Ever since Paris St Germain paid €222m to prise Neymar away from Barcelona the market has been in a spin — and last night it was spinning faster than ever as the money spent in the window went past €1.5bn.
The question at the end of it all, however, was who is now running the show? It is players or clubs?
That was certainly the case at Stamford Bridge where Everton midfielder Barkley turned up at Cobham for a medical after a deal had been agreed — but reportedly changed his mind half-way through and went home without completing the move.
The incident left football commentators and pundits dumbfounded and was a huge blow to Chelsea who also missed out on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Fernando Llorente on transfer deadline day, so although the deal may be resurrected in January itstill left manager Antonio Conte frustrated.
Farhad Moshiri, majority shareholder at Everton explained: “The two clubs agreed a deal of €35m and I think personal terms were agreed. But after the medical then we heard from Paul Martin, Ross Barkley’s agent, that he changed his mind and he wanted to reconsider his position during the January window. That’s the latest advice. It’s a big surprise, but that’s football.”
It will go down as one of the strangest transfer deadline day incidents in history — and perhaps as a big gamble on Barkley’s part. But even so the club v player conflict was played out most vividly over at the Emirates as the Gunners were also twice the victims of player power — but grappled back an element of control by refusing to sell Alexis Sanchez to Manchester City despite a bid of more than €60m from Pep Guardiola.
Arsenal claim their determination to hold on to Sanchez confirms they are serious about challenging for the title this season but fans in north London may disagree after Arsene Wenger failed to bring in further recruits on a day which put supporters through every emotion.
The first blow came when Oxlade-Chamberlain, who turned down a new contract worth almost €200,000 a week, forced through a move to Liverpool.
The second hit, later in the evening, saw Monaco’s Thomas Lemar refuse to move to North London despite a British record £92m bid from Arsenal which had been accepted by his club. Rumours suggest the winger, who scored twice for France against the Netherlands last night, was unconvinced about the move — despite the astonishing fee — and would have preferred a transfer to Liverpool.
Perhaps the fact that Wenger, normally so reluctant to spend, was willing to bid so much should be a comfort to Arsenal fans. But others saw it as a sign of panic, including former Crystal Palace owner Simon Jordan, who said: “ If you are bidding €90m at 4pm on transfer deadline day I’m not sure you’ve got all your ducks in a line. It smacks of desperation.”
Not such worries for Liverpool who were able to hold on to Philippe Coutinho despite intense pressure from Barcelona and feel they will benefit from what was the biggest deal on transfer deadline day following Oxlade-Chamberlain’s arrival.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp claimed he was “really happy” to have signed an “exciting” talent he “didn’t need to think twice” about, adding: “I hear a lot of talk about positions but let’s talk about the player; he is someone with really good abilities who always gives everything for his team. A player that is positive and willing to take risks to try and make positive things happen.
“He may still be young but he has a lot of experience in the Premier League, Champions League and for his country. Already he is a very, very good player and I think he has the mentality and desire to get even better — and that excites me.”
The analysis back in London was more mixed. Many Arsenal fans on social media felt their winger would not be missed, citing only nine goals in seven seasons at the club - not to mention 154 days out injured.
Even Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher is doubtful the transfer will provide value for money, saying: “He talks a lot about wanting to plays in central midfield, so that will be interesting to see how that one plays out because Liverpool have got five or six central midfielders who are really good. I am not sure if Oxlade-Chamberlain would get in that midfield three.”
There was no deadline-day movement at Manchester United or Manchester City (not for lack of trying for the latter who wanted both Sanchez and Johnny Evans), but that was a rarity as clubs scrambled to get moves over the line, with transfer fees reaching almost ludicrous levels.
PSG, who began it all with that move for Neymar, repeated the act by completing a loan deal for Kylian Mbappe with an option to buy him for almost €170m — and with ever-increasing television revenues in England it seems all common sense has been put to one side by Premier League clubs too.
Tottenham’s capture of Serge Aurier from PSG for €23m was one of the better value deals on deadline day but the money offered for players previously regarded as second or even third tier in Premier League terms was eye-watering.
West Brom could afford to turn down €25m for defender Johnny Evans, Leicester wanted £30m for Danny Drinkwater as Chelsea stepped up the pressure to bring him in right on deadline, Bournemouth offered £25m for Demarai Gray — and Liverpool forced Crystal Palace as high as £26m for defender Mamadou Sakho before agreeing a deal.
Tim Bridge from Deloitte was not surprised. He said that clubs have continued to spend 20-25% of their revenues on transfers this summer, insisting the fees have only gone up as the money coming in has gone up.
But agents and players are not getting it all their own way. Just as Arsenal held firm on Sanchez, and Liverpool stayed strong on Coutinho, Southampton led the way for clubs battling back against player power as they staunchly refused to accept any deal for Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk, who was wanted by Liverpool, Chelsea and, ironically, Arsenal.
There were also one or two bargains to be had as Swansea persuaded Renato Sanches, the young player of the tournament at Euro 2016, to join them on loan from Bayern Munich.
But the overall sensation on transfer deadline day was that the market, awash with so much television money, is more complicated, more unpredictable than it has ever been.