Managers' final countdown
The transfer window has brought slim pickings but there may be late surprises
Pity the breathless presenters of Sky Sports News, as they sit below the countdown clock, trying to inject drama into the most inconsequential transfer window in history. Last week the hours of fevered speculation produced the rags-to-riches story of Chris Smalling, Robinho's return home and, er, that's about it. Even the nation's most excitable rolling news service could not describe the transfers of Craig Gardner and Leon Cort as big-name moves.
But there is still one more day, and plenty of managers are still searching for the player they have told their reluctant chairman will be the "final piece in the jigsaw". What, apart from David Craig standing outside some windswept ground in the north-east, can we expect before the window closes at 5pm?
1. World Cup refugees
There is one countdown which cannot be ignored. There are less than four months before the World Cup squads are chosen. Thomas Hitzlsperger yesterday became the latest player to switch clubs in search of playing time when he joined Lazio from Stuttgart. Ruud van Nistelrooy (Real Madrid to Hamburg), Robinho and Luca Toni (Bayern Munich to Roma) had already moved in an attempt to prove to their international managers they are fit, in form, and desperate to figure in South Africa. The most high-profile player still looking is the Netherlands' Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, a proven goalscorer who could do well in the Premier League. Van Nistelrooy's move to Hamburg has increased the need for him to get away from Milan's bench as both seek a spot in the Dutch squad. If only Russia had qualified, Birmingham would probably have landed Roman Pavyluchenko by now, but their pursuit of Ryan Babel may yet bear fruit if Alex McLeish can persuade the Dutchman it will enhance his World Cup chances.
2. Harry Redknapp will get involved
He cannot help it. A transfer window without Harry wheeling and dealing is like a Manchester United defeat without Alex Ferguson moaning about the referee. Redknapp has bought Younes Kaboul, and allowed Portsmouth to extend Jamie O'Hara's loan, but that is just warming up. Ideally he will be at the centre of a merry-go-round. Robbie Keane could facilitate all this. Should the Irishman, who embarrassed Redknapp when he organised the infamous Christmas Party against his manager's express wishes, move to Sunderland, Kenwyne Jones may be allowed to go to Liverpool. Redknapp could invest the £10m fee in a goalkeeper and another striker.
3. Vultures raid the wounded
Portsmouth have lost Kaboul, and a goalkeeper is likely to follow; Crystal Palace have sold Victor Moses to Wigan with Nathaniel Clyne heading for the exit; and Hull are trying to hang on to Stephen Hunt despite a need to trim their wage bill. Football is a ruthless business, any sign of weakness and the pack move in for the kill, or, in these cases, asset-strip. Expect departures, from one or all of these clubs.
4. Roberto Mancini buys a defensive player from Italy
Manchester City kept a clean sheet yesterday but Mancini has already made it clear he is unimpressed with the quality of their defending. Some Serie A nous is needed. Ideally he would find a large cheque and take Giorgio Chiellini from Juventus, but the Old Lady is under new management and unlikely to sell. Ivan Cordoba seems set to stay at Internazionale so it may be Parma's defensive midfielder McDonald Mariga.
5. An unknown arrives, and has no impact
Someone will panic buy in haste on the basis of a video, or an agent's recommendation, and they will repent at leisure. It will either be a player from an obscure club in a big league, or from a big club in an obscure league. Remember Savio, West Ham's £9m signing from Brescia last January, billed as the next big thing? After 10 appearances, and no goals, he is on loan to Bologna from his current owners, Fiorentina.
Transfer Talk: One day to go...
Tottenham may be prepared to let Robbie Keane depart for Sunderland in a £9m move, with Kenwyne Jones subsequently moving on to Liverpool. Spurs full-back Alan Hutton could join West Ham's relegation battle, while Russian striker Roman Pavlyuchenko is interesting Fiorentina. England goalkeeper Ben Foster may leave Manchester United for White Hart Lane. Liverpool midfielder Yossi Benayoun is seeking a move away from Anfield, while James Beattie has been linked with a return to Blackburn Rovers after falling out of favour with Stoke manager Tony Pulis. Reports linking Gabriel Obertan with a departure from Manchester United have been dismissed by his agent, while Alex Ferguson's side remain in the hunt for Racing Santander midfielder Sergio Canales. Arsenal remain in the hunt for Valencia striker David Villa and Bordeaux forward Marouane Chamakh. and West Ham are close to an agreement with St Etienne over striker Ilan. Egypt striker Mohamed Gedo has attracted the attention of Fulham and Wolves. Rangers have rejected an offer from Sunderland for Madjid Bougherra, while Celtic may have to increase their offer above £5m to persuade Cardiff to let Ross McCormack leave James Mariner
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