Transfer window: Prices high as football refuses to be crunched
Predictions that the game is set for recession look wide of the mark as clubs – led by Manchester City – get set to spend, writes Jason Burt
Thursday 01 January 2009
The January transfer window opens today and here are a few prices to digest: Jermain Defoe – £24m, Roque Santa Cruz – £18m, Craig Bellamy – £15m, Matthew Upson – £15m, Wayne Bridge – £11m. Add to that the €20m (£19.1m) for Lassana Diarra. Credit crunch? What credit crunch? Okay, some of the figures being quoted are those being demanded rather than being paid by the would-be buyer at present. But some have already been met.
Among those set to be busiest in the market, beyond the obvious stellar intentions of Manchester City, who could easily spend more than £50m this month, and £30m this week alone, are Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United and Aston Villa, while those faced with fending off predators – or maybe cashing in – are headed by Portsmouth, West Ham United and Wigan Athletic.
It looks like a hectic month ahead which would defy predictions that clubs are battening down the hatches just like any other company. The intent to spend is there. Indeed there is a theory, suggested by one Premier League chief executive, that football at the highest club level is a business which, for now, because of the guaranteed revenues from television money and, to a point, ticket sales, is almost recession-proof. Yet more evidence, perhaps, the sport really does live in a bubble.
Most clubs are looking to do business. Even Arsenal, who desperately need experience and are targeting an attacking midfielder, with Cesc Fabregas injured. Another Spaniard, Mikel Arteta, is under consideration along with Andrei Arshavin – although the main impetus for a deal with the latter is being driven by his club, Zenit St Petersburg. A central defender of stature and experience is also wanted by Arsène Wenger, who would readily sell Kolo Touré to City, who are considering a move, but wants to hold on to William Gallas.
Of the rest of the "big four", Chelsea want a striker, despite declaring otherwise, and have investigated trying to get Amr Zaki out of his season-long loan deal at Wigan, as well as looking at other options such as Seville's Luis Fabiano and CSKA Moscow's Wagner Love, while another Wigan striker, Emile Heskey, appears set for a return to Liverpool for £4m despite interest in him from others, such as Villa.
Manchester United will continue talking to the Partisan Belgrade pair of Zoran Tosic and Adem Ljadic, who could cost more than £10m, despite negotiations breaking down previously when faced with a coterie of agents, while, interestingly, Carlos Tevez appears no nearer settling his future, which raises the prospect that he may leave Old Trafford at the end of the season when his two-year loan spell expires. United need to find around £25m to complete the deal, once loan fees are deducted, with the Argentine becoming increasingly unsettled.
A high bench-mark has already been set, of course. Real Madrid struck big and struck early. As well as Diarra, they have signed Ajax's Klaas Jan Huntelaar for a fee which could rise to €27m (£25.7m). They are pondering a deal for Wigan's Antonio Valencia, although they would initially like the Ecuadorean on loan, while Real have already bid £3.5m for Liverpool's Jermaine Pennant, who is also wanted by Wigan and Atletico Madrid. At the same time Wigan are talking to Hugo Rodallega Martinez, the Colombian striker who plays in Mexico for Necaxa, and who could replace Heskey who is out-of-contract in the summer. Wigan are certainly increasingly less confident of keeping the England international.
Which leaves City. There are two lists of targets. An aspirational A-list of possibilities such as Kaka, David Villa and Gianluigi Buffon and Tevez – although such deals may have to wait – and a more pragmatic list which includes Wayne Bridge, Santa Cruz, Scott Parker, Craig Bellamy and Touré. Big spending at Eastlands, and especially if the money remains in the Premier League, will have a knock-on effect, releasing funds for other clubs which could see last January's record of £175m – up from £33m when the window was introduced in 2003 – actually being beaten.
Spurs will have their say. Chairman Daniel Levy has ruled out spending big this month but no-one believes him. A £6m bid for Bellamy has already been rejected while there is interest in Defoe – a £15m offer is being lodged today – and Glen Johnson from Portsmouth. Manager Harry Redknapp has considered a move for goalkeeper David James and would like Middlesbrough's Stewart Downing, having already been offered Atletico Madrid's former Liverpool forward Luis Garcia on loan. A more realistic prospect is the former Fenerbahce midfielder Stephen Appiah. Redknapp, who has inquired about the Bordeaux striker Fernando Cavenaghi but not followed up that interest so far, would also have to raise funds and there may be more than one surprise departure along with fringe players such as Ricardo Rocha and Gilberto – but Spurs say that Gareth Bale will be staying.
