The transfer window is the mid-season bazaar that provides football teams with their only chance to bolster their squad for the second half of the season. As such it generates far more excitement and tension than half the actual matches these days. The window closed last night, having been kept open a few hours to facilitate any last-minute deals affected by the adverse weather. The economy may be equally treacherous right now but, according to accoutancy Deloitte, the recession had no such impact on the clubs' spending...
Transfers between Premier League clubs accounted for around £105m, fuelled largely by the activity of Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. Both teams are doing particularly badly this year, and are pursuing the sensible - if risky - logic that they have to spend big to get better. Spurs, for example, are facing the possibility of relegation, and pulled off a handy coup: recruiting Robbie Keane for £12m from Liverpool - the club to which they sold him at the start of the season for £20m. How's that for profit? (although we don't know for sure how many add-ons were involved in the initial fee - in practice this might amount to little more than a full refund).
As recruitment drives go, the transfer window does seem somewhat arcane, with clubs in a desperate scramble to plug gaps and bolster their squad in a drive to succeed or, in Spurs' case, survive. The London club blew £45m to that end.
But the biggest spender this year was Manchester City, which blew more than £50m of its new Middle Eastern owners' cash, and broke the record for any January transfer window. Again, this is a club that's spending big to ensure its on-field performances match its owners' ambitions. More likely they'll just remain average - but at least the £14m they blew on Craig Bellamy shows that no mere recession will stop teams wasting their money in ill-considered splurges.
Indeed, the recession seems to have had very little effect, at least on the big clubs. The £160m total represents a rapid rise from the £50m the Premier League clubs spent in the same window five years ago, although the growth is slowing - it's only £10m more than last year.
The big football clubs, of course, can probably count on a fairly solid revenue stream. While retailers may have to worry about shoppers buying fewer discretionary items, as well as reconsidering their spend on basics such as food, football fans would probably sacrifice iPods for tape players and downgrade to value beans long before giving up essentials like overpriced replica shirts, dodgy match-day hotdogs and the ritual disappointment of watching games live.
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