Sunday, 23 November 2008

January's transfer window needn't be a spending orgy

Despite global ecomonic woes, this January's transfer window could be as financially explosive as ever.
Saturday's Times (22/11/08) reports Manchester City are preparing a world record £50million bid for Juventus' Gigi Buffon, widely regarded as the planet's best goalkeeper. Even his wages could break all barriers and City set a new bar only two months ago, paying Robinho £160,000 a week to choose Eastlands over Stamford Bridge.
As the best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry, clubs are vying with each other to gain that competitive edge. Liverpool may be toe-to-toe with Chelsea at the top, but have they got enough in reserve to maintain the challenge? Manchester United are unexpectedly adrift and Arsenal's prospects seem akin to John Sargeant's plans to setup a dance school.
For all of the flag waving at Tottenham's turnaround, Harry Redknapp's charges are still in danger of the drop.
Aston Villa were among the summer's big-spenders but Martin O'Neill might well judge another few million might be needed to bag the Champions League dream.
But it doesn't have to be like that. The cash needn't have to fly out the coffers, Alastair Darling-style.
There's enough proven world-class quality in the Premier League going cheap.
Who's going to rescue Michael Owen from Newcastle United? At 29 next month, no one's going to tell me his best days are behind him. Even lacking match fitness, you always fancy him to bag a goal. Chelsea and Aston Villa both know it. Owen coming off the bench for either of those clubs would more than serve their season's remaining ambitions.
Would £5million cover it? Probably.
And then there's William Gallas, stripped of the responsibility of captaining Arsenal, the Frenchman remains one of the world's best defenders. He was imperious under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and he's not been bad at Arsenal either. Arsene Wenger and Gallas are miles apart but that doesn't mean a new manager with a new club wouldn't whisper different sweet nothings in his ear on matchday.
If Harry Redknapp were still at Portsmouth, you could well imagine Gallas going to Fratton Park. Redknapp's a master of re-focusing and motivating the misfit to former glory.
Harry took Paolo di Canio to West Ham after his refereeing shove ha'penny at Hillsborough, and he tempted Sol Campbell from Arsenal (via Bruges). Perhaps he told Sol that as Portsmouth was by the coast, it'd be easy to Lunn Poly when he needed to.
But would the Gunners be tempted to sell Gallas to Tottenham of all clubs?
The fact remains that if you needed a quality defender with a proven Premier League record, you'd never find anyone cheaper than Gallas at the moment. Like Citigroup, his stock is down. What a potential bargain. Even David Dickinson might be interested.
Then there's goalkeepers: I can't remember a higher standard of stoppers in the history of the Premier League.
Manchester City's Abu Dhabi Babby may have a fiscal point to prove or a splash-da-cash deathwish as he limbers up for Fantasy Football Window.
But is Buffon that much better than Shay Given, David James and Jussi Jääskeläinen? They've all been Premier League stars for over a decade and none of them would cost even 10 percent of the total funds to secure the Italian.
Imagine Mark Hughes or Harry Redknapp having any problems integrating them into their club? I'd put the Buffon brochure back on the shelf if I were you, Babby.
Changing times demand a different outlook. There's real quality misplaced in the Premier League and it's available for record low transfer fees.
Managers may ponder recycling homegrown talent instead: it may well get their team further as the race for honours heats up in the second half of the season.