Last Monday saw the English Premier League transfer record shattered among a media furore. The sports pages dedicated article upon article judging the value of these players and debates continue about the value of the deals. What wasn’t up for discussion however, was that plenty of money was spent.
Chelsea were the biggest spenders, their £75m spent on two players an effort to reassert their Premier league credentials, both on the pitch and in the market. Although their title challenge for this season appears to be over, they are not yet ready to give up. Chelsea are preparing their challenge for next season as owner Roman Abramovich opens that large wallet of his – as if financial muscle is synonymous with victory.
Liverpool were the other big spenders and their decision to pay £35m for Andy Carroll has been scrutinized, derided and praised. Liverpool were not reinstating a title fight as Chelsea were, but still illustrating their hope for a looming return to their success of yesteryear with new ownership and settled management for the first time in a long period.
Tottenham illustrate an interesting case since they did not sign any players. A club rising in the European ranks, a club into the last 16 of the Champion’s League and challenging for a position in next years competition. Playing against one-time European kings AC Milan in the aforementioned tournament you could excuse Spurs for experiencing a sense of glamour. Their recent pummelling by Fulham in the FA Cup highlighted their defensive frailty, which manager Harry Redknapp has admitted himself, yet Tottenham’s only move in the transfer window for a defender was an ‘insulting’ offer for Everton’s Phil Neville. Instead they bid on, or discussed bids for, Luis Fabiano, Guiseppe Rossi, Fernando Llorente, Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan – the top strikers in the Spanish league outside the Barcelona – Real Madrid coalition.
Was this an effort to highlight Spurs European aspirations? It is likely that Spurs will become regular English representatives in European football over the new few years yet many observers remain sceptical, waiting to see how the team cope this time around before deciding how suited they are to that level of the game. That none of these continental names signed with Tottenham perhaps illustrates a division in how the club perceives itself and how its European counterparts view it.
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp on the transfer window giving his opinion on Liverpool and Chelsea’s deals
These transfer statements are by no means limited to those teams with European involvement.
Birmingham, a team who have been hovering perilously above and occasionally within the relegation zone all season, saw the transfer window as a time to demonstrate that the club still maintained faith in itself. With the team faring far poorer than last season the owners could not sit idly by, especially as promises of great financial backing have yet to materialise. In a game were money increasingly equals power (although there are a few exceptions to the rule) to at least be perceived as active in the transfer market can make a team seem optimistic.
Robbie Keane, a supposed transfer target of Birmingham’s, called the team out after they said they wouldn’t sign him as his wage demands were too high. He said the club were only seeking publicity and had no intention of signing him, as if the club hoped that seeming to be involved in a transfer would shine a hopeful light on the team and distract fans from their lowly Premiership position.
The Birmingham case shows that the transfer period can be a delicate situation, one sucseptible to a negative outcome.
Bill Kenwright, the Chairman of Everton, said “Yes, those clubs fortunate enough to boast a rich and generous benefactor undoubtedly have a clearly defined advantage…but the outcome of crucial mathces are quite often decided not by the size of the bank balance but more by skill, good fortune or the whim of a referee.”
In fact, the sporting director at Chelsea yesterday defended their £50m signing of Fernando Torres as some parties have described the signing as a lack of faith and patience with their own young players, an unwillingness to nurture their own talent.
Clearly the the transfer window is period of communication, a time when there is a lot of PR at work. Whether it is a club smashing financial records with marquee signings or trying to appear optimistic in light of poor form, it is more often about keeping up appearances than we may at first realise.
image by AMagill on flickr.com