On Wednesday August 13 2008, at precisely 5pm GMT, Chelsea Football Club summed up why this has been one of the most frustrating and dull transfer windows of modern time.
Since early afternoon, the Blues had lured the football world in to thinking something of true historical importance was about to come out of Stamford Bridge . A world record signing? Abramovich stepping down? Mourinho returning? Anything appeared possible. After all, Chelsea promised the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s media a Ã¢â‚¬Å“major announcementÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Cue the flashing yellow Ã¢â‚¬ËœBreaking NewsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ bar on Sky Sports News, the headline story position on the BBCÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s website and the inundation of comments on Chelsea fansÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ forums good and bad. The common consensus was that a new player had been signed discretely, away from the all-knowing glaze of Fleet Street. If that was the case, you had to hand in to the boys in SW6 for a cloak and dagger business transaction of MI5 proportions.
Was it Kaka? Robinho? Arshavin? Even Berbatov? The mystery intensified.
So the new signing (of sorts) wasÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ Frank Lampard. The same Frank Lampard that has already played 247 games for Chelsea. The same Frank Lampard that scored for them in the Champions League Final three months ago. And the same Frank Lampard that new Blues boss Luiz Felipe Scolari said would be playing at Stamford Bridge this season only a few weeks ago.
For Chelsea fans, the news that their free-scoring midfielder had signed a five-year deal, all but ensuring he will finish his career in a blue shirt, was the best thing they had heard all summer. But for everyone else, just a case of Ã¢â‚¬Ëœso whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. Not for a minute am I belittling LampardÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s worth to Chelsea – bar John Terry, he is the sideÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s most influential character. His goals, passing ability and stamina can motor the Blues to a title win this season.
But this wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the Ã¢â‚¬Å“major announcementÃ¢â‚¬Â the football world outside of west London had been expecting. More specifically, it wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the news we wanted. We yearned for excitement, like the day Cantona signed for Manchester United, Shearer returned home to Newcastle or Spurs landed Villa and Ardiles. We wanted the kind of world shattering capture we are used to from Chelsea, like a Gullit or a Zola. Instead we got pictures from the clubÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s official TV channel, featuring a grinning Peter Kenyon and clichÃƒÂ© packed Lampard spouting the usual Ã¢â‚¬ËœChelsea through and throughÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, Ã¢â‚¬Ëœjust pleased to get in sortedÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ type stuff.
Summer 2008 will be remembered more for the transfer deals that failed, more than the ones that were concluded.
Cristiano Ronaldo was widely expected to be the biggest move of the transfer window, with speculation beginning as far back as last year that the Portuguese star was off to Real Madrid. The Spaniards made public their desire to sign him this close season, much to Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester UnitedÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s distain. The player made his feelings on the subject known, telling a Portuguese newspaper in June that a move to the Bernabeu would be Ã¢â‚¬Å“a dreamÃ¢â‚¬Â 32. English newspaper back page headlines later this summer and RonaldoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going nowhere. Real Madrid have found that money canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t buy anything, not in 2008 at least.
We also had the on-going Gareth Barry Villa-to-Liverpool saga, which had all the intrigue of a badly written soap. The Reds flashed their seductive Champions League flesh in front of Barry, who decided he fancied a bit of European action. He made his feelings for Liverpool known, hurting those around him (manager and fans). After one almighty tiff and a spell in the dog house (or should that be reserves), Villa and Barry kissed and made up, leaving everyone to wonder why they tuned in to watch this crap in the first place.
Spain proved much better viewing back in June, when they deservedly won Euro 2008. With England absent from the tournament, Premiership fans turned their attentions to identifying talent they wanted at their club this season. Top of most peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s list was the Valencia front man David Villa. Having finished tournament top scorer and shining throughout, it seemed quite a few managers wanted him too. On June 4th, Arsenal and Tottenham became the first clubs to be linked with his signing. The Daily Telegraph reported the north Londoners were about to battle it out for services, with Valencia holding out for a Ã‚Â£17m bid. On the 11th June, the Daily Mirror said he was off to Barcelona, a day later the same paper changed its mind – he was ChelseaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s for Ã‚Â£25m. Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester United all subsequently all got mentioned as potential suitors. But it looks like Euro 2008Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s best player will just stay put.
