Reality bites as frugal clubs let transfer window quietly close

After last year's fireworks, Uefa's looming Financial Fair Play rules mean spending is at a minimum

It was a huge figure, it was Chelsea and it was transfer
deadline day; but that was where the similarities to last year's
final day of the January transfer window ended. Chelsea announced a
loss of £68m yesterday, on a day to bury bad news. It explained
much, like the increasing importance of debt in what had been, this
time last year, a month of madness.

More than £215m was blown in the 2011 winter window; £50m on Fernando Torres, £35m on Andy Carroll and £23m on David Luiz.

If that is what more than £100m buys you at this time of the season, no wonder everyone stayed at home, keeping away from a period that has never been recognised as the Christmas sales.

A Premier League manager acknowledged at the end of December that the following month was being recognised now for a time of bad deals. In the past it has signified desperation, yet there seemed little of that in the closing moments last night.

With two hours of the window still to go – and in theory a great deal could still have happened – Sky dramatically announced: "Breaking news from the Championship!" And that was the lead item.

At that time, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool were watching Brighton do business. Whatever the benefits and flaws of Financial Fair Play – and it is a huge issue – what played out yesterday was more the vision of Uefa's Michel Platini. For once the English did not go mad in the midwinter window.

Of course, all three have spent a small fortune over the last 18 months, some of it hastened by the need to get the crazy deals done before their respective books would have to make a semblance of sense.

But perhaps Platini will take satisfaction that part of his plan at least came into force in the world's richest league. If by the close an entire nation's football clubs had spent less than Chelsea did on Torres (and it will be pretty close) then he has, at least for now, his justification.

The magic figure this time was £10m, a fifth of what Torres went for. Newcastle flirted with it by paying £8m for Papiss Cissé. Chelsea went even closer with the £9m it cost them to buy Kevin de Bruyne from Genk, who was deemed so exciting and so imperative to the rest of their struggling season that he was promptly loaned back to the same club.

Everton went relatively massive for them given their recent financial problems with the £5m they paid Rangers for Nikica Jelavic and in the capital it was Queen's Park Rangers who were once more giving it the (comparatively) big one. Around £4m went on Djibril Cissé and another £5-6m was being put together for Bobby Zamora.

They would hardly have got a mention this time last year. This was the window that promised little and lived down to its promises. Those at the start of the month warned of a plethora of loan deals. Football clubs were not awash with money, and in a traditional seller's market, simply refused to budge.

Witness Newcastle's battle to prise Adrian Mariappa from Watford. It was hard to be critical of either club; the Premier League side do not want to be known as wanton anymore and the Championship boys wanted their pound of flesh for a player they have nurtured. It was a squabble over the course of a week for around £1m; four weeks worth of Yaya Touré if you look at it in a different way. These are financial fights that Premier League clubs are only just starting to make. Something in that makes sense; it just didn't make good TV.

Facts in figures

55 million pounds spent by Premier League clubs

215m pounds spent in January last year – a total of £30m was spent in 2010

17.5 millions spent by Chelsea – the most in the Premier League

6 - the number of new players signed by Queen's Park Rangers

Figures correct at time of going to press.

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