The European summer transfer window closed Monday. The 20 clubs comprising the English Premier League spent, according to the Guardian, an astounding £835 million on transfers. Oh wait, that’s in pounds. Converted into dollars its roughly $1.4 billion. Yes, Dr. Evil, that’s billion with a B.
Let’s take a quick look and assess how some of the more-noteworthy clubs fared, while wondering why clubs continually wait until the very last minute to finish their wheeling and dealings:
* Chelsea … Jose Mourinho now possesses an array of options at every position and already look the clear favorites in England after three matches, including this week’s 6-3 romp over Everton. Chelsea acted fast, securing Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and Felipe Luis, along with bringing new first-choice keeper Thibaut Courtois back from his loan spell at Atletico Madrid weeks before yesterday’s frantic deadline-day dealing. Thanks to the sale of David Luiz to PSG Chelsea only ended up spending about $16 million AND off-loaded Fernando Torres to AC Milan for the next two years.
That’ a win-win-win window.
* Jorge Mendes… The Scott Boras (sans binder) of European soccer helped facilitate almost all the big-money moves this window, including Falcao’s loan to Manchester United.
* Liverpool … How do you replace Luis Suarez and his 31 goals from last season? The short answer: you can’t. Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers did the next best thing, bringing in nine new players — including Mario Balotelli — to remake the squad, allowing it to cope with both the Premier League and Champions League. Look past the stop-gap move for 32-year-old Rickie Lambert and the bulk of the new Anfield recruits are well below the club’s average age of 25.6 (second-youngest in the Prem), including Emre Can (20), Lazar Markovic (20), Alberto Moreno (22) and Javier Manquillo (20). Even Balotelli is only 24. Add these guys to Raheem Sterling (19), Jordan Henderson (24), Philippe Coutinho (22) and Daniel Sturridge (25) and Liverpool looks well positioned for the post-Steven Gerrard era, whenever that should begin.
* Southampton … Yes, the Saints sold off Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Lambert and Lovren, but the club made a $51 million profit this summer, while bringing in a bunch of new recruits including Belgian international Toby Alderweireld on loan Monday. Most importantly Southampton kept hold of disgruntled Frenchman Morgan Schneiderlin, meaning it should hover safely above the relegation trapdoor, continuing to make money thanks to its academy system.
* Brek Shea… The U.S. international appears stuck at Stoke City, despite the club having zero interest in using him going forward. Perhaps he can secure a loan somewhere in England although his last one ended poorly. Countryman Geoff Cameron was in-demand, but picked up an injury late in the window meaning he’ll be at Stoke City, too, at least until January.
* Burnley … In fairness, the Clarets were the odds-on favorite to be relegated before the season, so going out and breaking the bank on a bunch of high-price signings isn’t necessarily a smart move. Burnley didn’t do much of anything and only has scored once through its first three matches. Manager Sean Dyche better live up to his Ginger Mourinho billing.
* QPR … Harry Redknapp, believe it or not, made two smart signings to shore up his midfield in Leroy Fer and Sandro. QPR whiffed on a last-second ploy to bring Jermain Defoe to Loftus Road from Toronto FC, leaving Charlie Austin, Eduardo Vargas and Bobby Zamora as the only recognized strikers at the club. At least Redknapp reminded everyone what a master troll he is, bringing back Niko Kranjcar.
* Sky Sports… The British analogue to ESPN saw its reports beset by angry fans, fireworks and worse during live coverage on Monday.
* West Brom … Every summer one EPL team decides to play transfer market bingo: signing a whole mess of players with seemingly no rhyme or reason. West Brom is that club this year. Fortunately the Baggies only shelled out around $20 million, the bulk going to Nigerian striker Brown Ideye (who’s had work permit issues). Georgios Samaras, Jolean Lescott, Silvestre Varela, et al, didn’t cost much but weren’t exactly in-demand, either.
