather than hands do the talking). Taking Suarez' international record (16 in 38 to date) into account as well, it would suggest he won't turn out to be as much of a footballing misfit as the latter two. If he can adapt, he will be just as deadly in front of goal as the departing Torres.

With two high priced new strikers making up what would be one of the most expensive forward lines in the league, the burning question on everyone's lips is what will become of Nabil El Zhar?

The fact that the new owners have not been shy in allowing 'King' Kenny to splash the cash so frivolously would suggest that they are looking to keep him for the long haul. No temporary manager would ever be handed such a warchest with which to rebuild and remould the team if he was expected to sling his hook in the not too distant future.

For me, the big winners on deadline day were Blackpool. Aside from singing two fairly useful players (and James Beattie) Ian Holloway managed to prevent Liverpool from increasing their spending even further after he dug his heels in and refused to sell the club's best player Charlie Adam to the reds.

The continued interest in Adam is a curious one. I make it no secret I'm a massive fan of his. He's a very good player and is playing to his potential at the minute but I can't see him improving much beyond his current level. Admittedly, he is still better than what Liverpool have already.

How will he react to not getting his dream move? By all accounts, he's going to still put in the effort but he might have trouble displacing new signing Andy Reid... in every sense of the word!

Spurs also came in with a late bid for Adam that was either turned down or too late depending on whether you trust the word of 'onest 'arry or not. There seemed to be something of a desperate panic at Spurs Lodge in the hours after their 4-0 humping at the hands of Fulham in the cup as bids went in for what seems like every striker in La Liga with little success before time ran out. Tottenham were unable to repeat their magic of the last window when they bought Rafael van der Vaart for just £8m (Again, Andy Carroll = £35m!!!).

Mrs. Sylvie van der Vaart - anytime he gets a mention, she gets a picture!

White Hart Lane wasn't the only place that saw a lack of last day transfer activity. It was all quiet at the top as Manchesters United and City and Arsenal chose to keep their wallets in their pockets. City had already completed a big money deal for Edin Dzeko weeks ago and shipped out their dead wood in Wayne Bridge and Emmanuel Adebayor – albeit on loan – to do some much needed trimming to their squad. United seem to be operating on the "if it aint broke, don't fix it" principle and why not seeing as they are top of the league and still unbeaten etc.

To the surprise of no-one, Arsene Wenger chose not to enter the transfer market despite the glaring deficiencies in his team's defence. Once again, you expect gooners to look back in May after another season of disappoint in the league and wondering what might have been if only they made that one signing that everyone with even a passing interest in the game could see that they needed.

Elsewhere, loan deals were the order of the day. Obafemi Martins returned to the Premier League to Birmingham from Rubin Kazan in Russia where he seems to have found the secret of eternal youth after being listed as a 26-year old despite having been born in 1942.

Eidur Gudjohnson has returned to West London to Fulham on loan after a pointless few months at Stoke. Having spent the most recent years of his career living in Barcelona and Monaco, is it any wonder he couldn't settle in Staffordshire?

Among other late loan deals, Stephen Ireland can now be totally useless for Newcastle after joining them from Villa for the next few months. Paul Konchesky will be relieved not to have to shank clearances in front of Liverpool fans baying for his blood for a while after dropping down a division to shank clearances for promotion chasing Nottingham Forest. The nicest man in football El Hadji Diouf will be renewing acquaintances with the good people of Glasgow after signing for Rangers. Robbie Keane left Spurs for West Ham and may or may not have declared that he has always dreamed of playing for the Hammers having supported them all his life.

Finally, the best named player that moved on Monday was Maximilian Hass who signed for Middlesbrough and will presumably divide his time playing for the Teesiders with his day job of being a Marvel comics supervillian.

Who says the transfer window was no fun?

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