When anthropologists of the future come to examine the quirks of 21st century civilisation, they are likely to stumble across no greater oddity than that of transfer deadline day.
It’s a biannual tradition six months in the making, where a strange man on television dons a yellow tie and all manners of digital clocks tick down the nanoseconds before that window, that dastardly window, slams shut and there is nothing left to talk about.
In the preceding 24 hours, there remains hope that your favourite club will sign/snap up/land/seal/bag/clinch the footballer of your dreams. Or at least that’s what you’ll convince yourself.
The 10 most expensive summer window deadline deals in Premier League history, however, can hardly all be called convincing. In fact, several of them disprove the adage that good things come to those who wait.
FERNANDO TORRES – 2011 | Liverpool to Chelsea | £50m
Chelsea’s No9 shirt is a witches’ brew of a curse that only Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has managed to bypass since the turn of the century. While Liverpool fans may have wished a hex on Torres, in truth it is remarkable that Chelsea spent so much money on an explosive player who was already experiencing so much wear and tear.
Hamstring and then knee injuries had already slowed his goalscoring form at Anfield and a loss of confidence did for the rest in London.
There are some positive memories. While not quite Aguerooooo, Gary Neville spontaneously combusted when Torres scored at the Camp Nou in Chelsea’s Champions League-winning season of 2012 (though they were going through anyway). He was also key to their Europa League triumph the following year.
Still there’s no way to buff up a miserable 20 goals in 110 Premier League appearances over the space of four seasons.
MESUT OZIL – 2013 | Real Madrid to Arsenal | £42.5m
Recency bias would have you believe that Ozil is nothing but a luxurious layabout. If you’re blessed with reality bias, you’ll know that since his arrival from Real Madrid, Ozil has been Arsenal’s best player – regardless of some of the absurd expectations heaped upon him – until he plunged off the cliff last season.
That’s not to say the German hasn’t been maddeningly inconsistent – he can put on camouflage gear when his team needs him the most. The frustration, though, is grounded in knowing how good he can be. There’s been a lot of that, too.
Only twice has Ozil failed to register eight assists or more in a Premier League season with Arsenal and his 19 in 2015/16, allied to six strikes, is production on par with any midfielder in the world.
The milquetoast end to Arsene Wenger’s reign does not help his reputation, nor does the friction with Unai Emery. Still only 30, there is a chance for redemption – and he better take it on £350k a week.
ANTHONY MARTIAL – 2015 | Monaco to Man United | £36m
Affectionately known as Tony Marshall by the Old Trafford faithful, it was a case of ‘Anthony who?’ when the then-teenager came aboard on deadline day in 2015 for an initial fee of £36 million – and add-on potential of £22m more.
Four years and potential is still the buzzword with Martial. For a player who was the predecessor to Kylian Mbappe – Monaco went on that remarkable Champions League run the year he left the city-state – there’s no doubt as to whom the master and apprentice are.
His first season in Manchester is still regarded at his best – that introductory goal against Liverpool still gives Martin Skrtel the night terrors. Ever since, inconsistency, positional shifts, managerial confusion and an air of disinterest has kept him well away from fully tapping into his abilities.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s fluid, fast and furious approach to this season, in which he is expected to spend more minutes in a central role, should help him. If not, the excuses will wear thin for a ‘promising’ player who turns 24 in February.
ANDY CARROLL – 2011 | Newcastle to Liverpool | £35m
History proves Liverpool robbed Chelsea blind by shipping Torres off to London for £50m. While they were busy patting themselves on the back, Newcastle robbed £35m of that by exporting Andy Carroll down to Merseyside.
While some players can be guilty of never finding the same wavelength as their team-mates, Carroll simply doesn’t possess the requisite gears. Lumbering and sluggish in both mind and body, Plan A, B, C down to Z with Carroll is through the air. A ‘little and large’ combo with Luis Suarez swiftly turned into ‘superstar and benched’.
Jamie Carragher would go on to laud Carroll’s goal against Everton in the 2011/12 FA Cup semi-final as ‘worth £35 million in itself’. The board didn’t agree. Indeed, the only reason he doesn’t get a rock-bottom rating is that they cut ties within 18 months and managed to fleece West Ham for half of what they paid for him.
DANNY DRINKWATER – 2017 | Leicester to Chelsea | £35m
We’re on a glum roll here. In 2017, Drinkwater followed N’Golo Kante from Leicester to Chelsea, but he forgot to pack his Premier League-winning form in the suitcase.
Just 23 appearances later in the space of two seasons – having been completely frozen out by Maurizio Sarri in 2018/19 – the 29-year-old has performed a Jack Rodwell-sized disappearing act as he also makes £100k vanish from Chelsea’s coffers every week.
