No sales splurge by prudent top three

MANAGERS heading for football’s January sales look like they’ll be buying in the High Street rather than Bond Street.

Experts predict that spending will be down on last January’s total of around £60million and could even drop towards the 2003 level of £40 million.

In the last January transfer window Chelsea and Manchester United pumped nearly £23 million into other Premiership clubs by buying Scott Parker and Louis Saha, but this year they claim they won’t spend a thing. With Arsenal staying cautious and looking abroad, few others can afford players at the top end of the price range.

Dan Jones, head of Deloitte and Touche’s football unit, does not think there will be too much activity below that either.

He said: “It will be very quiet because the market in England has been driven to a massive extent by Chelsea.

“They are unlikely to change their squad because things are going so well for them and there is not a large amount of money around elsewhere.

Similar predictions last January were proved wrong by a handful of very big moves late in the month, but the experts look less likely to be caught out this time.

United spent most of their spare money on Wayne Rooney in the summer and Chelsea head coach Jose Mourinho insists only injuries to established players will take him into the transfer market.

Chelsea’s hunt for Real Betis winger Joaquin is on hold until the summer and the only move out of Stamford Bridge is likely to be Robert Huth on loan, as Scott Parker is injured and Joe Cole has been told to be patient.

Arsene Wenger said he will not buy a new goalkeeper to settle the dilemma over Manuel Almunia and Jens Lehmann and his biggest transfer issue at Highbury remains the future of Edu. Wenger intends to bring in one or two young players but his spending is expected to be far lower than the £17m paid for Jose Reyes last season.

With prudence the watchword among the top three, it’s left to the rest of the Premiership to push the transfer merry-go-round.

Tottenham have agreed a loan deal from January for midfielder David Limbersky, 21, from Czech side Viktoria Plzen.

They have also considered in-demand Sweden winger Christian Wilhelmsson and are expected to recruit several promising young players. Previous target Wayne Routledge is staying at Crystal Palace for now but Spurs are among several clubs weighing up bids for Crewe’s prolific striker Dean Ashton.

Funding for more ambitious moves could come from releasing Jamie Redknapp to lower their wage bill and selling Robbie Keane, a £4m target for Aston Villa.

Liverpool have started trying to replace the injured striker Djibril Cisse. Real Madrid’s Fernando Morientes is their top target, but Manchester City’s Nicolas Anelka will come into the frame if Madrid keep stalling.

The Merseysiders could be one of the Premiership’s bigger spenders this month, with around £10 million available to Rafael Benitez.

Newcastle boss Graeme Souness will offload Laurent Robert and Kieron Dyer if he can get good deals even though their wages, £35,000 a week each, are likely to be a hurdle. Souness remains interested in Chelsea’s Huth and was among the clutch of managers looking at James Beattie.

The Southampton striker was the player new manager and expert wheeler-dealer Harry Redknapp has sold to build up his trading fund. The asking price is £6m and after definite interest from Souness, Everton’s David Moyes, Villa’s David O’Leary and Charlton’s Alan Curbishley, Moyes came out on top yesterday. Redknapp wants to buy as many players as he can and has already handed a trial to former Fulham midfielder Martin Djetou.

Charlton would be in pole position if they could throw Jason Euell into the deal, but recent reports suggest Euell has been told he is going nowhere, which limits Curbishley’s spending power even further.

Curbishley is keen on defender Michael Dawson of Nottingham Forest and striker Lisandro Lopez of Racing Club in the Argentinian league but Charlton have a well-founded reputation for prudence and would want a ready replacement lined up if Euell leaves.

Potential suitors for Euell include Crystal Palace, where boss Iain Dowie wants three new players.

The striker is not keen on moving to the Eagles and a loan deal has been ruled out so Everton are a better bet, though Moyes’ splurge on Beattie cuts into his funds.

Other potential movers are Middlesbrough goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer and Fulham’s Edwin van der Sar, both of whom are in the final year of their contracts.

Birmingham’s Robbie Savage is attracting attention from Blackburn, who could offer Paul Dickov in exchange.

West Brom, who will not be big spenders this month, got in ahead of the January sales by agreeing a permanent deal with free agent Matias Almeyda last week.

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