Winner and a Loser:
* Arsenal … If we all look past the last week or so, Arsenal spent well netting Alexis Sanchez, Calum Chambers, David Ospina and Mathieu Debuchy. Good job, Arsene! The last week, after Olivier Giroud hurt his ankle, putting the club’s only reliable out-and-out striker on the shelf for three months? Not so good.
Danny Welbeck at the last minute is just that, a last-minute option. At the very least, Welbeck can play in front of goal and lead the line, but his 20 goals in 92 appearances at Manchester United doesn’t set the mind alight (nor does his 253-minutes-per goal rate in 90 appearances for United). Oh right, Arsenal didn’t add any reinforcements in defensive midfield either. Arsenal fans wanted another center back, too, but given the market (see: Luiz, David) the price was likely too rich. Given time adding the 19-year-old Chambers from Southampton for only $25 million will look like a steal.
* Manchester City… Due to the constraints of Financial Fair Play, City didn’t do very much, but added depth in important positions with defensive midfielder Fernando and defender Eliaquim Mangala, both from Porto. Barcary Sagna on a free transfer from Arsenal will be useful and again, is more of a move to solidify than make headlines. City did make a late run at Falcao, but at the end of the day shipped off fourth-choice striker Alvaro Negredo to Valencia.
That’s So Spurs
* Tottenham… Spurs first team squad is still ridiculously bloated, so much so that Moussa Dembélé and Paulinho are highly-paid bench warmers for Mauricio Pochettino. That said, with Eric Dier and Federico Fazio on board, Tottenham owns as much defensive depth as anyone. Hopefully some of these defenders can play center forward in a pinch, since the striking corps at White Hart Lane still consists of Emmanuel Adebayor, Harry Kane and Roberto Soldado. Spurs avoided the losers column by virtue of making about a $10 million profit and last summer’s record signing, Erik Lamela, finally showing signs of life.
* Hull City… Steve Bruce guided his team to the FA Cup final last year (and a 16th place finish — four points above the drop). Hull failed to win its Europa League playoff, but still decided it needed a lot of reinforcements, going nuts as the window began to close signing over a dozen players including Abel Hernández, Mohammed Diame and Hatem Ben Arfa. It mans Hull basically spent $40 million on a new team … that you (i.e. American EPL fans) probably won’t watch on Saturday and Sunday mornings unless its pitted against a marquee Top Four club.
Even so, this is a pattern many promoted teams follow: the squad that was good enough to earn promotion and stave off relegation, needs help by year two. The smartest part of Hull’s spending, Uruguay international Hernández aside, is Bruce dipped in and bought known EPL commodities. The sad reality? A club like Hull can break its spending record and realistically target an 11th-place finish and consider it “good business.”
* Manchester United… If you fall into a hole you can try to claw your way up, or you can take out your phone and call for a rescue. Manchester United took the latter approach, buying $200 million worth of players including Angel Di Maria (for a British transfer record just south of $100 million), Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo, Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw and, amazingly, Falcao on-loan from Monaco. Hopefully Louis van Gaal has a plan, since even in a video game Robin van Persie (if he’s healthy), Wayne Rooney and Falcao in the same lineup might not work. By the same token, United did need better players and it certainly got those in Falcao and Di Maria … even if they don’t necessarily fit LVG’s 3-5-2 formation and had to over-pay due to a lack of Champions League soccer this season.
Whatever the formation United eventually settles on, van Gaal certainly has pieces to work with — assuming he can avoid bruising egos, something that the brusk Dutchman doesn’t seem to care much about. If, come April at home to Aston Villa and United is still struggling to muster a shot on target, all the headlines and replica shirts United sells over the next couple weeks won’t mean all that much outside the club’s bottom line.
Granted this happened almost three years ago, but it’s hard not to play ‘what if’ with Manchester United in terms of its recent fall from grace and subsequent spending spree. What if Sir Alex Ferguson played Paul Pogba on that December night in 2011 vs. Blackburn instead of Rafael? The rising star at Juventus claims that snub sealed his move away from United. An all-around midfield dynamo is something the United lineup still lacks.