By Paul Gardner
Utterly exhausted as I am by the incredible nail-biting, heart-stopping, nerve-wrenching, mind-boggling excitement of the final hours of the transfer window in
England, I feel the necessity of revealing to you all the fabulous excitement of these tension-wracked 24 hours.
Where to begin? How about this, to start the cardiac arrest process:
Fulham announces the signing of Elsad Zverotic. Just before the deadline, of course. Here’s something else that also came in late, but this time it’s bristling with names we recognize:
Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger has finally spent some money and signed Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid, for $64 million.
This is rated as “a major signing” I note. Not least
because Arsenal hasn’t signed anyone major for ages. So we can put to rest the absurd notions that Wenger was seriously considering signing a Latin player, that he was really interested in Luis
Suarez or Gonzalo Higuain or Angel di Maria. Pah -- everyone knows Wenger won’t sign Latinos. So, enter Ozil who has been playing like a drain lately, massively overshadowed at Real by a
suddenly brilliant Luka Modric.
Ozil, it seems, will be all that Arsenal needs to return to the ranks of big clubs that actually win something. We’ve sure as hell heard that before,
but don’t laugh, maybe it’ll work this time, and Wenger’s Franco-German alliance will pay off. Anyway, there’s more to tell of Arsenal, which has signed Italian goalkeeper
Emiliano Viviano on a season-long loan deal from Serie B club Palermo. That ought to do it.
Rampant excitement, too, at the bottom end of the EPL, where newcomer Crystal Palace left it to
the final day to add Scottish midfielder Barry Bannan, defender Adrian Mariappa, right back Jack Hunt, and winger Jimmy Kebe. I’d refer you to the Palace website if you want to know who those
players actually are.
Back we go, breathlessly, to the big guys, to find that Manchester United has loaned midfielder Nick Powell to Wigan Athletic. Maybe ManU has acquired
Everton’s Marouane Fellaini, which might count as a big deal, except that the last-minute deal seems, for the moment, to lack a last-minute confirmation.
Then we have an explosion
of incredible trades for you. You’re sitting down? Right -- West Brom has broken its transfer record to sign Sunderland forward Stephane Sessegnon; Liverpool has signed central defenders Mamadou
Sakho and Tiago Ilori, plus forward Victor Moses on loan; Aston Villa has signed Czech Republic striker Libor Kozak; and Cardiff City has signed striker Peter Odemwingie.
Wow! I mean ...
Sessegnon, Sakho, Ilori, Kozak, headline names if ever there were any.
There’s a lot more of this amazing stuff -- I could regale you with the tidings that Stoke City has loaned
midfielder Michael Kightly to Burnley, that Niko Kranjcar is now a QPR player, and that Romelu Lukaku, fresh from his botched penalty kick that cost Chelsea the UEFA Super Cup, has gone on loan to
Everton. Then there’s Leicester City striker Marko Futacs ... but maybe not.
The biggest trade of the lot was hardly a surprise as it has been a regular feature of the rumor mill
for weeks, if not months. Real Madrid rolled out the big bucks and captured Gareth Bale from Spurs. A world-record $128 million is what they paid. And before the crypto-moralizers butt in with
“he’s not worth it, no player is worth that much,” let me point out that, in the celebrity world (of which soccer is now indisputably a part) an individual is worth whatever people
are willing to pay him. Hollywood star salaries have always been obscene; Bale’s $450,000 a week comes under the same heading, especially in Spain, a recession-hit country with 6 million
Real Madrid is taking a risk here -- signing a British player on a 6-year contract. Fact is that British players have never traveled well, have rarely been successful in
foreign climes. Real Madrid should know that -- despite enormous hype, David Beckham never came over as an outstanding player for Real. But he did, we’re informed, sell a lot of shirts.
The problem for the Brits seems to be cultural. They don’t, or won’t, or cannot learn foreign languages for a start. In the early 1960s when a batch of top British players,
including Denis Law and Jimmy Greaves, left for Italy, their sojourns didn’t last long (Law played 27 games for Torino, Greaves 12 games for AC Milan). Often, the players’ wives get blamed
for the inability to “settle in.” One wonders about that.
Greaves was English, Law was Scottish. But Bale is Welsh, and that might be significant. Because the one Brit who did
make it, big time, as a player in Europe was John Charles, who spent four hugely successful years with Italy’s Juventus.
Oh -- and this just in: to complete this saga of blockbuster
trades, Shane Long is moving from West Brom to Hull City. I think.
You're still an ass Paul...why is everything so negative?
You're right, Mr. Gardner, about british players performance abroad.
I can remember, besides of Beckham, Owen and Cunningham in Real Madrid.
Lineker and Hughes in Barça or Atkinson in Real Sociedad.
None of them shone specially.
I think the only one who felt at home in Spain was Michael Robinson, Osasuna player, nowadays working for a spanish sports channel
Selective memory. Kevin Keegan did quite well at Hamburg, winning two European footballer of the year awards. Glenn Hoddle did very well at Monaco, as did McManaman at Real.
Much ado about........nbc showing every game. Soccer America TV listings showing Gunners-Spurs match of the day, coming back from Church to see_Man City-Hull?! Not even a replay? Missing Fox a lot. Oezil a huge signing, especially with Podolski out 6-8 weeks,more importantly a paradigm shift from the Arsenal previous philosophy. Though there is only so much transfers can do, i.e., Spurs 100# spending vs. Gunners 0, & same result......
Ah, come on. Ozil to Arsenal and Bale to Real Madrid actually are big and interesting moves. As for the rest, is it realistic to expect West Brom, Crystal Palace or Hull to sign a major superstar? They do what they can. It seems odd to beat them up just because they don't have oil sheik/oligarch billions to throw around.
Thank you for mentioning John Charles. Some of us old-timers still remember "the gentle giant" ("il buon Gigante") at Juventus. Amazingly, he was voted by Italians as the greatest foreign player in the history of Serie A, beating out the likes of Maradona, Van Basten, and Zidane. He was truly a great one and Bale would do well to emulate his fellow Welshman.
Yes, Wenger will never sign a Latino player. Apart from Carlos Vela, Denilson, Gilberto Silva, Andre Santos and Wellington Silva. His current "Franco-German alliance" also consists of Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Nacho Monreal. Liverpool didn't want to do business for Suarez, and Madrid raised the price for Higuain at the last minute, allowing a newly cash-rich Napoli to big higher. But apart from all that, sure, Wenger doesn't want Latino players.
Great comments. PG should revise his column in light of them!