Real Madrid’s former sporting director Jorge Valdano once told the club’s demanding president Florentino Perez that, on average, three out of every five transfers are failures.
That pessimism is not shared by the large proportion of football fans that fetishise transfers above the actual game. To convey the balance of perceived importance, the self-styled transfer expert Fabrizio Romano has more social media followers than Manchester City, the best club team on the planet.
Transfer fever reaches its febrile peak on each deadline day. Here’s what would make for an enthralling conclusion to this January’s winter window as it slams shut on 1 February 2024.
When Sky Sports were divvying up this season’s batch of televised fixtures, they would naturally have underscored certain key derbies, any potential title showdowns and relegation six-pointers. However, a word in the ear from Jim White may have steered the broadcasters away from the midweek offering at the start of February.
Two Premier League matches are scheduled for the same evening as deadline day. While West Ham United host Bournemouth, Manchester United begin February with a trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers. TNT Sports will show both games live while Sky no doubt divert all of their coverage to the window. It would be little surprise to discover that more people watched White’s yellow tie glisten than the old gold at Molineux.
There is ample opportunity for a potential crossover of the two events. Wolves, for instance, have a glut of exciting players keenly watched by the rest of the division and beyond. It would be a fitting – at least convenient – send-off for Bournemouth’s Dominic Solanke to bag the winner at the London Stadium and remain in the capital to sign for Tottenham Hotspur. It may be the only way for Sky to mention an actual Premier League match that night.
Alan Irwin’s steely gaze didn’t flick away from the camera for a second. While he dutifully outlined the details behind Tom Cleverley’s potential move away from Manchester United in 2014, Irwin had a large purple sex toy brushed against his ear by some rowdy fans watching the live coverage unfold outside Old Trafford.
This iconic deadline day dildo prompted Sky Sports to corral their roving reporters inside club grounds, away from the reach of any fans armed with silicone. While no one wants a repeat of ‘dildogate’ (well, maybe some people do) this move has robbed viewers of the unfiltered joy that a gaggle of teenagers can express when a move of any magnitude is made before the window inevitably slams shut.
Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville often wade through the masses before Premier League games without encountering a sex toy, hinting at a public that may have grown less feverish in the face of cameras after a decade in the social media age.
Perhaps the presence of a former footballer alongside a journalist would dissuade fans from disrupting the broadcast. Worst case scenario: Peter Crouch has a vibrator thrust in his face.
According to James Bond: “Once is happenstance. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is enemy action.” In the case of Chelsea’s administrative department, it may simply have been incompetence.
Those in charge of Chelsea’s legal documents sent the wrong forms to Paris Saint-Germain as many as three times at the end of last summer’s transfer window, scuppering a potential move for Hakim Ziyech. Chelsea’s want-away winger was in Paris but had to skulk back across the Channel before the competent members of the club’s legal team eventually oversaw his exit to Galatasaray.
As the Blues gear up for another winter window of churn, fans of Schadenfreude (and definitely not Chelsea) will surely be wishing for more absent lawyers this winter.
Between 1984 and 1992, the world record for a transfer fee was broken six times – on each occasion, an Italian club made the landmark purchase. However, Serie A’s status as the best league on the planet has plummeted alongside the division’s finances in the 21st century.
The gulf in economic muscle was never more evident than in the January 2023 transfer window. Between them, Italy’s top flight purchased a pitiful €31m (£27m) worth of players. Antonin Barak’s hardly earth-shattering move from Hellas Verona to Fiorentina for less than €8m was the biggest deal of the entire window.
All three sides that would be relegated from the Premier League last season – Southampton, Leeds United and Leicester City – spent more than the entirety of Serie A in January.
Roy Hodgson has complained, fumed, spat and even cackled maniacally recently but it’s been a while since the Crystal Palace manager flashed a warm smile.
The septuagenarian has endured a testing end to his 48th year in management, with Palace’s winless run pockmarked by refereeing controversies that forced Hodgson to question his faith in a sport he has given so much to.
Hodgson has publicly implored the Palace hierarchy to strengthen his “seriously depleted” squad this winter. Perhaps some new faces through the door will get a grin out of the Premier League’s increasingly diminished avuncular figure.
In what other industry would a multi-million-pound deal almost fall through because one of the key figures in the negotiations was unconscious?
Everything had been mapped out for Benjani Mwaruwari to leave Portsmouth for Manchester City in the winter of 2008 only for the striker to catch some inconvenient shut-eye.
“In his own inevitable, wonderful way – and we all love Benji so much – he falls asleep at the airport and misses two planes,” Portsmouth chief executive Peter Storrie remembered. Benjani eventually made it to Manchester but wouldn’t it be a treat for a sport that takes itself as seriously as football to be undone by such comedic incompetence?
This year’s deadline cutoff for Premier League clubs is at 23:00 GMT, late enough to leave plenty of players bleary-eyed.
Fulham didn’t have a game on the last day of the summer transfer window but arguably enjoyed their most important victory of the season.
Joao Palhinha was in Munich wearing a Bayern shirt when it became clear that Fulham could not find an adequate replacement for the crucial midfielder and so brutally ended advanced discussions with the Bundesliga champions. Palhinha was so shaken by the collapse of the deal that he had to be left out of the squad for Fulham’s next match.
The 5-1 thumping Manchester City dished out in Palhinha’s absence points towards the difficulties that Fulham will have without the Portuguese enforcer. However, Bayern remain keenly interested in the 28-year-old and look set to wrap up what unravelled in August.
If negotiations drag on until deadline day again, it would be cruel to rob Palhinha of his evident ambitions once more. Although, it would be a massive boost for Fulham (and quite funny for plenty of neutrals).