This week marks the close of the January transfer window. Much has been said about this month, with many dubbing it an unnecessary medium to unnerve and unsettle opponents. Following Chelsea’s decision to sell Spanish playmaker Juan Mata to Manchester United, esteemed managers Arsene Wenger and Mauricio Pellegrini took the opportunity to slate the window, with a not-so subtle twang of jealousy etched across their visages. There has been too much said about this month, so this article is going to take a look at the most dramatic end in the history of winter transfer windows, and is brought to you by Michael Ramsay.
On the 30th of January 2011, recently promoted Newcastle United were sitting pretty in seventh place. Having ousted Chris Hughton at the helm in early December, Alan Pardew had overseen some solid, if unspectacular results. Topscorer and Geordie talisman Andy Carroll had proved a revelation for the Magpies, plundering goals past Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea on his way to his first England cap.
Carlo Ancelotti had led Chelsea to an unprecedented cup and league double the previous season, but a winter slump in form saw them slip to a miserable fourth place in the table, perilously close to slipping out of the final Champions League spot. With an ageing squad, and an underperforming strikeforce, the Londoners were submitting a lethargic and pithy defence of their crown.
The hierarchy at Liverpool had already lost patience with recently hired gaffer Roy Hodgson, and had pulled a ‘Mike Ashley 2008’ move, in resurrecting ‘The King’. Kenny Dalglish had been back in the hotseat less than five minutes, and was already charged with correcting the alarming dip in the form of Fernando Torres – a slump that had seen one of the finest strikers in the world paradoxically limp to World Cup success, and had rarely shown the lightning burst of pace and goalscoring instinct that had been consistently terrifying defenders all around the globe.
In the space of a few hours, everything had changed.
The news that Liverpool supporters had been dreading was in – Torres had decided to call time on his Anfield career. Having scorched Premier League defences for three and a half years, he submitted the transfer request, following a rejected offer from Ancelotti’s Chelsea. Torres surely had no idea the extent of the chain reaction that his decision subsequently set off.
By lunchtime, a 30 million pound offer was placed on Mike Ashley’s desk, with the Scousers clearly hot under the collar, in their quickfire bid to replace the departing Spaniard. Miserly as ever, Ashley refused the exorbitant sum, citing a further 5 million pounds be stumped up in order to acquire the services of the finest No.9 to have graced the St. James’ Park turf since Alan Shearer.
The typical deadline day reports zipped around the football stratosphere, linking Tottenham with a move for Athletico Madrid striker Sergio Aguero, Manchester United with a deal for Blackpool playmaker Charlie Adam, Arsenal with a swoop for Lille winger Eden Hazard, and question marks remained over the future of Southampton wonderkid Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. All the while, more developments, twists and turns began to appear in relation to the Carroll and Torres moves.
Alan Pardew’s scheduled pre-match press conference regarding the Tyneside club’s upcoming clash with Fulham was cancelled, with punters realising there might now be a very real possibility of the born-and-raised Geordie signing for the red half of Merseyside.
At approximately half past five, the news that broke Geordie hearts was in. Despite Pardew’s month-long insistence that Carroll wasn’t for sale at any price, Liverpool announced that they had agreed a fee of 35 million pounds for the Geordie striker.
Of course, Chelsea weren’t entirely transfixed on the swoop for the Spaniard down Anfield Road. A 21 million deal was agreed with Benfica for highly-rated centre-half David Luiz, with utility man Nemanja Matic moving in the opposite direction. As we all know, Chelsea would part with a further 20 million to drag the Serbian back from Benfica three years later.
With the transfer window drawing to a close, it was subsequently announced that Chelsea had completed the formalities, paperwork and niceties of the Torres deal in the nick of time. 50 million pounds had been accepted by Liverpool, with a large chunk of that being used to fund the Carroll deal.
To date, the fee splashed out for Torres was the most that any British club has ever paid for a footballer, with Carroll holding the crown as the most expensive British player, before Gareth Bale shattered that record last summer.
What has happened since those moves has been nothing short of incredible. Weighed down by massive price tags respectively, they failed to live up to their past reputations, drawing criticism from a number of supporters. Carroll managed just six goals in 44 outings for the Merseysiders, before being whisked off to West Ham last summer at a knock-down price. Torres has fared a little better in terms of his goal tally, and even scored a crucial goal at the Nou Camp which sealed their progress to the Champions League final. However, he has looked short of fitness, confidence and sharpness when through on goal – a shadow of the player that once tore defences to shreds for Spain and Liverpool.
The January transfer window can prove to be a helpful platform to save one’s season. But as the window draws to a close, just one transfer request can set off a chain reaction which has major implications for the rest of the league. Without Torres’ decision to quit the Merseyside club, Carroll might still be banging them in on Tyneside, with the 35 million pound war chest which funded the arrivals of Yohan Cabaye, Mathieu Debuchy and Papiss Cisse, just a distant dream. The Spaniard may have rediscovered his goalscoring touch at Liverpool, allowing Daniel Sturridge to take centre-stage for Chelsea.
However, this is all conjecture. What is true though, is that 85 million pounds was squandered on January 31st 2011. Both owners will look back and wince on how they allowed those transfers to go through, and will hope to have learned from these mistakes, so that they will never be allowed to be repeated again.
Pundit Arena, Michael Ramsay.