Saido Berahino’s explosive reaction on social media to being denied a move to Tottenham Hotspur took the heat off Louis van Gaal and Arsene Wenger on Transfer Deadline Day; but it may not save them from the fire.
West Brom striker Berahino became the talk of football when he effectively threatened to go on strike after club chairman Jeremy Peace, who has been stoic in his determination not to sell his star asset, turned down a €30m offer from Spurs — the fourth bid in a row to arrive from White Hart Lane.
“Sad how I cant say exactly how the club has treated me but i can officially say I will never play Jeremy Peace,” the player tweeted.
That reaction could yet see the striker punished by his employers who claim that a lack of up-front funds in Tottenham’s bid would have made it almost impossible for them to find a replacement. But the raging argument over whether the striker should be seen as victim or villain should not necessarily be the biggest discussion point of a hectic transfer window that will play a big part in shaping both title race and relegation battle.
Manchester United once again took centre stage, making the biggest signing of transfer deadline day by spending €49m — a record for a teenager — on relatively unknown 19-year-old French striker Anthony Martial from Monaco.
They were also at the centre of the biggest controversy when the €39m sale of goalkeeper David de Gea to Real Madrid failed to go through as the two clubs were unable to complete paperwork in time (although a United statement said they acted ‘appropriately and efficiently’ and are ‘delighted’ the player will stay).
The combination of those two transfers left manager Van Gaal under fire for his haphazard transfer policy that has seen more than a €250m spent in recent years, but still left him with a squad that few believe is capable of winning the title — and now a goalkeeper who by his own admission doesn’t want to be there.
The arrival of Martial looks a gamble too. His record in France marks him out as promising — former Arsenal transfer guru Daniel Comoli compared him this week to Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka at the same age — but the transfer fee is staggering and it would be a major surprise if he were ready to make the kind of impact alongside Wayne Rooney that United desperately need in the short term.
Is he really going to make a bigger impact that Javier Hernandez — sent to Leverkusen — or Adnan Januzaj — sent to Dortmund?
Consider also the failed, and rather half-hearted, attempts over the last few years to sign out-of-reach players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Thomas Muller and Cesc Fabregas; add in the panic buy of Angel Di Maria which proved short-lived, and the most recent signing of Bastien Schweinsteiger — several years too late and with talk of underlying injury problems — and you can see why United are no longer the kings of the transfer market.
“I have been a critic of Van Gaal for a long time and I still don’t know what he’s doing,” pundit Steve Claridge, the former Portsmouth and Leicester striker said yesterday. “There is no plan, no pattern. I cannot see what direction he is taking the club.”
But if Van Gaal can be accused of not getting value for money, the accusation levelled at Wenger is very different — because once again Arsenal went through a transfer deadline day without spending a penny. No Karim Benzema, no Edinson Cavani and not a single mention of a holding midfielder.
Chelsea, too, suffered frustration. Desperate to make amends for their poor defensive start to the season they were denied an opportunity to sign Everton’s John Stones by the Merseyside club’s stoic refusal to sell him, even for €50m.
Elsewhere, there were clubs who can claim to have made crucial signings. West Ham added five players in 24 hours, including Victor Moses and Alex Song. But the biggest winners were a club that didn’t spend a penny on deadline day — Manchester City.
Manuel Pellegrini did all his shopping well in advance- just like United used to do in the old days— and the arrival of players such as Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne and Nicolas Otamendi augur well for the season.
For the rest of his title rivals there is still work to do.
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