Monday, 2 February 2009

Transfer Window Report: Spurs plunder steals City's thunder

It was billed as Manchester City's big financial splash - it ended with Tottenham Hotspur stealing the headlines.

And given Tottenham's predicament in the league, coupled with the wheeler-dealing histrionics that accompany Harry Redknapp everywhere he goes, that's hardly surprising.

As City bucked the financial trend by scattering monetary sardines to debt-ridden trawlermen, West Ham declared The Great Fire Sale of London. The Hammers conceded everyone of their squad had a price tag on their head.

The £14million transfer of Craig Bellamy from the Hammers to City embodied the extreme sellers trading with the extreme buyers. Too much money chased too few goods and West Ham could be quietly satisfied they got the better of the deal. Hamburg's Nigel de Jong and Newcastle 'keeper Shay Given also arrived at Eastlands for £17m and £8m respectively.

Even Portsmouth raided the West Ham cupboard, snapping up Hayden Mullins and Pele on the same day (Porto's Portugal international before you ask). Jermain Defoe already played his last game in Pompey blue before the window even opened; completing his £15m reunion with Harry and Spurs, but as one Jermain closed another Jermaine opened - on-loan Pennant came in from Anfield. Pompey also signed two Greeks. Let's hope they bear gifts for Tony Adams' strugglers.

Defoe was one of three Spurs signings to make unlikely (astonishing) returns to White Hart Lane. Pascal Chimbonda rejoined from Sunderland and on the final day of the window, Robbie Keane brought a premature end to his Anfield adventure with a return to his comfort zone. The Reds initially lost £8m on the £20.3m they paid Spurs at the start of the season.

Wigan's Wilson Palacios and Carlo Cudicini of Chelsea look canny Harry signings for next season.

Just as gripping as the deals that happened were a couple which never did.

Kaka' turned down an astonishing £90m bid from City, as Milan used their best endeavours to take candy off a kid. It was always going to be a delicate negotiation when Kaka' insisted He Belonged To Jesus. Silvio Berlusconi knew better.

Having also captured Wayne Bridge, City prepared a series of improved bids for Roque Santa Cruz which could've kept Blackburn in caviar for generations.

The protracted negotiations over Santa Cruz crystallised City's problem in this window. Clubs could smell them coming. Blackburn told the Paraguayan he could leave if they were offered £25m - City's opening bid was less than half that. Meanwhile, Rovers prepared for life after Santa Cruz, whenever that is, with the £2m signing of El Hadji Diouf from Sunderland.

As the best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry, clubs vied with each other to gain that competitive edge. But Liverpool must repel Manchester United's mounting challenge without a single new signing. The returns from injury of Torres and Skrtel rather saved the need to bring in new faces, but in selling Keane, Rafa Benitez is gambling on the fitness of Torres.

Arsenal's reward for persistence ended with the signing of Zenit St. Petersburg's Euro 2008 star, Andrei Arshavin. But in doing so, they caused controversy by completing the deal a full 24 hours after the Window had closed. The Premier League claimed the deal had been "substantively" completed by the 5pm lockdown a day earlier.

The joke doing the rounds is that the Emirates is cold - because someone left the Window open!

Chelsea made just one signing - Ricardo Quaresma, on loan from Internazionale.

Aston Villa were among the summer's big-spenders but Martin O'Neill judged another few quid might be needed to bag the Champions League dream. The £3.5m arrival of Emile Heskey from Wigan Athletic represents shrewd dealing.

But other selling clubs were determined to hold on to their best assets till at least the end of the season. Stuart Downing's rumoured switch from Middlesbrough to Spurs never happened. Gareth Southgate could never have offloaded his biggest asset to a relegation rival.
Mike Ashley's renewed vows to Newcastle United meant Michael Owen was unlikely to leave St. James' Park this month. Now he's injured again. But signs of growing stability were measured by the arrival of Bolton's Kevin Nolan for £4m and Ryan Taylor from Wigan - in a swap plus cash deal which took Charles N'Zogbia to the JJB as their record signing.

Everton's David Moyes was recently rated by Sir Alex Ferguson as doing the best job at his club measured against the resources available to him. Top-half of the table and without playing any recognised strikers recently, Moyes waited to the last day of the window to land Jo on-loan from Manchester City for the remainder of the season.

You've got to hand it to Stoke City. Tony Pulis has played a blinder, establishing the Britannia Stadium as a fortress and keeping the newly-promoted side out of the bottom three for much of the season.

The £3.5m capture of Sheffield United striker James Beattie gives a hungry player "another crack at the Premier League" and an extra half-dozen precious goals which may keep Stoke in the league next season. Having also signed Matthew Etherington from West Ham and Henri Camara on-loan from Wigan, they can mix up their attack with more than Rory Delap's long throws, and it makes up for Pulis' only glarer - £5.5m for striker Dave Kitson which hasn't worked at all.

Hull City made a lightning start to life in the Premier League, but the reality now is they're one of 14 clubs in the race to reach 40 points; the widely accepted threshold to avoid relegation. The £5m signing of Fulham midfielder Jimmy Bullard is insurance against that threat, just as his return from injury saved the Cottagers from the drop last season. Roy Hodgson replaced Bullard at Fulham with Julian Gray from Coventry City and the highly-experienced Olivier Dacourt. The former Everton and Leeds midfielder is a loan signing from Inter.

Sunderland boss Ricky Sbragia gave us insight into his defensive priorities. Arriving on-loan at the Stadium of Light were Calum Davenport of West Ham and Manchester City's Tal Ben Haim.

In future, English clubs may well rely far less on importing foreign talent because of the collapse of the £'s value against the Euro, meaning Robinho's recent £32.4m capture from Real Madrid, would now cost in the region of £40m. At the same time, English players become relatively better value to continental clubs.

Sadly, Soccermongery is not a Premier League club, it's a Premier League Blog. However, keen not to be left out, I'm delighted to unveil a household name's arrived as our first major signing!

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The copyright expiry means that anyone can print and sell Popeye posters, T-shirts and even create new comic strips, without the need for authorisation or to make royalty payments.

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