Redknapp is king of spenders as clubs let £80m fly out the window

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The Independent Online

He promised "fireworks" but no-one predicted quite the show of pyrotechnics involving Harry Redknapp during the January transfer window. Nine players arrived at Portsmouth - with work going on until late last night to bring in at least one, and possibly two more, which would complete a new first XI - with seven, and counting, having left.

And that was just at his present club. It was an agent's dream on the South Coast. Southampton, the one that Redknapp left to move back to Fratton Park was just as busy. Fifteen players were despatched by Redknapp's successor George Burley who signed five and was looking to also bring in at least two more. "We will be working right up until midnight to try and sign the players we want, no doubt about that," Burley said yesterday. Midnight is when the window closed until the summer.

It is then that the bulk of the year's business is done and it is telling that Chelsea's only moves were one in, with the arrival of Maniche, initially on loan, and one out, with Wayne Bridge being lent to Fulham until May. It is because of their supremacy that both Manchester United and, more unusually, Arsenal felt it necessary to dip into the market more fully than in previous years.

Arsène Wenger made three signings with the most significant being that of 16-year-old Theo Walcott who arrived from Southampton in a £12m deal. United - who allowed seven players to leave, six on loan - were also trying to make it a hat-trick of signings. However their attempts to bring in a central midfielder, with another loan bid for Milan's Johann Vogel rebuffed, were proving less successful than their sudden swoops for defenders Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra.

Those two deals - for £7.2m and £5m - helped inflate the amount of business done in January, not including a flurry of late deals completed last night, to more than £80m making it an exceptionally busy window, especially as Chelsea were modest participants and the main currency was still the loan deal.

As of yesterday afternoon, there were 16 transfers which cost more than £1m with three conducted in the Championship with Wolves signing Tomasz Frankowski for £1.4m, Robert Earnshaw joining Norwich for £3.5m and Sheffield United buying Ade Akinbiyi for a fee which could rise to £1.75m should they be promoted.

West Ham United's £7m signing of Dean Ashton, for example, could rise by £125,000 if the striker plays for England and if his new club qualifies for Europe. It is an inflated price but, West Ham believe, as much a statement of their intent as a market value for Ashton. There was a similar mark left by Manchester City in buying striker Giorgios Samaras for £6m.

Fulham also made a statement. The past seasons in decline were arrested with substantial investment for manager Chris Coleman. He appears to have spent well, and completed the signing of Spurs midfielder Michael Brown yesterday, although he was thwarted with some bids - such as a move for Celtic's Stilian Petrov.

The biggest spenders were Arsenal whose deals could total £24m if all targets are reached, though Portsmouth have pushed them close by parting with £12m and trying to spend up to another £6m on striker Benni McCarthy and, possibly, more on Sochaux's Soulemane Diawara.

Liverpool conducted more deals than any other of the so-called big four and also, with the signing of Robbie Fowler until the end of the season, pulled off the most unexpected move. Four other players arrived and five left although it appeared that Rafael Benitez's desire to bring in a right-sided midfielder was going to end in frustration.

The most intriguing transfer strategy was that laid-out by Tottenham Hotspur who have - in comings and goings - been a club in the past couple of years which even Harry Redknapp would have struggled to keep up with. They have followed a policy of buying up young talent in the hope of catching stars, such as Aaron Lennon, early before there are too many noughts on the price tag.

They have also done a lot of their business at the last minute. Yesterday, Hossem Ghaly arrived and there were on-going efforts to sign Danny Murphy and Portsmouth's Matthew Taylor. It would be no surprise if, as with last January, significant deals were done with minutes to spare. It is a high-risk strategy and can backfire badly - such as with the midnight signing last summer of Grzegorz Rasiak for £2m - but it is one Spurs believe ultimately makes sense.

Some managers can only look on in envy. David O'Leary's Aston Villa desperately need investment. O'Leary, who has seen four players leave and none arrive, spoke for several peers when he said: "I don't think the window is good, there is not much done. It is good for big clubs who can stock up at the start of the season and get by until the window and then come in and take it in the window if they want. For others like us I don't think it suits us in any way."

It's a relief for O'Leary, then, that as of midnight the window is now closed.

Retail therapy: Who's spent the most, who cost the most and who is the biggest gamble?

FIVE BIGGEST TRANSFERS

Theo Walcott, Arsenal-Southampton, £12m

Dean Ashton, West Ham-Norwich, £7.25m

Nemanja Vidic, Man Utd-Sp Moscow, £7m

Giorgios Samaras, Man City-Heerenveen, £6m

Daniel Agger, Liverpool-Brondby, £5.8m

TOP FIVE SPENDERS

Arsenal £18m

Portsmouth £11.6m

Manchester United £11.5m

West Ham United £7.26m

Manchester City £6m

* Have spent nothing: Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Sunderland, West Bromwich

* Best value for money: Either Chris Sutton who joined Birmingham on a free, or Antti Niemi who cost Fulham £1m

* And the worst: It's early days but Manchester United's £4.5m left-back Patrice Evra made the worst start - replaced at half-time on his debut in the Manchester derby.

* Biggest risk?: Probably Arsenal's Emmanuel Adebayor, who has fallen out spectacularly with the Togo coach and was forced to train alone at Monaco. Has been likened to Kanu, but seems to have much in common with Nicolas Anelka.

BIGGEST SHOCK

Robbie Fowler, Liverpool's icon of the 1990s and original "Spice boy", made a dramatic return to Anfield after four years in exile

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