FOOTBALL’S obsession with turning Transfer deadline day into a drama to rival a James Bond thriller came to a grinding halt yesterday as the Premier League seemed to run out of money and Robbie Keane out of options.
Just two years after a record £500 million (€605m) was spent in the August window, the highlight of 24 hours of minute-by-minute coverage on satellite channels and football websites was the £13m (€15.7m) arrival of Nigerian striker Asamoah Gyan at Sunderland — while Keane, persistently linked with a move away from Tottenham Hotspur, stayed put.
There was no action at all from the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United or Arsenal either despite hundreds of speculative stories over the last four weeks linking those clubs with dozens of players.
Even recession-breakers Manchester City, who spent £120m (€145.2m) of Sheikh Mansour’s money in the summer which amounted to almost half the total outlay in England in August, kept their Middle Eastern chequebook in the desk and refused permission for the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor to leave.
It must have been a major disappointment to the likes of Sky Sports which expended huge amounts of energy trying to persuade viewers they were watching the most exciting day in the football calendar; its intrepid reporters beginning their forlorn vigils outside empty training grounds at 6am and staying there until 12 hours later when the window ‘slammed shut’, as seems to be the accepted cliché on all platforms these days.
Those reporters did their best, to entertain, of course; there were squeals of pure excitement when pictures flashed up on the screen of Portsmouth’s Irish player Marc Wilson “actually arriving” at Stoke City — “walking right through the front door”, a hysterical anchorman announced.
But it soon became increasingly clear that some of the glitter that used to make the Premier League sparkle on transfer deadline day has been washed away by recession, tightened belts, new tax laws and the strengthening of rival leagues in Spain and Italy.
The result was a host of disappointed fans (you could empathise with the pain of @tdogwade on Twitter who told the BBC: “I would happily sell my house to see Arsenal buy a keeper right now — come on Arsene you’re testing my belief!”
In the end, however, Arsenal didn’t buy a goalkeeper — or any player for that matter — and by 4.03pm, the ‘biggest’ signing of the day had been the £325,000 (€393,000) paid by Blackpool for Wycombe’s Matt Phillips.
For Ireland’s Keane the lack of movement was not good news — and despite almost constant rumours that he would be on his way, the striker remains a Spurs player.
Until January at least.
Rumours over Keane’s future began when Spurs were linked with Edin Dzeko and Diego Forlan followed by Brazil star Luis Fabiano and Dutch forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar but perhaps the infamous financial muscle of the Premier League is beginning to wane as the north London club were priced out of all those deals.
Reports suggest West Ham, Newcastle, Aston Villa and Celtic all enquired about taking Keane on loan but insiders at White Hart Lane say not a single bid was received from any club wanting to take him on a permanent transfer, despite Tottenham’s transparent willingness to sell.
Now Keane, not famed for enjoying life on the bench, faces a tough four months before the window re-opens playing second fiddle to the likes of Peter Crouch, Jermaine Defoe and Roman Pavluychenko.
Spurs were unwilling to allow him to leave without finding a replacement and when Liverpool refused a £10m (€12.1m) bid for Ryan Babel and bids for Vincenzo Iaquinta, Mario Gomez and Adebayor were rebuffed, the situation reached stalemate.
Spurs did swoop very, very late, and boss Harry Redknapp was last night hoping their last-minute £8 million move for Real Madrid midfielder beat the deadline.
In truth, the predicted avalanche of deals never really materialised as just £323m (€390m) was spent in the entire transfer window, the lowest for four years and, if you take out Manchester City, the lowest since the window was introduced in 2003.
Is reality starting to catch up with English football?
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