For Villa, with a chance of Champions League football, the priority is a striker. Owner Randy Lerner has promised funds and while Martin O'Neill would like Heskey he appears set to lose out. He also faces a fight to secure either Defoe or Peter Crouch –- surely both can't leave Pompey? – while he may return to Reading's Kevin Doyle. Another priority is a left-back, or left-sided player, with interest in Newcastle's Charles N'Zogbia.
At St James' Park, manager Joe Kinnear has reiterated his desire to add to his squad, rather than sell. Yesterday Kinnear insisted that Shay Given, wanted by a number of clubs, headed by City, was not for sale and has taken a similar stance to Michael Owen, although that resolve may be tested. The agent Willie McKay has claimed Newcastle want to sign five players, including two full-backs, possibly John Arne Riise on loan from Roma and a creative midfielder, which may lead to a move for City's Elano or Fulham's Jimmy Bullard, who is in dispute over a new contract. The priority at Craven Cottage is to keep Brede Hangeland. Everton want a striker, with manager David Moyes working his way through a list of 30 names, with the strongest recent link being Zenit's Pavel Pogrebnyak who is available for €9.5m (£9.1m).
Portsmouth find themselves under siege. Several players are in demand, with the club adamant they will resist any bid for Johnson, who is also wanted by Liverpool, while Nadir Belhadj has been signed for £4.4m from Lens, and Sylvain Distin says he wants to stay. The club have told Lauren and Richard Duffy they can go.
West Ham are fighting off claims that they are to conduct a fire-sale and have told Upson – a Newcastle target – Parker and Robert Green they are going nowhere, while Bellamy will only be considered for sale if a bid of £15m is lodged. A list of those for sale, headed by Calum Davenport, Julien Faubert, wanted by Nantes, and Luis Boa Morte, who may move to Cardiff City, is being circulated.
Once Blackburn sell Santa Cruz, and possibly Andre Ooijer to AZ Alkmaar, it will release more funds for manager Sam Allardyce which may facilitate moves for El Hadji Diouf, who can leave Sunderland for £2m, City's Tal Ben Haim and Bolton's Kevin Davies. Stoke City want three signings, likely to include Villa's Marlon Harewood, while West Bromwich are struggling for funds and will have to make do with loans. Yesterday they rejected a £3m bid from Bolton for midfielder James Morrison and agreed to sign Arsenal's 19-year-old striker Jay Simpson on loan. They are believed to be about to bid €5m (£4.8m) for Paris St-Germain striker Peguy Luyindula. Hull City and Sunderland need to offload before they can make any signings.
A host of young Championship players – and Fabian Delph from League One Leeds United – are in demand headed by Cardiff's Joe Ledley, Southampton's Andrew Surman, Wolves' Michael Kightly and Crystal Palace's Ben Watson with the latter most likely to leave for £1m, as a possible replacement at Middlesbrough for Gary O'Neil if he returns to Fratton Park. The clock is now ticking.
From big bucks to peanuts: Three players to suit different pockets at the sales
Top of the range: Jermain Defoe
Top of the range Jermain Defoe is much in demand but Portsmouth's asking price of £24m has shocked would-be suitors who are headed by Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs are nevertheless prepared to pay £15m for the striker who is also interesting Aston Villa and, to a lesser extent, Manchester City.
Mid-market: Emile Heskey
Mid-market Emile Heskey is believed to have told friends he expects to move back to Liverpool. Out-of-contract at the end of the season, the 30-year-old striker may, however, have to wait until Wigan Athletic sign a replacement before he's sold for around £4m.
Bargain basement: Calum Davenport
Bargain basement Calum Davenport should complete a £1.5m move from West Ham to Bolton in the next few days, with the central defender, who turns 26 today, having been deemed surplus to requirements.
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Fouls won by Bolton's Kevin Davies.
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