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. 

Short-term exci­te­ment

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 Sheva-effect?

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. 

Die Titus-Fuss­bal­ling-Eng-zyklo­pädie
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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