The Schmanuary Schmansfer Schmindow
At around ten o’clock last night, a rather unusual feeling started to come over the football media. For all the hype, for all the excitement, for all the rumours and speculation, the closure of the January transfer window was going to pass as quietly as a mouse. A lot of money was spent over the course of the month, of course. That this would happen was never going to be in a great deal of doubt, and the sum total of £176m that was spent is a considerable amount of money that some might argue would have been better spent elsewhere. But with the biggest clubs apparently not interested in panic buying the January sales and nobody spending the tens of millions of pounds required to draw a gasp from onlookers these days, this was a window that closed accompanied by the sound of a slowly deflating balloon rather than a slam.
None of this is to say that there wasn’t anything of interest to happen yesterday, of course. The transfer of Steven Fletcher to Marseille the most incongruous of the month, whilst that of Ramires to China’s Jiangsu Suning may also have raised some eyebrows, not least because it comes as part of a growing trend towards Chinese football clubs flexing a degree of financial muscle that they have not done before. On the whole, however, this was a muted transfer deadline day, during which nobody got too over-excited, no players acted like fools with an over-inflated sense of their own entitlement, and no fax machines inexplicably went wrong at the last minute.
If anything, the tone of the day was set by Manchester City, whose decision to announce the departure of Manuel Pellegrini and his replacement wit Pep Guardiola at the end of this season might even be considered a piece of performance art through the medium of trolling the sanctity of transfer deadline day. There is plenty to be said about this appointment – and you can bet your lives that you will be reading quite a lot on the subject over the course of the next six months or so – but for now it should suffice to say that transfer deadline day cannot be worth very much if it can be usurped by the news of a managerial appointment that will not even be completed until after the end of this season.
None of this suited the agenda of those corners of the media who thrive above all else on rumour and speculation. The atmosphere on Sky Sports News was unquestionably muted, with the rolling live blogs on newspaper websites giving the impression of largely being inhabited by writers wondering what the point of sitting them in front of the news wires all day was. One could almost feel the wistfulness of some for the days of hanging around training grounds waiting for a bankable quote from Harry Redknapp, lurid stories of players tearing the length of a motorway in order to gain themselves a plumper contract, or extraordinary rumours and panic buying.
Indeed, the supporters of some clubs might be forgiven for wondering whether there wasn’t enough panic buying going on. There may have been small signs of improvement over the last few weeks or so at Aston Villa, but the club’s complete inertia in the transfer market throughout the entirety of the month of January has already cast some doubt over whether manager Remi Garde will stay at the club, and few that have seen Aston Villa play this season would argue that there isn’t room for considerable improvement within that squad, on the basis of performances so far this season. Villa are stuck with what they have, and time will tell whether this apparent decision on the part of the club was a shrewd one on the basis of their assessment of the current playing squad, an admission of defeat, or of a senior management displaying the crisis management skills of an ostrich.
Overall, though, there was a sense that this transfer deadline felt more mature than in previous years. It may not necessarily suit the headline writers, but it certainly suits the blood pressure of supporters for this day to pass by with little to no hysteria, and the clubs themselves may well come to understand that there are considerable benefits to not buying players and handing them lavish contracts, a practice frequently carried out in the past and almost as frequently repented at leisure. Rather than the shrill white nose of hysteria, social media enjoyed the ridiculousness of it all, the clubs seemed to pay it very little heed, and the sections of the media which flourish the most when creating stories from just about nothing were left looking somewhat red-faced. It’s not a situation that we would necessarily expect to continue indefinitely, but it felt like a mercifully quiet day, on the whole, and we should probably be glad of that.
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