Ah, another January transfer window in austerity Britain where libraries are being closed, public forests sold for a song and the Premier League is learning to live within its means. How boring. Darren Bent to Aston Villa for £24 million, you say? Snooze. Edin Dzeko to Mancester City for £27 million? Blah. Paul Konchesky to Nottingham Forest on loan? YAWN.
That would have been the tale of the January transfer window until 12 days ago, when Chelsea oligarch Roman Ambramovich broke cover to light the fuse on an explosive series of deals. After the Blues owner made a shock £25 million bid for Liverpool’s Fernando Torres, everything (literally everything) went totally bat shit mental. Sky Sports News, Twitter and assorted live blogs were yesterday in meltdown as players zoomed round the country in private jets and helicopters, fans watched the skies for stellar new signings, and around £130 million zinged hither and thither from one bank account to another to another.
Torres realised something…
All because – shock, horror – a disaffected striker at Liverpool realised he would like to win some trophies in his career. Fernando Torres has soul, but he’s not a soldier – and he had clearly become fed up of crawling round in the trenches, beneath long balls soaring over head like mortar fire, in the battle for seventh place. ‘Pass and move, it’s the Liverpool groove,’ might be back on heavy dressing-room rotation now King Kenny is back, but it was too little, too late as far as Kop hero Torres was concerned. The bright lights were calling.
Around 7.30pm last night, after a protracted bargaining process that been precipitated by the Spain striker handing in a transfer request at Anfield, a staggering £50 million deal was finalised. Torres became a Chelsea player and the British transfer record was smashed. And as I pressed up against the radiator, desperately trying to fight off the returning winter and feverishly following the closing hours of the window, I couldn’t help but wonder: just what the hell does £50 million look like? On a bank teller’s computer screen or comedy cheque that you might award cub scouts for doing a sponsored silence it looks like this: „£50,000,000“ – but in cold, hard petro-roubles? It would probably fill my flat from floor to ceiling. And despite the modest proportions of my Zwei-Zimmer Neukölln thrill-palace, that is a lot of currency. Liverpool fans would no doubt have been consoled when rumours of the massive fee for a striker having his worse season at the club since joining in 2007 spread during the morning – but their pragmatism turned to disbelief as jaw-dropping news broke of who would replace the Spaniard.
35 million for an injured striker
In a development so utterly, breathlessly insane that the Web 2.0 guff-site du jour, Twitter, was unable to cope with the amount of posts on the subject, the Reds proceeded to splash £35 million of the Torres fee (yes, £35 million) on Newcastle’s Andy Carroll. The currently injured but defence-bothering simian is a bright prospect indeed – but one worth almost 17 times his own weight in gold? That seems unlikely. Most tweeters, fans and pundits agreed yesterday that the ‘eighth most expensive player of all time’™ has a lot to live up to. His chequered off-field record (he reportedly picked up his current thigh injury falling off a casino bar stool, having just ordered a round of 30 Jagerbombs for him and his mates) will hardly beguile fans and his on-pitch style may lack the subtlety to seduce the Kop. His ability to batter defenders with his aerial prowess will have to charm them instead, although such prosaic delights are hardly the stuff Anfield dreams were once made off.
Perhaps in that respect the purchase of Carroll (22 years old, 41 Premier League appearances and one England cap) can be read as a Merseyside epiphany, a realisation that after years of mediocre players traipsing through the club and an unproductive academy turning out duds, dreams of boot-room artistry need to be forgotten. Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea (and chief battering ram Didier Drogba) showed that a little brute force is a reliable recipe for 21st century success and perhaps the Reds’ new owners, unfettered by romantic notions of what the Liverpool way should be, have decided they are ready to get on with the business of winning the Premier League title in the most efficient, pragmatic way possible.
If that is the case, the appointment of Kenny Dalglish to the manager’s gig is either a clever fig-leaf to appease fans before the arrival of an iconoclastic win-at-all-costs manager in the mould of Mourinho (currently having problems with boss Jorge Valdano at the Bernebeu and opponents such as Osasuna), or a bafflingly throwback appointment completely incoherent with their hard-nosed new-world philosophy, that will bite them spectacularly in the arse at some point. Say around May. Though Reds fans yesterday greeted the investment as confirmation that Dalglish has landed the job for the long-term, that seems to somewhat overlook the fact that a two-tier management structure is in place at the club, with Damien Comolli the director of football strategy, responsible for transfers.
