Well it was always going to be a summer of sensational transfer drama filled with lots of amazing hijacks, outrageous asking prices, defiant refusals to sell and the desperation of want-away players, and thankfully the footballing stage and its actors did not disappoint.
Indeed, the stage had already been set from the end of the season when the managerial merry-go-round took shape and the retirements, sacks and appointments kicked in. In England’s Premier League, five new managers were infused into the fray at Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Everton and at Stoke.
Even more than this have been ten managerial changes in Spain’s Primera Liga division including two of Spain’s and indeed Europe’s biggest clubs Barcelona and Real Madrid, along the likes of Valencia, Real Sociedad, Celta Vigo, Levante, Malaga, Valladolid and Athletic Bilbao. We even witnessed Heyneckes and Benitez, winners of Uefa’s Champions League and Europa respectively, bowing out with raucous applause from their club faithfuls and paving way for arch-rivals Mourinho and Guardiola, with Benitez and Walter Mazzari playing musical chairs in the Serie A. Expectantly, we’ve been smacking our lips and rubbing our palms, scouring the internet for the latest gossip and tweets regarding the resultant transfers dynamics that would follow and the media have had their fill, mongering all sorts.
Now with regards to selling and buying of players, a fair share of clubs around Europe had been active or atleast have attempted to show some certain level of activity, and this transfer window been quite a rollercoaster. Few clubs were busy sealing good business while others were quite simply, busy doing nothing. Some started the summer window with a big bang, notable of which is the French Ligue 1 duo of PSG and Monaco securing the services of Cavani and ex-Atletico Madrid virtuoso Radamel Falcao respectively for a whopping $162m combined. Barcelona also closed their business with Neymar’s former Santos as $76m changed hands, while David Villa was excused out from Barcelona to Atletico for about a tenth of that. But it goes without saying that the biggest business however late it happened was the £85.3m for the Wales international and ex-Spurs winger, Gareth Bale, eclipsing the world record fee Madrid paid Manchester United for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009, and of course the surprise bid for and acceptance of £42.4m fee from Madrid by Arsenal for German playmaker Mesut Ozil with barely an hour left to the deadline.
In all of this, some new managers, with the help of their discerning directors of football, have moved with clarity of vision and game plan by making very brilliant transfer activities, notable of which are Rafa Benitez, Andre Villas-Boas and Manuel Pellegrini, who have been massively successful in the transfer market with their purchases and sales. Their teams have a new fresh look and a seemingly keener biting edge. Others have been uncharacteristically quiet and philosophical – the great AC Milan who usually pull the rabbit out of a hat with a marquee signing and get the bargain of the year quickly come to mind, but were only able to come up with a return of out-of-favour Kaka to a club where he once shone as the brightest player in Europe, along with another returnee in Alessandro Matri from Juventus. But some yet have been downright bashful and comically inadequate in their capacities to participate in this past transfer window. With the market closed, Sunderland became perhaps the busiest top-flight club in Europe, signing a total of 13 players this summer.
Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal board, true to type, lift the hearts of their teeming faithfuls with promises of breaking bank, wielding a crowbar to wrench open the fabled “war chest” and unsurprisingly come up with nothing but empty promises to bolster their squad. This routine however changed late into the night on deadline day when the fee for Mesut Ozil was agreed, making his trade the second highest fee paid for a player in Britain, and the highest paid for any German in the world. As to whether Ozil is a need or a want to strengthen their fast depleting first team is another debate for a later date. But this bold statement of intent by the club to spend such an amount on one player will do a lot to appease the fans and assure them that Wenger and his board are serious.
Arguments have been given for and against David Moyes as he kicked off his managerial career at Manchester United where he has himself admitted it has been a baptism of fire trying to get a grip of control on the mammoth club, and his transfer activities reflects his struggle. Since July 1st when he resumed office, he has been seen by some of his critics to have bungled his bids for the Barcelona pair of Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas on separate occasions, with bids for the latter publically declared and publically turned by club and player alike. This hasn’t been made any lighter with his bombardment of big games early in the season – four points from his first 3 games, with a date with Manchester City in a fortnight. It took Moyes and chief executive Ed Woodward minutes left to deadline date to firm up on Marouane Fellaini to seal a £27.5m move, £4.5m higher than required to trigger his release clause, which could’ve been done much earlier in the transfer window. And the way in which the bid for Herrera from Athletic Bilbao ended is too embarrassing to make mention and it would just be easier to say it was a spectacular blunder. Last minute loan of out-of-favour Coentrao was able to save Moyes and Woodward their blushes, however effective that may have been to the very disappointed fans.
Jose Mourinho on his return has quickly returned back to his microphone-hugging ways by asserting himself as both a talker and a doer, clearly establishing his mission to get back to his glory days of trophy lifting and medal flinging at Chelsea. His resolve to getting it done clinically and effectively has shown from whirlwind hijack of Willian from the waiting room at the hospital where the player was completing his medicals for Tottenham Hotspur. However, he showed his hand a little too obviously with his public display of admiration for unsettled United striker, Wayne Rooney. Looking back, this could in fact have been a decoy to help unsettle further the United forward at Old Trafford and still jump on the Eto’o free transfer, leaving the Rooney and United relationship in jeopardy, and with animosity and sense of betrayal.
But it must be said that inasmuch as these managers are indeed the elite of technical understanding and application thereof of the beautiful game, a lot of them have left a lot to be desired in their tactics of player acquisition with varying degrees of football faux pas.
In any event, the window has now closed. Purse strings have tightened, chequebooks have been clasped shut, agents are running their takings through the counting machines, and transferred players are settling their families down in their new environments. Needs have become wants, wants have become must-haves, the available have become desirable, and the Flaminis and Kakas of the world have prodigally returned home to a desperate father. The real work, which has now returned to the pitch begins, at least until January.
But before then, let us enjoy a bit of humour as we reflect on the last few months of the summer transfer and pick out the most hilarious transfer goofs. Even though we didn’t witness anything nearly as rib-cracking as Peter Odemwingie’s 102-mile road trip to London from the Midlands on deadline day only to have no reception into Loftus Road last January window, but we did have a few giggles this summer. Here are some of the funniest moments this transfer window, feel free to add yours as well in your comments below:
1. “Revised Offer much?”:
Arsenal FC and their £40,000,001 Bid for Luis Suarez. Like, seriously, what were Wenger and Gazidis thinking (or smoking)?
2. “You and Only You”:
Mourinho’s open declaration of love for Rooney…and subsequent heartbreak after his love ultimatum was snubbed.
3. “Watch That Boomerang!”
The dramatic reverse bid by United, asking for £10m + Luiz/Mata for Rooney…and the immediate denial, pacifying and reassurance to the two players.
4. “Now You See Me, Now You Don’t”
5. “All That Glitters”
Falcao’s reality check at Monaco. The Principality may be one of luxury, fast cars and gorgeous celebrities, but its not exactly where you want to be after getting your former team into the Champions League.
6. “Where’s Waldo?”
Sightings of Gonzalo Higuain were made almost every day for a month, even with hilarious pictures of Wenger waiting at the airport with a name card. It was the beginning of a long and frustrating summer for expectant Arsenal fans.
7. “What Part of NO Don’t you Get?”
David Moyes and Ed Woodward showed their inadequacies to unforgiving critics this transfer window and no other instance could be used as a greater example than Barcelona’s repeated rejection of United’s bid for Cesc Fabregas. It all came to a rather embarrassing end when the player too now had to hold a press conference to lay the matter to rest.
8. “SPEND SPEND SPEND!!”
Written by Victor Ilufuan