Transfer scramble: Mad-rush, Mishaps and Mayhem
As the sands of time dust over the wait for the new season, transfer window for English clubs closed shut at 1700 hrs BST on Thursday.
As a first, the transfer window closed before the velvet rope over the Premier League gets removed. The decision to close the window prior to the commencement of 2018/19 campaign was based on consensus, however not unanimous (only 15/20 ‘ayes’).
There were vocal sceptics like Manchester United and their derby cousins City etc. Therefore an option to sell players off the clubs’ books is available until the end of August. As a result, the Premier League saw its customary flurry of activity in the last few hours of the allotted time.
Notably, free agents and loan players can still be added to the squads till 31st August.
The total transfer spending reached the £1.27 billion mark but it fell short of last year’s record expenditure of £1.4 billion. Liverpool and Chelsea were the only two £100m+ clubs as 12 Premier League clubs smashing the £50m barrier.
Chelsea’s new acquisition of Kepa Arrizabalag from Athletic Bilbao for £71m, a record for a goalkeeper, was the costliest signing of the window. The second highest was also a keeper in Liverpool’s Alisson with £66.8m, a ripple effect from the Lorius Karius tragedy of last May.
Chelsea sold their former glove-man Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid for £35m. The Blues have also added Mateo Kovacic on a season-long loan as part of the deal. The early signing of Jorginho for £53m could prove crucial for Maurizio Sarri’s men. Free agent Robert Green also arrived at Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool were the biggest spenders with big money moves for keeper Alisson and the midfield trio of Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri. All that Philippe Coutinho money seems to have been used to bolster weakness in midfield and in the goal as they splashed out a whopping total of £176 m.
Their Merseyside rivals Everton also spent big with £40m transfer of striker Richarlison from Watford and the £22m move of Lucas Digne from Barcelona. They also said goodbye to Premier League legend Wayne Rooney who moved across the pond to the US.
West Ham also broke the bank for the club’s £42m record signing, Felipe Anderson from Lazio. Southampton has made Danish international Jannik Vestergaard from Borussia Monchengladbach their most expensive defender.
Arsenal were able to avail the services of Stephan Lichsteiner on a free transfer. They have also signed defensive midfielder Lucas Torreira from Sampdoria, goalkeeper Bernd Leno from Bayer Leverkusen and centre-back Sokratis from Borussia Dortmund.
Manchester United could not gather transfer momentum in the last few days with harebrained and scattergun bids for Jerome Boateng, Sergej Milinković-Savić etc damaging their stock.
The three early signings in Fred, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant have led many fans to dub the recent window as the club’s worst ever. Their 'noisy neighbours' Manchester City made four signings with £61m Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City as the standout.
But United’s dismal showing pales in comparison to Spurs as Tottenham became the first premier league outfit to survive a summer transfer window (since its inception in 2003) without any new acquisition. Their priority might be different as the new £850m stadium must have left a gaping hole in the club’s coffers.
Deadline Day Deals
Everton saw a lot of seismic activity in terms of transfer-tectonics by sealing a £28.5m deal for Barcelona defender Yerry Mina and 25-year-old Bernard from Shakhtar Donetsk, on a four-year deal.
There were two loan bargains for the Blue half of Liverpool in Kurt Zouma from Chelsea and Andre Gomes from Barcelona. That also makes it three players signed from the Catalan giants this summer.
The other big spenders were Fulham as they appended Marseille's Cameroon international midfielder André-Franck Zambo and Bristol City's Joe Bryan to the squad. Sevilla goalkeeper Sergio Rico, Manchester United’s Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Athletico Madrid’s forward Luciano Vietto also arrived on loan.
Fulham have splurged well in excess of £100m (1st ever promoted side to achieve that), third highest after Liverpool and Chelsea. They had already wrapped up deals for £35m midfielder Jean Michael Seri from Nice and a 5-year deal worth £22m for striker Mitrovic from Newcastle in July.
FC Dinamo Zagreb’s Filip Benkovic and SC Freiburg’s defender Çağlar Söyüncü will play for Leicester City after they completed their moves. The Foxes also manage to ensconce Harry Maguire from the advances of Manchester United and will now go to Old Trafford with him in their ranks.
Colombian international Jefferson Lerma arrived at Bournemouth and Lucas Perez, a player with a UEFA Champions League hat-trick to his name, stayed in London moving from Arsenal to West Ham. Carlos Sanchez returns to Premier League with West Ham as Manuel Pelligrini made his 10th signing of the season.
£6m defender Federico Fernandez rejoined Benetiz (Napoli before) from the relegated Swansea and Wolves completed the move of Belgium international Leander Dendoncker from Anderlecht.
He comes on a season-long loan deal, with the possibility of a permanent £12million move next summer. Former Chelsea youngster Domingos Quina also moved to Watford from West Ham for a paltry £1m. Gerard Deulofeu also joined Watford from Barcelona.
Striker Jordan Ayew joined Crystal Palace from Swansea on a season-long loan. Former Barca player Adam Traore, Bournemouth’s Benik Afobe and Portuguese International Joao Moutinho join Wolves to reinforce their attacking threat.
Liverpool, having wrapped the bulk of their business early, sanctioned a loan deal for Danny Ings to Southampton. Manchester was dead silent on the day as the only signing came at City, Daniel Arzani from Melbourne City. The midfielder was straightway loaned to Celtic.
The total expenditure on the deadline day closed at £128m.
Close Shaves and Post Deadline Anxiety
The last-ditch effort from Manchester United for Diego Godin was in all honestly a masterstroke by the player/his agent to pen a new lucrative deal at Atletico Madrid. Not the first time that has happened with the likes of Sergio Ramos, Cristiano Ronaldo etc using the same ploy previously. They also failed to land Toby Alderweireld, a rumoured top target.
Arsenal’s reported £90m bid for Ousmane Dembele did not fructify as Barcelona swiftly declined their overtures. North London rivals Tottenham also missed out on forcing Jack Grealish’s move from Aston Villa, a championship club.
Owing to the fact that leagues across Europe have different transfer deadlines, many English clubs will fret the remainder of the month. The speculation around superstars like Eden Hazard and Paul Pogba will continue to give a headache to their respective clubs.
Clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea. Liverpool and Arsenal might still show activity in the coming weeks.
The transfer window in a World Cup year has its share of mystery, charm and odd moment of pure horror. Liverpool and Chelsea have certainly stamped their authority while Manchester City have possibly acquired the missing piece of their Champions League puzzle.
Arsenal’s biggest signing has been the new manager, Unai Emery, while Newcastle failed to muster any muscle. Unfortunately for the Geordie supporters, it’s a familiar and frustrating reality under Mike Ashley.
Deadline Day was frenetic, fulminating and from all accounts full of unexpected scalps. The standout performers were Everton and Fulham with Tottenham and Manchester United cutting a disconsolate figure with no last-gasp glory for either.
Watch this space for some more spectacular cross-Europe transfers and under-whelming loan agreements till we finally say goodbye to August. Nevertheless, all eyes now move to Old Trafford on Friday as Manchester United host Leicester City in the season opener.