Over the last a couple years Sky Sports News transfer day specials have become a guilty pleasure for soccer fans in America. The show is a eight-plus hour live trainwreck, featuring almost everything most people hate about the non-games portion sports programming. It’s a dizzying array of (mis)information multiplied by breathless hype wrapped up in a stodgy British accent, yet we soccer fans have been unable to look away. (The fetching Natalie Sawyer might have something to do with this.)
Americans, however, missed out on the fun Monday as Fox Soccer morphed into FXX around 6 a.m. and ran a “Parks and Recreation” marathon. A little wisdom from Ron Swanson is a nice consolation, but we still craved the interviews of players from inside their cars as they pulled into their new team’s training grounds — such as Brek Shea in January — or despondent-looking reporters standing in front of a darkened building with nothing to say.
Above all, we missed the cretinous Stoke fans.
The lack of Sky Sports News also meant we missed this Crystal Palace fan doing “The Joe Hart Dance” in the background of a live report on Monday.
Also lost in the transfer day madness, the brief story of Manchester United sending three “imposters” to work out the buyout clause for Atletic Bibao midfielder Ander Herrera. The story was later discredited and the transfer fell through, but highlights just how absurd European transfer dealings can be much of the time. United also lost out on Portuguese back Fabio Coentrão, unable to complete the deal before the window closed. (This is probably a good turn of events for United.)
Yes, in the multi-billion dollar world of European soccer, a place where Gareth Bale can be sold for $132 million … fax machines often play a crucial role.
Looking at the situation from across the Atlantic, two big questions spring to mind. One, why does the transfer window remain open after all the major European leagues have kicked off? That’s mostly an issue of semantics.
A better question to ask is why a major club like Manchester United — one of the biggest in the world — would leave its transfer dealings until the very last minute? United’s rivals, Manchester City, wrapped up most of their major moves early in the summer allowing new players like Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas, Fernandinho and Stefan Jovetic time to gel in training. It should be no suprise Negredo has alreay scored twice for City in league play.
A couple other transfer day nuggets:
- Everton might have lost Marouane Fellaini to United at the deadline, but it retained Leighton Baines — the Toffees key man. Grabbing Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea is a masterstroke by Roberto Martinez. The young Belgian scored 17 on-loan at West Brom last year and should transform the Everton attack so it’s less reliant on the floundering Nikica Jelavic.
- In about 24 hours the tone for Arsenal signing Mesut Özil shifted from being an incredible last-minute coup by Arsene Wenger to the feeling that the Gunners don’t need another attacking midfielder. True, Özil doesn’t paper over the need for defenders or defensive midfielders at the club, but this is still a move you make when it’s available. Moving forward, does Wenger build the Gunners around the talent of Özil? When you drop $60+ million on one player, he’d better be near the top of your gameplan.
- Overall Liverpool finished with a solid summer window. The Reds kept Luis Suarez and added players like Iago Aspas to bolster the attack and finally added some defensive cover at the last minute, grabbing Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori. Never been a huge Victor Moses fan, although he’ll be a useful player from off the bench. Liverpool might have enough quality and depth to find a way back into the Champions League.
- Chelsea’s window looks great … on paper. André Schürrle seems perfectly suited for the Prem immediately. Many of the Blues moves, like Marco van Ginkel were for the future. Choosing between either Samuel Eto’o or Fernando Torres would be a nice luxury … if it were still 2009. The Juan Mata issue — Jose Mourinho doesn’t seem to rate him — will be something to monitor until the next window opens as there were rumbling about a move to PSG. Willian, signed for around $50 million, remains a mystery and yet another luxury item at Stamford Bridge.
- Feels like so much of the EPL transfer movement came from outside England this year, which is no surprise. Teams are looking increasingly more-and-more like a squad you’d assemble in FIFA or Football Manager. Adding talent is good, but it’s going to take clubs a decent amount of time to find the right lineups that work (ie, Tottenham). (If you’re dyed-in-the-wool English midfielder, it might be time to start looking for work elsewhere.)
- Premier League clubs spent an estimated $980 million on transfers this year, a new record. Next time you see the words “Financial Fair Play” remember to laugh heartily.
Until January …