Deadline day sees differing deals in Bundesliga, Premier League
Tuesday marked deadline day for transfers in the Bundesliga and the Premier League. In both countries, 24-hour sports news channels and the digital media went into a frenzied overdrive -- but that's where the similarities ended. Evesn if the English clubs were never going to come close to the frankly demented heights of excess from last season, when a combined £85m changed hands for Andy Carroll (Newcastle to Liverpool) and Fernando Torres (Liverpool to Chelsea) alone, the level of activity differed greatly. English tradition demands plenty of late-night negotiations with desperate attempts to beat the clock; plenty of managers seem to thrive on doing things last-minute. There often seems an element of randomness, if not panic, involved with multiple, hopeful "punts" being made simultaneously.
In Germany, however, a much earlier -- some might say: more sensible -- deadline for new signings at lunchtime sets the tone for what is usually a relatively low-key affair. The Bundesliga's extended winter break over Christmas provides ample time to conclude business, and there's also the sense that buying and selling so late in the game reflects negatively on the club's planning and that of its leading officials. The January sales, thus, are not seen as an opportunity to indulge in a bit of retail therapy but as a last-chance saloon for clubs with urgent emergencies.
That is not to say that good business cannot be done, of course. Here's a (somewhat subjective) list of the best five transfers in both countries, followed by five deals that look decidedly less impressive.
Five last minute bargains/smart buys
The 18-year-old is widely seen as one of the most gifted young midfielders in England. He would have commanded a much higher price tag if it wasn't for several run-ins with the law and a reputation for unprofessional, uncontrollable behavior. Man United rarely gives up on one of its own youth players that easily, but patience had run out at Carrington after one indiscipline too many.
For (second division) West Ham, however, this has the hallmarks of an inspired acquisition. A move to the capital can have its pitfalls for young, undisciplined players, but taking Morrison away from the problematic environs of his old neighborhood should help matters. The player, too, will certainly get the playing time he so craves from coach "Big" Sam Allardyce, and a few decent performances will easily be enough to multiply his resale value in an instant. The odds were good enough for Allardyce to take that bet.
Lakic, 28, was one of the league's hottest properties last season, when he scored 16 goals in 31 games for newly promoted Kaiserslautern. His move to Felix Magath's Wolves in the summer backfired, though: the striker only started five games for the Volkswagen-owned club and didn't find the net once in the process. A lengthy contract (until 2015) and very generous wages made it impossible to find any buyers for him, but Hoffenheim managed to sign him until the end of the season as a stopgap replacement for Vedad Ibisevic, who moved on to Stuttgart. Lakic has shown that he thrives under pressure and should prove a great asset in Hoffenheim's quest for mid-table respectability.
The 32-year-old Chilean, a versatile central midfielder who can direct play from a deep position or play in a more attacking role, will add some much-needed cover in the middle of the park, where the Abu Dhabi-owned club has looked vulnerable in recent weeks. Pizarro has little to no market value after a spate of injuries have halted his progress in Serie A but will do his utmost to earn a permanent move to Eastlands. As far as "extra bodies" go, as recruitments are sometimes referred to in the Premier League, the title contenders could have done much worse.
In the not-too-distant past, right backs were often signed as an afterthought. There was not much demand for specialists as plenty of center backs or midfielders would be routinely recycled as wide defenders to "do a job." In the age of the high defensive line and midfield pressing, however, fullbacks have almost become playmakers with regards to the number of times they will touch the ball. Their status has been upgraded to the point that leading clubs spend years scouting for leading proponents of their art. It's unsure whether the 25-year-old Croatian quite falls into that category -- he's hardly played this season -- but he'll certainly provide experience and energy in an era where Leverkusen has had problems. An option to buy him in the summer for a (reportedly) very reasonable fee makes this a no-brainer that might turn out the envy of some of its rivals.
It will be the third spell at Mainz for the nomadic Egyptian striker. His stats show why Thomas Tuchel's club was so eager to secure the 30-year-old striker's services: he's scored 22 goals in 41 games for 05, a significantly better rate than the 18 in 102 he managed at Werder Bremen, Hamburger SV and Dortmund. "Zizou," as they call him, is one of those forwards who needs to be the main man in a club, and at Mainz he should be an automatic starter. If he comes anywhere near his one-in-two ratio in the second half of the season, the relatively modest outlay -- an estimated ?3M -- will prove money extremely well spent.
Five (potential) January follies
"Proven" Premier League goal-scorers, especially those of British extraction, tend to command a hefty premium in the English market. In that respect, a fee of £6M, rising to £7M with add-ons, sounds like a pretty reasonable deal; even more so if QPR's problems in attack are being considered. And yet one cannot help but feel that the persistent ankle problems that have dogged the 31-year-old striker in recent years makes this a risky venture. While Zamora reportedly settled for considerably less than the £90,000 per week that he was (allegedly) initially demanding, he has little to no resale value and will be difficult to shift if Mark Hughes fails to save the side from relegation.
The 19-year-old left back is widely seen as one of Switzerland's greatest young prospects. Unfortunately, Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath is also widely seen as one of Europe's biggest shopaholics, and the smart men at Zurich saw him coming. The result: a disproportionately high fee that could well rise to an eye-watering ?8.5M with add-ons. Rodriguez is likely to turn out a very good player, but whether Wolfsburg was justified in making him the league's most expensive January import is another matter entirely. The move is also problematic from the player's point of view: Wolfsburg has been shambolic this season, with Magath constantly changing formations and players. The number of players who have fallen out with him along the way and have found themselves banished to the reserves is almost as long as those on his shopping lists.
His 36 goals in 55 games for Rangers suggest that the Croatian striker could well be the long-term solution to Everton's striking problems. But those numbers might be a little misleading. Rangers' dominance in the league is a boon for center forwards, to be sure, but how many SPL-based forwards have really made a successful transition to the competition south of the border in recent years? In addition, Everton's counterattacking style is very different from the attacking football he enjoyed at Ibrox. The 26-year-old will have to adapt to both a higher level and to a different style. It's a process that will take time, at best. Finally, it should be noted that Jelavic's phenomenal goal-scoring record in the SPL has not been replicated at all in the national team, where he's been but a squad player with limited playing time over the last three seasons.
Just how do you get from a failed £17M bid for Olympique Marseille forward Loic Remy to signing 33-year-old Saha in the space of a few hours? Spurs manager Harry Redknapp, like the English transfer market, works in mysterious ways. Getting the French striker for free for an initial six months poses no financial risks but promises few benefits, either: Saha has been plagued by injuries in recent years and looks a shadow of his former self. Redknapp can argue that Saha provides cheap cover up front, but Spurs could have done with a younger, more energetic forward to take bigger, more immediate advantage of their rivals' relative weakness this season. A chance missed.
It's fair to say that Köln fans where a little underwhelmed when the 27-year-old North Korean international was presented on Monday -- after the injury to talisman Lukas Podolski (ankle), they expected a much bigger name. Stale Solbakken's team could well be caught up in a relegation battle and really needed a player who was more established at this level. Jong's record of 14 goals in 39 games for Bochum is unremarkable, too, considering he was playing in Germany's second division. The fact that Solbakken was only informed about the deal very late on by sporting director Volker Finke doesn't bode well, either.