The January transfer window is to Sky Sports News what Children in Need is to the BBC. There is the same sense of giddying expectation in the studio, the same rolling news ticker at the bottom of the screen, the same sense that somebody's life will never be the same again. It's just that the money goes to less deserving causes.
The January transfer window is 10 years old and despite the fact that it has seen more than £520 million change hands (compared to the £355m raised by Children in Need over the same period) it is hard to find anyone in football who likes it or will even argue it has been decisive. There has never been a game-changing transfer in January to rival Eric Cantona's arrival at Manchester United in November 1992 or Thierry Henry's at Arsenal in August 1999.
The very first January window gave a clue as to how it would operate. There were 10 major deals and most involved clubs in the relegation zone – West Ham and Sunderland – or Leeds, who were in an advanced state of financial disintegration and had to sell to survive.
The decade has seen pitifully few hits – Jermain Defoe to Tottenham and Luis Suarez's move to Liverpool stand out. But the field is littered with misses that stretch from Hull spending £5m on an arguably terminally unfit Jimmy Bullard to the £50m cheque that took Fernando Torres to Stamford Bridge, where he contributed to three Chelsea managers losing their jobs.
Nevertheless, David Moyes last year transformed Everton in January, bringing in Nikica Jelavic from Glasgow Rangers, Darron Gibson from Manchester United and bringing back Steven Pienaar from Tottenham. Everton were 12th when the window opened and lost only two matches once it had closed. If Everton do complete their journey to the Champions' League this season, it will have begun last January.
"The key to that was that we sold Dinyar Bilyaletdinov to Spartak Moscow," said Moyes. "We got five-and-a-half million quid and we spent five-and-a-half million quid. It was that which gave us the impetus to go on. If that deal hadn't come in, I don't think we would have been doing that kind of business. Sometimes opportunities come up and you have to take them, but did I have it all planned out? Not at all.
"I don't think anybody enjoys January, partly because we are continually asked questions about it and because at Everton we have some players who would fit in very well at the top clubs." Chief among them is Leighton Baines, who has developed into one of Europe's finest left-backs and is seen by some at Chelsea as Ashley Cole's natural replacement. "But my instincts are that not many of the top clubs buy in January," he said.
Moyes is partially right. Tottenham have been the most consistent users of the January transfer window of any major club: Michael Dawson, Andy Reid, Danny Murphy, Jonathan Woodgate, Younes Kaboul, Pienaar and Defoe. Chelsea, too, have employed it, always spectacularly, sometimes effectively, especially when taking Nicolas Anelka and Gary Cahill from Bolton.
It is seven years since Sir Alex Ferguson did a long-term deal in January, and then he needed to. Manchester United had finished last in their Champions' League group and appeared to have no answer to Arsenal or the Chelsea of Jose Mourinho. Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic were rushed in and, though they were to become the core of United's defence, they began disastrously.
"It is very difficult to get a big player in January," said Ferguson. "I read that one or two clubs are after David Villa, which would be the biggest signing of the January window. You would get his profile, his experience and his time at Barcelona. He would be the one big signing but I don't see anything else. I don't see Atletico Madrid selling Falcao. I don't see any of the big clubs wanting to buy a player they can't use in Europe. It doesn't seem sensible.
"It is not an easy market because teams abroad who are involved in a relegation scrap won't do business either. You look at Fernando Llorente at Bilbao who is not getting a game and his contract is up at the end of the season. He's a target but Bilbao are sixth bottom of the league, they have collapsed. Can they afford to sell one of their biggest assets? No."
Norwich City are pursuing the Anderlecht striker Dieumerci Mbokani. (football-rumours.co.uk)
West Ham United are pondering a move for the Aston Villa full-back Stephen Warnock. (talksport.co.uk)
Chelsea are hoping to lure the striker Alvaro Negredo from Sevilla for £16m. (football365.com)
Arsenal are thought to be interested in signing Nani from Manchester United. (Daily Mirror)
Real Madrid are to offer Tottenham Hotspur £33m for Gareth Bale. (caughtoffside.com)
Michael Owen may be offered a return to Spain by Espanyol. (metro.co.uk)
Chelsea winger Marko Marin has been linked with a January loan move to Queens Park Rangers. (newsnow.co.uk)
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