Either way, the prospect of Carroll and fellow Reds new boy Luis Suarez (£22.8 million) blasting (or respectively, punching or biting) their way through opposition defences is likely to excite the Kop in the short-term. Even if Liverpool were unable to land the midfield pass-master they have lacked since Xavi Alonso’s departure (Charlie Adam was not allowed to leave Blackpool), or a winger, to supply them (Ashley Young could not be prised from Aston Villa).
A signal from Roman
Chelsea fans meanwhile will be ecstatic to have seen owner Roman Abramovich signal that he has not lost interest in the West London club and is backing Carlo Ancelotti as manager. Torres was joined on deadline day by £26.5 million Benfica defender David Luiz in a significant splurge that signals an acknowledgment from the Chelsea hierarchy that their squad is aging badly. With the spectre of UEFA’s fair play regulations looming ever nearer and the club posting losses for last year of £71 million, how the expensive electro-shock therapy will be viewed by Michel Platini is anyone’s guess. It is likely though that a „Zut alors!“ will have passed the UEFA president’s lips as he followed developments yesterday.
Torres though will be more concerned with justifying his price tag and finally winning some trophies, even if following Manchester United’s season-defining 3 – 2 win at Blackpool the Premier League title will have to wait. He is though free to play in the Champions League this season, and it is in that context that his purchase makes perfect sense. It is the prize which Abrmaovich most covets, the reason for Ancelotti being brought to the Bridge, the pass card to the Parthenon of ‘big’ European clubs and the trophy which would turn his club – and by extension himself – from irritating arriviste to respected achiever. £50 million is being paid not only for a striker – but for status.
The last time Abramovich tried to do that though, things went disastrously wrong. Andriy Shevchenko arrived at Chelsea as one of the world’s most elegant goalscorers but left with his reputation tatters, having failed to make his mark on English football. Though Chelsea fans will be sweating on Torres’ recent injury record, a repeat of the Shevchenko fiasco is unlikely – quite apart from the politics that surrounded his transfer (he was Abramovich’s buddy and unwanted by Mourinho), Torres has already proved spectacularly that he can prosper in the Premier League. He has, according to Opta, scored every 121 minutes – the fasted rate ever in the competition. Though he might only be firing intermittently this season, if he can finally put his feet up come June after three gruelling consecutive summers playing for Spain, he should be back to peak form and fitness in 2011-12. And that is an exciting prospect indeed.
There is of course plenty more news to digest from the transfer window: Tottenham’s failure to land a striker, Blackburn’s impressive market manoeuvres, the arrivals of several Bundesliga players in England (Dzeko, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley) and the lack of activity at Manchester United and Arsenal. The repercussions of a record January binge will reverberate for some time starting with tonight’s fixtures, which have almost been forgotten amidst the transfer madness, and continuing on Sunday in spectacular style, when Chelsea play Liverpool. The true value of Fernando Torres’ move might just start to become apparent then. Austerity is so 2010 darlings. Welcome to the all singing, all dancing, all spending 2011 Premier League.
An dieser Stelle erklärt Titus Chalk die englische Fußball-Kultur auf Deutsch
Folge 24: Francis Jeffers
Er war, sagte Arsene Wenger, „A fox in the box“ – Ein Fuchs im Strafraum. Deshalb hat der Arsenal-Trainer für ihn £8 Million gezahlt, als er im 2001 ihn von Everton gekauft hat. Leider hatte Zoologe Wenger total falsch: Jeffers war kein Fuchs, sondern ein Reh im Scheinwerferlicht und ein der schlimmsten Spieler, er je für Arsenal gekauft hat. Der arme Jeffers ist heute nur an der Lächerlichkeit preisgegeben, eine Situation, die seine liebevolle Eltern haben gestern wegen seines Geburtstags berichtigt mit dieser schöne Kleinanzeige. Herzlichen Glückwunsch!
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