Remember the good old days? Those heady times when Peter Odemwingie drove from West Bromwich to West London in 2013 only to be refused entry, live on TV, to the offices at Queens Park Rangers? Or when Andy Carroll, in 2011, looked bemused by the events that saw him join Liverpool for £35 million, while Fernando Torres moved to Chelsea in one of football’s most unsuccessful moves in history? Or as far back as 2008, when Robinho turned up at newly-minted Manchester City (one City official was so surprised by the deal that at first he faxed a blank sheet of paper to Real Madrid)?
Transfer deadline day used to be crazy. It used to be bizarre. And it would often leave experts from other industries shaking their heads and saying, ”Why on earth is all this happening today?”
There is still an element of that, when clubs that have had one month to get their squads in order leave things until the very last day. Sometimes taking deals to the brink can secure a few extra million on top of a transfer fee, but more often than not, it smacks of bad planning and desperation.
One Premier League club on Monday, West Ham, was reportedly chasing three center backs, two defensive midfielders and two forwards, all on the final day. It ended up with none of them. For most of deadline day, the biggest move was Robert Huth’s loan deal from Stoke City to Leicester. Which says it all, really.
Late on, Aaron Lennon swapped the Spurs bench for a loan spell at Everton, and Rickie Lambert turned down a move to Aston Villa. The most significant deals were contract extensions: Philippe Coutinho at Liverpool and Harry Kane at Spurs both signing new deals.
The big difference this year was the amounts of money changing hands – far less in the past. The exception was the two title rivals in the Premier League. Manchester City signed Wilfried Bony from Swansea City for £25 million, after realizing that not replacing Alvaro Negredo was not the best way to defend a league title.
League-leading Chelsea, meanwhile, has in technical director Michael Emenalo someone with the uncanny ability to sell unwanted players at a premium. In the summer, it was David Luiz (£50 million to PSG) and Juan Mata (£37 million to Manchester United) and this week, Andre Schurrle to Wolfsburg for £22 million – a net of more than £100 million for three players that manager Jose Mourinho did not even want.
The Schurrle funds were quickly reinvested into the signing of Fiorentina's Juan Cuadrado.
Even clubs fearing relegation, normally sure-fire cases for panic buying, were modest in their spending. The biggest surprise of all was the lack of noise coming from Queens Park Rangers, whose coach Harry Redknapp has made his reputation on wheeling and dealing while the clock is ticking (an allegation he has furiously denied in the past).
QPR moved on Jordon Mutch six months after signing him for £6 million, and then tried to return Mauro Zarate to West Ham four weeks after his loan began, which the regulations do not allow. That meant QPR could not loan in winger Matt Jarvis, also from West Ham, as clubs cannot loan more than one player to the same club. It was amateur hour.
The obvious reason for much of this is the three words that football is still trying to get its head around: Financial Fair Play. One football executive, formerly a chief executive of a Champions League club, told SI.com that it should be called ‘Financial Unfair Play’ because of the protection it gives to the top clubs and the difficulties that other clubs have of breaking into that elite.
Last week FIFA’s Transfer Matching System released its Global Transfer Market Report for 2014, in which it investigated growing trends in the international transfer market, of which every transfer has to go through its system. While overall spending year on year was up, mainly because of Premier League clubs and their huge revenue streams from broadcasting rights, there were other noticeable dips.
In France, for example, summer spending dropped by nearly 50 percent, from $421 million to $216 million.
“French football is in a difficult moment,” Jean Claude Blanc, Paris Saint-Germain director-general, told the report, citing FFP and France’s high taxes and social charges. “The settlement we have had to make with UEFA over FFP has limited our spending to one new player, at a maximum net cost of EUR 60 million. When we look at what Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC did [in the transfer market] this summer, we see that FFP has set a very impactful limit on PSG.”
Mondays like we have just had do not suit the broadcasters. Sky Sports in England has made the day a significant part of the calendar – almost like Draft Day in the NFL, even though there have been 30 or so days exactly the same before it. Its presenters, some clearly while gritting their teeth, wear yellow ties/dresses to denote ‘the deadline-day brand.’ It was hard for them to muster enthusiasm for Reading’s shock move for ex-Nigeria striker Yakubu Aiyegbeni.
So maybe there was a positive in the lack of movement on the final day. FFP might have played its role, or maybe some clubs have just wised up and felt that rushing into a deal was not the path to the best deal. Either way, the more the media pushed deadline day as the biggest day of the season, the more unconvincing it all sounded.