Tottenham produced transfer deadline day’s version of a last-minute winner when they nicked Moussa Sissoko from under the noses of Everton on a night when the madness of football’s transfer system was truly underlined.
With spending in the summer transfer window having already passed £1bn (€1.2bn), the focus in the final 24 hours proved to be as much about the panic and mania of the market as the prices paid.
For Everton it was particularly painful. The Merseyside club agreed a fee of €35m with Newcastle for Sissoko and even had a plane on the runway ready to pick up the player when Spurs matched their bid at 10pm and whisked the winger down to London instead.
It was only when Everton manager Ronaldo Koeman tried to ring the player to welcome him to the club — and got no answer — that the realisation hit home.
“It’s classic Daniel Levy,” said Ireland legend and Sky Sports pundit Niall Quinn, referring to Tottenham’s chairman.
“I can just see it — it’s let Everton do the running so we’re not bidding against each other and then swoop in late and offer the agent a bigger fee. Everton were used as a patsy and I should imagine they aren’t very happy.
“The guy would have got their hearts fluttering at Everton, the agent will have said we’re there and we’re coming. That’s the bit behind the scenes that really eats at you. Then there was a phone call and no answer and you realise what kind of a game you are in. The new owner at Everton is finding out all about it.”
Tottenham’s swoop for a player who starred for France at Euro 2016 was certainly dramatic, but the rest of the day inspired gasps of incredulity as much as excitement as Chelsea agreed a €40m fee to re-sign a defender they once sold because he couldn’t defend — and Arsenal sent one of their best players on loan to Bournemouth.
Chelsea’s shock capture of David Luiz from Paris St Germain, the centre-half they sold only two years ago with almost three years remaining on the contract he signed when arriving from Benfica in January 2011, seemed to sum it up.
As one Twitter wag commented: “If David Luiz is the answer, I’m not sure what the question is.”
Another observed: “Chelsea fans haven’t been this happy about David Luiz since they sold David Luiz.”
Arsenal’s decision to send Jack Wilshere, once heralded as their midfield talisman, on a season-long loan to Bournemouth was also greeted with befuddlement.
Wilshere, also wanted by Roma, Milan and Crystal Palace, has been released in a bid to find fitness but the fact that Arsenal included no break-clause in the deal suggests he won’t be back in north London until next season at the earliest.
Nevertheless, it was Luiz’s return to England — on a three-year contract — which otherwise dominated headlines on a day when Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City (who concentrated on moving players out rather than in) were able to sit back and relax having already done their main business early.
The transfer perhaps summed up a difficult market after Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, who made it very clear he needed an extra centre-back, failed in moves for Alessio Romagnoli at AC Milan and Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli and was left in limbo as the deadline approached.
Luiz, a member of the Champions League winning team under Roberto Di Matteo, remains popular hugely popular with Chelsea fans but is certainly not without his weaknesses.
Anthony Williams of Dublin Chelsea Supporters Club said: “David Luiz is one of the most divisive players we’ve ever had at the club, but it was a general consensus that Chelsea got a great deal when he was sold.
“I’m surprised that the club have gone in for him but after exhausting their primary targets, is this just a sign that Chelsea had a contingency plan after spending last summer chasing John Stones only to end up with Papy Djilobodji?
“I wasn’t a huge fan of Luiz during his first stint but as hair raising as his return is to us cynics, he’ll still be the best we have.”
In his three-year stay in west London, Luiz made 143 appearances for Chelsea in all competitions, scoring 12 goals, but he also endured a rough time from English-based television pundits.
Manchester United legend Gary Neville famously lambasted one display against Liverpool by saying: “His movement is like he’s being controlled by a 10 year-old with a PlayStation controller.”
It won’t encourage the more cynical of Chelsea fans that Luiz’s last act for PSG was to give away a bizarre penalty in a 3-1 defeat against Monaco last Saturday, a comical challenge which earned him yet another YouTube audience.
Chelsea also spent €25m Euros on left-back Marcos Alonso from Fiorentina, tying him to a five-year contract. This a player who failed to impress during three years at Bolton and four months at Sunderland earlier in his career.
Other highlights on a busy day of transfer activity included Manchester City sending Samir Nasri on loan to Sevilla, Stoke capturing City striker Wilfried Bony — also on loan — and Milan failing in a bid for Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas, who insisted he wanted to stay put.
Champions Leicester also continued their impressive transfer window, making a move for Sporting Lisbon striker Islam Slimani — a man previously linked with Arsenal — for €34m.
There was no incomings, however, for the Gunners or for Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford.
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