Madness is coming - A bemused look at the transfer deadline day
“This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end”
Thus goes one of the most iconic opening sequences in the history of Hollywood, the opening of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now”. It talks of the day of reckoning the protagonist and his troops are about to face, deep in the jungles of Vietnam. The theme of doomsday, The day of reckoning, The D-day, The day of days is something we see everywhere across the pop culture sphere, all around the globe.
For there is nothing more exciting and more gripping than the arrival of something long awaited; the impending hara-kiri. And for us football fans, nothing beats the sheer drama, unpredictability and adrenaline rush that the transfer deadline day provides.
Le Professeur Arsene Wenger calls it a “poker game” and yet forgets that he made his largest buy since moving to North London on that very same day. Alan Pardew questioned it upon losing Yohan Cabaye last year. Former Reading manager, Steve Coppell has called for an end to the window altogether, terming the deadline day, “a day of scurrilous activity”. Yet, they’ve all been victims and beneficiaries of the sporting world’s largest one-day fire-sale.
A day when logic is thrown out the window, and you get your hands on whoever is out there, even if there’s only Kim Kallstrom available. Whether it be in summer or winter, the deadline day guarantees a field day for anyone remotely related to the game. For the media, the day is pure goldust.
Deadline day gambles – when logic goes out of the window
Before delving more deeply into the TDD, let’s go back to St James Park and what happened in the Newcastle United boardroom on September 1, 2008. Mike Ashley and Co shelled out £6m for little known Spanish U-21 international, Xisco. Bought from Deportivo La Coruna, Xisco cost Newcastle £10m in wages over the next 3 years, playing 9 games and scoring a solitary goal.
Becoming a player who epitomized the failings of the deadline day, he was offloaded in 3 years – a promising footballer, stunted in development, left disgraced and unwanted. But adding insult to injury is the immediate aftermath of his arrival. Apparently, the then manager Kevin Keegan had no idea who Xisco was and was left dumbfounded after learning of the deal. Needless to say, Keegan left in a few months, irked and disillusioned. Xisco is a typical deadline day boom-or-bust gamble. A victim of circumstances, the Spaniard was the ultimate loser in a deal which saw a club pull the trigger in panic.
And pulling the trigger in haste and panic is what the deadline day is all about. Granted, some buys turn out to be roaring successes – Luis Suarez to Liverpool, Wayne Rooney to United and Ashley Cole to Chelsea being cases in point. But for every Suarez, Rooney and Cole, there’s been a whole lot of players who’ve been at the other end of the spectrum – little known, celebrated, unsung and venerated players.
Right from when it began 12 years ago, the new and amended transfer window, bloated in length as well as investment has been a case of hit and miss, with the latter significantly outnumbering the former. Why a window even after the leagues begin? Why a window after Christmas? Why set different deadline dates for different leagues, when the rest of the transfer rules are uniform across the UEFA Nations? Nobody knows, and frankly, nobody cares.
With heavy duty terms like buy-out clauses and renewed contractual terms being nothing more than shallow playthings for lawyers and agents to tinker with, the European transfer window has ensured that the disparity between the rich and poor clubs isn’t going to end anytime soon, unless there is divine Arab intervention. Lower and mid-table clubs scout for players, find them, negotiate with and maneuver through a whole bunch of red-tape, only to see the big guns swooping in and taking off with their targets, for inflated prices at the last minute.
And once you throw in the alarmingly increasing number of “statement buys” into the mire, you have the perfect recipe for last-minute madness. Famous(infamous?) cases of the above are that of Robinho to City, and more importantly, Fernando Torres to Chelsea – moves that proved to be detrimental to both the player and the club.
Of complicated transfer deals and ‘shock’ transfers
Ruling the roost over the clubs during these frenetic times are the third party owners – glorified Jerry Maguires, who hold the fate of the player in their hands and can hold the clubs to ransom, unless and until their part of the terms are met. Thankfully banned in the Premier League, but rampant in Portugal and ever increasing in Spain, it is the name of the game in South America.
And it was precisely the reason why the Marcos Rojo transfer turned out to be such a long-drawn out saga. Other famous cases of controversial transfers blighted by third party owners include that of Anderson to United, Ramires to Chelsea and Jo to CSKA Moscow. But, can anything beat the confusion caused when third party owned players move out to another continent without work permits on the deadline day? No way.
On 31 August 2006, Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez, celebrated and adored by millions today, moved to West Ham from Corinthians for an undisclosed( the perfect escapist deadline day term) fee. Not even Alan Pardew, who always seems to get the rough end of the stick when it comes to deadline day deals, knew how they ended up there.
After the arduous tug-of-war that followed between the agents and the club, the club were fined a record £5.5m by the FA. Seemingly unimpressed with Javier Mascherano, Pardew promptly sold him to Liverpool, where he went on to feature in the Champions League final at Athens.
The examples and instances don’t stop there, regarding the bizarre deals that take place on this curious day. Michael Owen, Andy Carroll and more recently, Marouane Fellaini have been some of the mystery buys, to which even time and hindsight have failed to provide an answer. And this year’s deadline day, starting in a few hours from now, promises to be no less exciting or astounding than its famed predecessors.
While we might not see Florentino Perez entering the ring with all guns blazing like last year, we might still see some deals that defy all human logic. Like Chris Jericho sings for his metal band Fozzy, “Let the madness begin!”