This summer’s transfer window for English Premier League clubs has never been more fruitful. When the window shut at 6pm London time on September 1st, they set a record - $1.3 billion spent between them spanning the months of June, July and August. That can be seen two-fold. It shows initiative and ambition, but it’s also a sign of panic. Money hungry soccer players are happy to take the big deal and sit on a fat contract because the club who bought them were stupid enough to fork out the funds.
After signing on for a multi-billion dollar television deal that makes the EPL the world’s tastiest gravy train of all time, a new trend has emerged. No longer will the also-rans fight and scrap their way to survival. No, they see this cash influx as an incentive to spend big!
On the flip side, players with ambition have the capacity to hand in a transfer request. Once that goes public, the fans know their player wants out and they become something of a glorified martyr wanting to nail their colors to the mast.
Players speak ill of transfer deadline day, a time when soccer stars are either on their cell phones constantly with their agent trying to get the deal over the line, or turning it off and hiding under the covers. These professionals are the meat in the sandwich and can be left in the middle of a dreaded tug-of-war.
With Manchester City starting the season with 4 wins from 4 games and buying the explosive power and talents of Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne, and the defensive solidity of Argentine international defender Nicholas Otamendi, the blue half of Manchester look unstoppable.
Their business puts all of their other competitors under the pump. This transfer deadline day could be best described as “manic” by those neutral observers, leaving players and agents in limbo about where they’ll be suiting up for the season. Add to this the continual whining and complaining from EPL managers about the nature of the transfer window arguing for it to end prior to match day one, and the only winners from this scenario are the television channels, radio stations and websites who leak sensitive information or fire up rumors.
With the European Championships only nine months away from kicking off in France, the big names want to play regular football and star for their teams to send a message to their international coach – “Pick me!” But as The Rolling Stones told us way back in 1969, you can’t always get what you want. So now the dust has settled, here are the biggest losers and winners of the transfer window.
22 Carlos de Pena
To most observers reading the ins and outs of the transfer window, English Championship outfit Middlesbrough picked up a talented young winger from South America on deadline day. But how Carlos de Pena made it to the North West was nothing short of traumatic. Coming back from Montevideo airport the 23-year-old was involved in a car crash where his mother was in the passenger seat. Despite his club Nacional telling him to stay put after the prang, de Pena got himself bandaged up and got on the next available plane. Expert Tim Vickery told the BBC “I can’t remember anyone being so desperate to get to Middlesbrough since Chris Rea was driving home for Christmas.” That’s a lot of pain to get to a 2nd division club.
21 Charlie Austin
All reason and logic pointed to Charlie Austin remaining in the EPL this season, leaving his relegated club Queens Park Rangers behind him. It felt like a fait accompli when Crystal Palace and Leicester City both put in $18 million bids over the summer and a call up to the England squad just 12 months previous had the odds heavily in his favor. As the deadline wore down, Austin tried to lift his own spirits by tweeting, ‘#9 #QPR big season ahead.’ Unfortunately for Charlie, that season is in the 2nd tier.
20 Belgium Clubs
A sad reality of England’s financial muscle has a knock-on effect, making a lot of the other competitions on the continent feeder clubs for the wealthy to pick at their choosing. Club Brugge lost Oulare to Watford while starlet teenage goalkeeper Matija Sarkic left Anderlecht for Aston Villa. Even before these youngsters have made a name for themselves they are snapped up to fill EPL squads. Only those two players were deadline day casualties, but every window that opens and shuts leaves the Belgian league poorer.
19 Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs moved American prodigy DeAndre Yedlin to Sunderland on loan and Aaron Lennon sold to Everton, but Emmanuel Adebayor will stay on to stink out the dressing room. His appalling attitude sitting in the reserves to pick up his check should have come as no surprise judging by his behavior at Arsenal and Manchester City, but failing to kick him out the door will be a major pain for Tottenham. This was the window he should have gone. Korean forward Son will help alleviate the pressure off underperforming Harry Kane, yet this won’t be a transfer period Spurs fans will remember fondly.
