Words by Harry Smith
Much like this season so far, the January transfer window was very different this year.
With none of the usual sightings – managers speeding up and down the M4 in pursuit of a last minute bargain, rowdy fans interrupting TV journalists stood outside the club’s ground, or Harry Redknapp with his head out a car window – this year’s deadline day was in fact dull, undramatic, and rather forgettable.
The transfer market, which closed at 11pm last Monday, saw a major decline in spending for Premier League clubs. The total of transfer fees paid for players in the winter window was the lowest since 2012 with a reported £70m spent. To put this into perspective, last season the January transfer window spending stood at £230m. The flop in clubs’ expenditure is primarily due to the financial impact of the pandemic which, according to reports from financial services Deloitte, will account to the world’s top 20 highest-earning football clubs losing nearly two billion Euros. The impact of the global pandemic was felt across European football as the other four ‘big five’ European leagues’ transfer spending fell to just over half of the previous three-year January transfer windows.
Additionally, since the UK left the European Union on New Year’s Eve, some foreign players have struggled to qualify for a work permit because of the change in immigration rules. Generally, clubs have found pursuing foreign players more problematic since the new post-Brexit rules were introduced. Deloitte estimates that during this season’s January transfer window the Premier League clubs’ expenditure on players from foreign clubs fell to just £45m, compared to an average of £165m spending in this category in the previous two January transfer windows. Largely, the quiet deadline day is by cause of the country being in the midst of a global pandemic, but Brexit may also have been a contributing factor that could pose further problems for English football in the future.
While bringing in a new player halfway through the season is often seen as a risky move, many clubs have managed to sign elite Premier League players that proved to be well worth the money in the past. From Luis Suarez’s move from Ajax to Liverpool for £22m in 2011, to Bruno Fernandes arrival at Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon for £47m last season.
However, this year’s quiet deadline day was illustrated by the fact that late focus centred on who Liverpool would bring in to amend their defensive problems, and of those players only one was a permanent signing with the other coming to Anfield on loan.
Liverpool are missing three senior centre-backs through injury with Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, and recently Joel Matip all out. With midfielder Fabinho, who has been acting as a centre-back, becoming Liverpool’s latest absentee this season, the Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was busy looking for at least one central defender to bring in on deadline day. Preston defender Ben Davies, 25, signed a permanent deal that will see him move from the championship club to Anfield for £2m. While Ozan Kabak was brought in on loan from Schalke with an option to buy the Turkey international for around £18m at the end of the season.
Other significant deals were completed in the early hours of Tuesday morning, as Norway striker Joshua King returned to the Premier League in a move from Bournemouth to Everton for a nominal fee. While Japan forward Takumi Minamino, joined Southampton on loan from Liverpool for the rest of the season. Both deals are not the most eye-catching ‘after hours’ signings in deadline day history, but they are intriguing ones.
Additionally, Arsenal loaned out two of their promising young English players with Joe Willock joining Newcastle until the end of the season and Ainsley Maitland-Niles moving to West Brom. Albion manager Sam Allardyce, also loaned former Celta Vigo midfielder Okay Yokuslu in his attempt to keep the Baggies in the Premier League this season.
19-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder Moises Caicedo, signed for Brighton earlier in the day for £4m that keeps him at the Seagulls until 2025.
While that concluded business in the Premier League for the day, England’s second flight provided some deals that caught the eye. Watford appeared to turn back the clock by signing Bergkamp and Pochettino, however it wasn’t the Arsenal legend or former Spurs boss joining the championship side, but Dennis’ son Mitchel Bergkamp, 22, and Mauricio’s son Maurizio Pochettino, 19.
Former England and Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was busy during his first transfer deadline day as manager of Derby County, signing five new players on loan until the end of the season, including Manchester United youth defender Teden Mengi.
In total, the Premier League’s ‘big six’ clubs made just three permanent deals and three loan fee transfers, accounting to 35% of the total spend for the transfer window. With Premier League clubs deciding not to spend this winter, clubs will have to work with what they’ve got, hope they have enough further down their ranks, and depend on youth. All of which promises an exciting and unpredictable second half of the season with the title race wide open.