By Andrew Misra
So it’s transfer deadline day. So what? The fax machine suddenly becomes a thing again. The fabled 11pm deadline. The Harry Redknapp car window, you probably know it all. The January 2019 transfer window has been decidedly muted and the prospects of that changing today don’t look too inspiring.
The highlights of a tame month have largely concerned Chelsea. Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain’s decision to swap AC Milan for a loan stint at the west London club was arguably the most high-profile move. The Blues also swooped for American playmaker Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund, but have immediately loaned him back to Germany. Meanwhile, Callum Hudson-Odoi continues to be the subject of interest from Bayern Munich as he refuses to commit his future to Stamford Bridge. Cesc Fabregas departed English shores for Monaco and will undoubtedly go down as one of the great Premier League imports. Chelsea’s London rivals Fulham bizarrely brought Ryan Babel’s eight-year absence from English football to an end, surprising many who thought the 32-year-old ex-Liverpool winger was long retired.
Elsewhere in Europe, Barcelona swiped away competition from Manchester City to capture Ajax starlet Frenkie de Jong, but he won’t move until the summer. Barca had their own bizarre signing by recruiting Ghanaian midfielder turned centre-forward Kevin Prince-Boateng. Manchester City lost another starlet as Brahim Diaz was nabbed by Real Madrid. Mario Balotelli, who is somehow still only 28, has joined Marseille in the latest of his ‘last chance saloons’.
In many ways that summary captures the essence of deadline day in recent years – more strange than inspired. Clubs often refrain from entering this market because it’s difficult to find value. But sometimes players are needed who will make a difference in the second half of the season. It’s ten years since Andrey Arshavin joined Arsenal on deadline day 2009. He made a significant impact immediately at the Gunners, scoring a memorable four goals at Liverpool and almost winning Arsenal’s Player of the Year award despite only playing twelve league games.
Still, this year we’re not really expecting anything. Sure, a Denis Suarez or an Ivan Perisic may join Arsenal but we remain sceptical of the capacity for drama. Two years on from that Arshavin move was when the real drama occurred, on 31st January 2011.
£135 million was spent on that single day. This remained the record for a January transfer window until it was broken last year with £150 million splashed on 31st January 2018. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang remains the record signing on deadline day after his £56 million move on that day.
So what happened in 2011? Well, David Luiz moved from Benfica to Chelsea for £21.3 million. He would go on to interestingly rejoin Chelsea on another deadline day, 31st August 2016. But that tale is for another time. Luis Suarez went from Ajax to Liverpool for £22.7 million. If you recognise those two transfers as the supporting cast, then you’re probably all too aware of the two expensive moves that take centre stage here.
Fernando Torres moved from Liverpool to Chelsea for £50 million, a British-record fee.
Andy Carroll moved from Newcastle to Liverpool for £35 million, smashing the record fee for an English footballer.
The latter in particular was flabbergasting at the time and the fact that it remains so striking that it ever happened speaks volumes.
It happened for a variety of reasons. Chelsea sat fourth in the Premier League table, ten points behind leaders Manchester United. That’s Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man United, remember. Liverpool languished in seventh but were buoyed by the incoming Fenway Sports Group replacing Tom Hicks and George Gillett as owners. Kenny Dalglish had recently been appointed as manager until the end of the season after a dismal first half to the campaign.
Roman Abramovich had long sought Torres after seeing his club frequently tormented by the Spaniard. The form of Torres had dipped in the 2010-11 season under Roy Hodgson, but that did not deter Chelsea. They registered a bid of £40 million on 27th January, which was turned down.
Torres then broke the hearts of Kopites by handing in a transfer request on 28th January. It was swiftly rejected.
Three days later on deadline day at 19:30 it was announced that The Reds had agreed on a fee with the London club.
Suarez meanwhile, was already in the pipeline but many thought as a partner, rather than a replacement for Torres. Such a partnership would have been tantalising but it never came to fruition.
That indeed proved to be the case when Liverpool decided they needed an established Premier League striker to lessen the burden of goals on Suarez.
Step forward Andy Carroll who had 11 goals in the first half of the season, including a 25-yard drive in a 3-1 win against Liverpool. The discussions over the fees involving Carroll and Torres, therefore, became linked as Liverpool wanted to make sure they had £15 million of the Spaniard’s fee as profit.
It didn’t take long before Toshack-Keegan partnership comparisons were being made to Carroll and Suarez. Sadly it was difficult to ever achieve such a partnership with only one of the duo on the pitch.
Suarez scored on his Liverpool debut a few days later against Stoke. Carroll stayed injured and Torres suffered the ignominy of defeat on his Chelsea debut. To Liverpool. David Luiz started his Chelsea career brightly with some eye-catching performances.
Chelsea didn’t help Torres with this ill-fated song about their new number nine, which duly prompted El Nino to embark on a 903-minute goalless start to his Chelsea career.
Despite persisting at Stamford Bridge for three more full seasons and picking up multiple honours, things never really improved for Torres. Indeed, he was never able to recapture those halcyon days in front of Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso at Liverpool.
Suarez was a resounding success on the pitch at Liverpool and moved on to Barcelona, where he has plundered a frightening 167 goals in 225 games since 2014. Carroll’s career has continued to be frustratingly injury-prone and he is currently at West Ham. David Luiz goes through periods of highs and lows at Chelsea but nevertheless is always entertaining.
You never know what can happen in football and that applies to transfers too. The drama of 2011 will take some beating though.
Andrew Misra is a founder of 5WFootball, presents the weekly podcast and writes regularly for the site. You can see his work for 5WF here. He also contributes to The Anfield Wrap and you can follow him on Twitter here. He also maintains a general sports blog.