At the very least Drinkwater should be an able squad player. At one point during Leicester’s Champions League quarter-finals run in 2016/17 and without Kante, he had won possession more times in midfield than any other player in the competition. Ironically, Chelsea now can’t even give him away.
ALEX OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN – 2017 | Arsenal to Liverpool | £35m
It was a move derided by many two seasons ago. Why would Liverpool spend so much on an Arsenal player whose contract was up the next summer and was as inconsistent as Theo Walcott without the goals to match?
The comparisons always seemed unfair. Oxlade-Chamberlain is an attack-minded midfielder who was shoved onto the touchlines at Arsenal – and ultimately dragged into his own half as a wing-back. Jurgen Klopp was more than happy to put him in his rightful place.
What should have been a personally glorious 2018/19 season was wrecked by a campaign-ending knee injury, but he was certainly one of the reasons why the Reds didn’t pull the trigger on a creative player such as Nabil Fekir. In just 14 Premier League starts the season prior, he had chipped in with seven assists – a mark that far surpassed every other Liverpool midfielder last term.
Those few minutes, however, point to an underlying issue. He has never made more than 17 league starts in a single season – how long will he add thrust for before the 25-year-old’s engine breaks down again?
DAVID LUIZ – 2016 | PSG to Chelsea | £34m
When ‘Sideshow Bob’ returned to Stamford Bridge, many refused to see the funny side of it. His often comical lapses in concentration had peeved off Chelsea fans to ostensibly the point of no return, before Antonio Conte brought him back into their lives two years later after a short stint at Paris Saint-Germain.
The result? The man who couldn’t defend, defended so well that Chelsea collected 16 clean sheets on the way to the Premier League title. Yes, Conte did much to smooth out his deficiencies, deploying a third centre-back and Kante to clean any spillages among the Stamford Bridge aisles. Luiz was legitimately solid on his own, though, and combined that with his stock marauding out of defence and line-splitting passes.
That best-of-both-world season was a one-off and Luiz slipped back into mercurial from magisterial in the ensuing two seasons. Nevertheless, at 32 he remains first-choice for Chelsea and one of their most enduring players.
DIMITAR BERBATOV – 2008 | Tottenham to Man United | £32m
Berbatov’s casual genius harked back to the days of Eric Cantona, but he was often a little too casual for Manchester United’s liking. While he was gliding across the pitch, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez were grafting. The contrast in hard work – or at least the perception of it – never felt like it was being made up for with unalloyed quality from Berba.
The five goals against Blackburn. The hat-trick and accompanying overhead against Liverpool. The pirouetting escapology on the touchline that set up Cristiano Ronaldo against West Ham.
It all sounds so silky yet, when push comes to shove, Alex Ferguson did not even name him on the bench for the 2010/11 Champions League final at the end of a season in which he shared the Premier League’s Golden Boot with Tevez. Not quite luxury, not quite lazy, but not quite a legend in Manchester.
ROBINHO – 2008 | Real Madrid to Man City | £32m
Statement. Made. Manchester City may be playing fantasy football under Pep Guardiola right now but 11 years ago the signing of Robinho was akin to beaming an alien into Eastlands.
His strike partner in the very early days was Ched Evans. City’s back four was Vedran Corluka, Micah Richards, Tal Ben-Haim and Javier Garrido. But if the the boy from Brazil was meant to drag standards up, he very much fell short.
He wasn’t even the best Brazilian in the team – that honour fell to Elano. And while a goal return of 14 from 31 Premier League games sounds fair enough for a first season, he took until April 19 to register a goal in 2009. In 2010, he was out of there and on to AC Milan, with City receiving half the price they paid.
MOUSSA SISSOKO – 2016 | Newcastle to Tottenham | £30m
There weren’t that many Newcastle fans who were fussed over Sissoko’s southerly migration. He was a tour de force for France during Euro 2016 but much of the motion he was doing on Tyneside was of the ‘going-through-the’ sort.
If a move to a club with a steady diet of Champions League football was to apply a kick up the proverbial, it took two nearly seasons for the boot to wind up.
The Sissoko of two years ago was this the present-day Ashley Young. A punchline, an eye-roll, a wry grin, a nudge of your mate’s ribs. He made eight Premier League starts in 2016/17 as his ineffectiveness in the final third and calamitous moments at the other end rendered him a player who was of little use anywhere.
Then 2018/19 happened. A powerful, ball-winning, quick-on-the-transition midfielder manifested out of nowhere so much show that Mousa Dembele packed his bags for China. A few months later, Sissoko was packing his bags for the Wanda.
He gave away a penalty 23 seconds into that final. Typically untypical. What are we going to get in 2019/20?
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