The transfer window has closed, slammed shut and done other window related things for another calendar year. Sides across Europe will, largely, have to make do with their current squads until 2014 rears its head in around 4 months time. It was a funny old window, with several sagas generally taking up far too much of everyone’s time, and one where Arsenal went from club in crisis to strategically forward thinking in one transfer. Here are some of my highlights.
Özil to Arsenal
Since seeing Mesut Özil play in the 2010 World Cup for that effervescent Germany side, he has been a player I’ve admired. Skilful, with a wonderful football brain and an unerring ability to find a way to provide goals for his team mates, for me he is behind only Xavi and Iniesta in terms of creative midfielders in world football.
And now he plays in England. And at Arsenal. Not only have Arsenal destroyed their own transfer record, which sat at £15m (on Andrey Arshavin) prior to last Monday, they’ve also paid the highest ever transfer fee for a German footballer. It may seem a funny thing to say for a player costing £42m in a position in which Arsenal do not lack in terms of quantity, but this is an outstanding purchase. If he stays fit, and so does Olivier Giroud, my punt on the Gunners finishing third doesn’t seem quite as ridiculous.
Bale to Real Madrid
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but this Welsh bloke has signed for Real Madrid for an absurd sum of money. Madrid broke their own world transfer record in purchasing the sleek-haired Mr Bale, expending £86m for his services.
This has of course been the transfer story of the summer. And how intensely annoying it has been. Brinkmanship, rumour-swirling and exorbitant sums of money being quoted and thrown around finally culminated in the Welshman appearing, somewhat bemused, in front of 20,000 people in the Bernabeu on Monday. A few keepie ups for the crowd and he was off to Macedonia with Chris Coleman. What a comedown.
The great difficulty for Bale will, of course, be living up to that fee. Eighty-six million pounds (Sterling) is clearly an enormous sum of money, and even in today’s football world where enormous sums are chucked about as if the money doesn’t actually exist, it is a huge fee. Bale will very quickly have to fit into a Madrid side that is tailored to Cristiano Ronaldo’s style of play, while also satisfying 80,000 Madridistas every fortnight that he is worth the money. Add to that the tricky dressing room politics on the Paseo de la Castellana, and Bale may find that if he doesn’t hit the ground running (both literally and metaphorically), he may find that fee brought into sharp focus very quickly indeed.
Fellaini to Manchester United
Of course, this isn’t so much a story about one transfer as it is about United’s rather sorry excuse for a transfer window. First it was Fabregas. Then Rooney was “angry and confused”. Rumours continued to circulate regarding Mata and Bale. There was a last minute farce surrounding Athletic Bilbao’s Ander Herrera. And then, there was David Moyes going shopping at his old club.
In late July, Marouane Fellaini was available for around £24m due to a release clause. This lapsed into August, hence Manchester United paying £27.5 for him on deadline day. United had earlier in the month bid £28m for both Fellaini and Leighton Baines. In the end, they managed to secure the floppy-haired Belgian, who as a versatile attacking threat will bring something fresh and different to a creaking Manchester United midfield.
No doubt David Moyes and new chief executive Ed Woodward will have learned a lot from their mistakes during this transfer window. Moyes has learned that the position at his new club is far removed from that in the blue half of Merseyside; other clubs will always try to extract an extra few million out of Manchester United before letting a player leave for Old Trafford. As for Mr Woodward, it will have been a bit of a wake-up call. Damien Comolli coming out with the notion that Manchester United need a Director of Football probably isn’t far wrong; the fact he will have said as much so Manchester United will consider him should be treated with far more caution. I expect Moyes and his backroom team to operate with a little more nous come January.
Spurs and Liverpool
Finally, two clubs who have done rather good business in this transfer window. Firstly Spurs, who in getting rid of Bale have replaced him with quality all over the park, and particularly in midfield. Nacer Chadli, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen add creativity and pace to the Spurs midfield in spades. If Andre Villas-Boas can make those players gel together, and this will be his biggest challenge, I’m particularly excited to see Eriksen – how and why Manchester United couldn’t and didn’t pick him up, even for a little more than the £11.5m Spurs paid for him, is a mystery to me.
Meanwhile Liverpool, having added a reliable goalkeeper and some additional Spanish flair, have now added some quality steel at the back. Tiago Ilori is largely one for the future but Sporting Lisbon is famous for bringing through fantastic young players (some Ronaldo chap being at the top of that list). Meanwhile, the capture of PSG centre-half Mamadou Sakho, albeit for a rather hefty £17m, will bring added steel and diversity to a back line that too often relies on Daniel Agger to get them out of various scrapes.
In, all, an intriguing set of transfers all round. It only adds to the uncertainty in what should be one of the most exciting Premier League title races in years.