18 Steve Bruce
Being relegated is a devastating blow by any measure, sitting out the riches of the EPL’s television slush fund. However, in some cases, the owners of clubs who suffer the dreaded drop hold onto their best players knowing that they can lift them back to the glory days. For former Manchester United defender and much maligned coach Steve Bruce, West Ham’s deadline day signing of Croatian striker Nikica Jelavic for a poultry $4.5 million will be gutting for his club Hull City. Letting a player of that proven caliber go for such a minimal fee could prove the difference between Championship mediocrity and Premier League status.
17 Saido Berahino
Berahino is one of English soccer’s hottest properties and he knows it. The West Bromwich Albion forward put in a transfer request to join Tottenham but was officially refused by the club's chairman, while manager Tony Pulis was left in the middle of an awkward standoff between the player and the club who pays his wages. Berahino escalated the situation dramatically when he took to Twitter, saying, “Sad how I can’t say exactly how the club has treated me but I can officially say I will never play Jeremy Peace (chairman).” Ouch!
16 John Stones
Such is the angst and acrimony felt around John Stones at the moment, he has moved from his Liverpool home to live in a motel room in Manchester. Stones’ transfer request to join Chelsea fell on deaf ears, despite multiple attempts by the blues to get their man. The last bid was in the region of $60 million which meant Everton were expected to bend over and accept without a fight, but they held strong and quashed the defender’s hopes of going to London. The good news is Stones will get guaranteed first team football to impress prior to the European Championships, but he will have to recover from the awkward embarrassment of making it known to the world he wanted to leave the joint.
Here is food for thought for Arsenal supporters – out of the top 5 European leagues only one club failed to sign an outfield player (a non-goalkeeper), Arsenal. Petr Cech’s signature for $15 million was overdue to give the defense a calm presence, but how coach Arsene Wenger can expect to catch up with Manchester City and Chelsea by only swapping their goalie is a stunning mishap the gunners may live to regret. Fans were crying out for a striker, given Theo Walcott and Oliver Giroud are badly out of form and their top scorer happens to be own goals (2) this season. Even those who don’t have an intimate knowledge of soccer must understand this is outrageous.
The complicated dealings that saw Brazilian sensation Neymar join from Santos to Barcelona made European officials at UEFA sit up and take notice. The irregularities that surrounded the deal meant the Spanish giants were put in the naughty corner throughout the entire window. New signings Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal cannot run onto the pitch until January when the ban is lifted, but Barca’s tough schedule sees them travel to Japan for the World Club Championships amongst a host of tough fixtures. Pedro’s exit to Chelsea only hampers matters and Luis Enrique will have to perform miracles for the Catalans to replicate their treble-winning season of 2014/15.
12 David de Gea
Won’t somebody put this kid out of his misery? In the ultimate game of tug-of-war between heavyweights Manchester United and Real Madrid, goalkeeping sensation David de Gea was left holding his gloves and sobbing into the corner post. With Spain’s deadline day falling a day before England’s, the pressure was on for the de Gea situation to come to an end. The player’s transfer request was not met, with allegations of bungled paper work and slow database updates meant the deal collapsed. The speculation will go on and on until the window opens again in January, with every chance it will go for another few months after that. A transfer window loser by every measure!
10 Aston Villa
Tim Sherwood is trying his best to slowly turn the former European Cup winners from relegation fodder to mid table security. His dealings on deadline day saw Joleon Lescott traded from midlands rivals West Brom for $3 million to shore up their defense, shipping out makeweights Nathan Baker on loan to Bristol City and Joe Bennett to Bournemouth. Sherwood utilized the loan system himself, taking Liverpool fringe player Tiago Ilori for the remainder of the campaign. None of this business will set the competition alight, but for a final day of doing deals the Villains can’t have too much to complain about.
9 Leicester City
Leicester City’s start hasn’t gone to script. Bringing in the tired old face of Claudio Ranieri was supposed to be a disaster, finishing a stint coaching Greece with a defeat to the Faroe Islands of all countries! Yet a scintillating start to 2015/16 has given the Foxes genuine belief. With Riyad Mahrez scoring goals for fun, they used deadline day to bring in Swansea City flyer Nathan Dyer on loan to add to their speed stocks. Staying in the league should now be a given for the team that came up last season.