Likely the second best player will stay with his current employers too. Andrei Arshavin capped a great season with Zenit St Petersberg, by dazzling the European Championships and Holland especially with a string of great performances. Before Euro 2008 had even kicked off, Manchester City were said to be on the brink of signing him for Ã‚Â£12m. Newcastle was his next supposed destination, when the Daily Mirror linked the Russian with a move to Tyneside. On 22 June, Arsenal emerged as new favourites for him, three days later it was Chelsea and then Barcelona. The Nou Camp appeared his favoured option, with Arshavin quoted on June 25 as saying Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have supported Barcelona all my life. Barcelona are my dreamÃ¢â‚¬Â. But when that deal when dry, Andrei looked in his heart and discovered another club he had affections for.
Seems White Hart Lane was more to the RussianÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s likings. Ã¢â‚¬Å“When Tottenham made their offer I was sceptical at first,Ã¢â‚¬Â Arshavin told the Mirror on August 8.Ã¢â‚¬ÂBut after Ramos called me personally and told me that that they were selling Robbie Keane and that he wanted me in his side, the situation changed,Ã¢â‚¬Â he continued. Ã¢â‚¬Å“When a coach shows an interest in you, especially such a renowned and strong coach, then that is already half of the success of any move. I also like the way Tottenham play, so IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve agreed in principle to join.Ã¢â‚¬Â Zenit St Petersburg didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t agree with ArshavinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s travel arrangements. They told Spurs to stump up Ã‚Â£27m or forget signing their star man and kindly reminded the player of his forthcoming commitments in the Russian Premier League.
If Zenit are good at playing hard ball, so are Tottenham Hotspur. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve had to endure months and months of hearing about Dimitar Berbatov, to the point where weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve developed bigger frowns that the Bulgarian. His move to Manchester United should finally be completed before the start of the Premiership season, with football fans worldwide rejoicing with the shared comment of Ã¢â‚¬Ëœabout bloody timeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. Ã¢â‚¬ËœUnited signing a Ã‚Â£27m world class striker,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ would sounded like a fascinating headline back in June, but not any more. And note to United – donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do a Chelsea and pretend that you have made an amazing mystery signing on Friday. Because even Dimitar Berbatov knew months ago that you wanted to sign him.
One of the biggest bits of business West Ham United have concluded this summer cost Ã‚Â£6m. But in true May-August 2008 fashion, they havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t lured a top class international to Upton Park. They havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even renewed a playerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s contract. Ã‚Â£6m has been spent to buy out the contract of Freddie Ljungberg, to get him off the clubÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s books. The simple fact is West Ham can barely afford his Ã‚Â£80k a week wage bill, let alone his terrible midfield showings last season, which were more wafer-thin than an IKEA wardrobe.
Talking of West Ham, Bobby Zamora has been sold to Fulham. The west Londoners have also signed Andy Johnson for Ã‚Â£12m. Luke Young has moved from Middlesbrough to Aston Villa and Sunderland have signed El-Hadji DioufÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ fallen asleep yet?
Of the few signings to generally arouse excitement this summer, we can look at TottenhamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s captures of Luka Modric, Giovanni dos Santos, David Bentley and Huerelho Gomes for inspiration. Also to VillaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s excellent purchase of Carlos Cuellar from Rangers, DecoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s move from Barcelona to Chelsea and Fabricio ColocciniÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s arrival at Newcastle, for his hair style if nothing else. Jo should prove to be pretty handy for Manchester City and the prospects of watching Robbie Keane team up with Fernando Torres are pretty tasty.
Apart from that, shame on you Premiership clubs. YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve served up one of the most boring and tedious transfer windows ever.
Woopie-doo, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve just got Tal Ben Haim on a free transfer. Yeeeeees, Anthony Gardner on loan from Spurs.
How could you even begin to make us feel like that.
Worse still, the transfers that could have been interesting – Berbatov to United, Barry to Liverpool. Ronaldo to Real MadridÃ¢â‚¬Â¦. Now we just donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care.
Last one out turn off the lights. And more importantly, shut that damn window.
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