The shifting sands of the Premier League moved yet again on Transfer Deadline Day as the big six opted to ‘stick’ while those below them continued to spend and flex their new-found muscles.
For fans of Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City and even Chelsea and Tottenham, it was a quiet 24 hours with not a single player brought in; and instead the likes of Stoke City and Everton showed why the difference between the bottom four and top four is closing at a rate never seen before.
This is a season that has already seen clubs as small as Bournemouth sign the kind of players only available to the Premier League elite in days gone by and on deadline day it was Stoke who spent the most, paying nearly €24m, a club record, for defensive midfielder Giannelli Imbula from Porto.
This deal comes on top of previous scoops for high profile signings such as Xherdan Shaqiri, Ibrahim Affelay and Bojan, all players you could never have envisaged arriving in the Potteries before the latest television deal changed the financial environment of every club in the top flight.
Stoke manager Mark Hughes said: “I’m delighted. It’s’ been a long day but we’ve got a very, very good young player who has a lot of potential still to realise.”
Stoke were also able to turn down a big-money offer from Leicester for striker Mame Biram Diouf while the shock Premier League leaders, despite failing in a €20m bid for CSKA Moscow striker Ahmed Musa, had no problems keeping Jamie Vardy or Riyad Mahrez out of the hands of their many admirers at bigger clubs.
There was an interesting contrast on Merseyside, too, where Liverpool — used to being the big spenders — found their money wasn’t enough to tempt Shakhar Dontesk into selling Alex Teixeira, while Everton spent €18m on striker Oumar Niasse from Lokomotiv Moscow to partner Romelu Lukaku.
Niasse has 12 goals and 12 asists in Russia already this season and his arrival delighted Everton manager Roberto Martinez who said: “Oumar is a player we have been following for a long time. He is the right personality and someone who is in a very good moment of his career. He has had a lot of success in Russia and he brings a different quality to what we already have in our squad.”
The new era also appears to have given smaller clubs greater belief in their ability to turn down offers for their best players.
Southampton, for instance, were able to make it very clear they would not sell Sadio Mane or Victor Wanyama despite being linked with clubs the size of Manchester United and Tottenham. West Brom followed that pattern on deadline day with a staunch refusal to accept even a €24m offer from Newcastle for striker Saido Berahino — a stance that fascinated Republic legend Niall Quinn.
“Some people will say it’s a breath of fresh air,” said Quinn. “The player is probably itching for the move and probably confused by it all. We’ve seen him go wobbly before when he had a move taken away from him.
“But what we’ve seen is that Jeremy Peace at West Brom won’t be messed around by Berahino, his agent or his advisors.”
Berahino was the story of last year’s transfer deadline day of course — and he put his name in the headlines once again with yet another inadvisable Tweet as his chances of a move appeared to fall through.
“Everyone waiting once again for the silly little spoilt boy to make the same mistake, so here you go,” he said. “Goodnight all and thanks for the support.”
At Arsenal, despite possibly their best ever opportunity to break their Premier League title drought this season, there was no sign of a player coming as Matthieu Debuchy left on a loan deal to Bordeaux and Yaya Sanogo moved to Charlton.
Totttenham also failed to do business while Chelsea opted not to allow Loic Remy to leave on loan and Manchester United remained deadly quiet despite their frustrating campaign.
However Newcastle boosted their chances of avoiding relegation by adding striker Seydou Doumbia from Roma on loan, having already bought Andros Townsend from Spurs, and the television money appears to be making its way down to the Championship where Middlesbrough paid €14m for Blackburn striker Jordan Rhodes.
One club unable to make any kind of impact in the market, however, was Aston Villa — a situation that disapointed manager Remi Garde so much that reports are already surfacing which suggest the Frenchman may consider his position at Villa Park.
Villa’s decision not to buy surprised Quinn.
“I remember when I was at Sunderland, Randy Lerner came to us and paid €24m for Darren Bent to keep them off the bottom.
“Now the rewards to stay in the league are even greater and I’m a little bit perplexed they haven’t tried to have a go. It’s very strange. I’m sure the fans will be furious. It will be seen as a white flag of surrender.
“Remi Garde is entitled to question it. He was obviously made promises that weren’t delivered.”
At a broader level, the big question raised by window is this: Are the big boys saving their money for the summer window — or is the market changing for good?
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