Bournemouth are without question the romantic’s choice this EPL season. The sleepy south coast outfit stormed their way to promotion on the back of dynamic play under their highly rated young English manager Eddie Howe who is tipped to go on to bigger and better ventures. But the Cherries went to such lengths to pick up stars this deadline day, they had a private jet waiting in Genoa to fly over a player that didn’t even make it – that’s commitment! They paid $6 million for the services of Palace striker Glenn Murray and the loan deals of Bennett and Tomas Andrade to boot.
7 Virgil van Dijk
Southampton’s outlay of approximately $17 million for the Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk came well before 6 pm as the “will he, won’t he” saga finally came to an end. Rather than giving the Saints the credit by making them the winners, van Dijk’s recent form has failed to convince. He was poor in Celtic’s Champions League loss to Malmo and many pundits think he’s overrated, especially for that fee. Nevertheless he has his big money move to the promised land so watch this space to see if it is money well spent.
6 Anthony Martial
Manchester United don’t do things by half measures. Relatively unknown even by soccer hipster standards, the enigmatic young Frenchman Anthony Martial secured a spectacular move to arguably the biggest club on the planet when the Red Devils invested $55 million during the last hours of the window. With Mexican Javier Hernandez sent out by coach Louis Van Gaal to Bayer Leverkusen on loan, Wayne Rooney had no cover up front in the striker department. Martial is said to be comfortable across all three wide positions and for that fee, he will be expected to hit the ground running. A great move for him personally, but the jury is out whether United will be the ultimate winners.
5 Jose Mourinho
For Jose, he either gets what he wants or he leaves. Sometimes they can be one in the same thing, but his request for cover in defense proved dividends when Chelsea secured Papy Djilobodji from French outfit Nantes for a cheap $6 million and Mexican Michael Hector from Reading for the same price. It is speculated in the UK press that club captain John Terry and Mourinho are no longer on speaking terms, while the form of Branislav Ivanovic among others is shaky. These introductions will calm the waters for a season that has threatened to spiral out of control. Fresh faces provide healthy competition and options, so Jose can rest a little easier.
Keeping up to date with Watford’s ins and outs this transfer window requires the most advanced uses in technology known to man. The owners of this newly promoted club are the Pozzo Family, owners of Udinese in Italy and Granada in Spain. This trio of clubs are used under the one banner as soccer players switch in and out. On D-Day the Hornets snapped up Obbi Oulare from Club Brugge, Adlene Guedioura from Palace and Victor Ibarbo from Cagliari. Their accountant would have earned their money this month with approximately 15 transfers occurring this window alone, comfortably the most business done by any one EPL team.
3 Roberto Martinez
The blue section of Merseyside have put the onus on coach Roberto Martinez to not let the team collapse in a heap. John Stones’ transfer request to Chelsea was met with stern resistance by the club and they stayed true to their word – he was simply not for sale. Aaron Lennon secured a permanent switch from Spurs to Everton for an undisclosed fee while they forked out around $14 million for Argentine defender Ramiro Funes Mori. It’s not the quantity of Martinez’s business that impresses, but the quality. Holding the core of Stones, Barkley and Lukaku gives the Toffees a young nucleus moving forward.
2 West Ham
Wins away at Arsenal and Liverpool wasn’t enough to satisfy the owner's tastes at West Ham. The Irons splashed out on Victor Moses, Nikica Jelavic and Michail Antonio while sending out fringe winger Matt Jarvis on loan to Norwich City. Manager Slaven Bilic must be tickled pink that the board have backed him at the most crucial of moments for the hammers. Their move next season to the Olympic Stadium across the road at London will have to be filled with Premier League paying customers, they simply cannot afford to go down this season. With this business done on deadline day, that looks near impossible.
1 Manchester City
Manchester City did sweet nothing on deadline day by ticking all of their boxes well in advance. Massive deals for Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling in the summer and this weeks addition of Belgium sensation Kevin de Bruyne means the City faithful have every reason to believe they can mount challenges on the Premier League front and Champions League. De Bruyne’s deal of $84 million was by far the biggest done in this window. What would be most reassuring for their fans is the efficiency of business, which is translating over the pitch. Look out EPL and Europe!