With the transfer deadline fast approaching, football fans across the country prepare themselves for one of the most exhilarating days in the football seasons calendar. Even the most pessimistic fans hold out the slightest hope that their team may pull off the kind of coup that will change their clubs season. Whether it be the fox in the box whose arrival will sustain the club's title charge or the buccaneering midfield dynamo who will lead suspected relegation fodder narrowly into the safe haven of mid table obscurity (Jimmy Bullard anyone?), fans have their fingers, legs and toes crossed that the bank will be broken to sign the right man, or just about anyone within reach come to think of it.
Of course the half-baked panic buys make deadline day just as much as fun as the well thought through deals. As football managers scour the depths of the transfer market, reminiscent of teenage girls rummaging through the bargain bucket of a Croydon Primark, we are quickly reminded that for every Rafael Van Der Vaart there is also a Rasmus Elm (look him up). Throughout the living rooms of England, shouts of "Who!!" meet television sets and laptop screens as sky sports reveals the intricacies of the deal Norwich have struck for their new Slovenian centre forward.
Deadline day has become magical for so many football fans, as the increasing influx of money brought into the game makes the possibilities for shock and surprise seemingly endless. It is a day when almost anything can happen.Transfers can materialise from thin air through a haze of rushing agents as they eagerly negotiate deals for their clients. In the mean time, rumours swirl with ferocity as reports can neither confirm nor deny that Pele has been spotted boarding the number 22 bus to Putney, announcing his return from retirement in an attempt to secure a move to Fulham. For even in the dull moments the constant circulation of gossip and chinese whispers keep us on the edge of our seats. As the deals break fans can revel in a dream like rapture as Barnsley confirm the arrival of a former World Cup winner, or Stoke beat Real Madrid to the signing of the next big talent from South America. Stranger things have certainly happened (see no.4 below). All of these factors make transfer deadline day, or 'D-day' as it is popularly becoming known, as eagerly anticipated by the footballing population as Christmas, amen to that!
Below I have listed some of the biggest deadline day deals to have occurred within the last few years. They have been chosen in relation to the factors I feel contribute most to making 'D-day' one of the best days of the year. The entrants on this list encompass all the nail-biting drama, unexpected moves, tales of treachery and season defining moments that have become as expected as eggs at Easter! Enjoy!
Top 5 Deadline Day Deals
1. Dimitar Berbatov to Manchester United (September 1st, 2008)
The move which saw Dimitar Berbatov become the most expensive Bulgarian in the history of football is most remarkable for the fact that it could not have been made at a later minute. Manchester United had finally had their reported 30.75 million pound bid accepted by Tottenham Hotspur late on the Monday deadline.
The deal was by no means a mere formality, the nations football community had delighted in Sir Alex Ferguson's brazen pursuit of his man all summer, much to the annoyance of Spurs chairman Daniel Levy. After months of rebuffs and even a complaint to the FA, complimented by a years worth of evidence for United's "disgraceful" chase for the striker, Levy spectacularly caved right at the final hour and relented to allow Berbatov to leave for a sizeable fee. Earlier that day the pressure had cranked as Manchester City, freshly purchased from the Abu Dhabi United Group, also lodged an offer of similarly sized proportions. The developments were fascinating as Manchester City, literally overnight, now had the financial capacity to compete with their neighbours, and were now audaciously trying to poach Fergie's long time target right at the death. Berbatov though resisted Manchester City's late attention and eventually completed his transfer to Old Trafford.
For Tottenham the deal was finalised so late on that they were left lacking in the striking department with inadequate time to find a replacement. The board were much maligned for this lack of foresight, especially as Berbatov had been linked with the exit door throughout the summer. Drama!!!!
2. Robinho to Manchester City (September 1st, 2008)
Now speaking of Manchester City, they were very busy boys on the 2008 August transfer deadline. As well as the fore-mentioned bid for Dimitar Berbatov, Manchester City not only put their inner city rivals noses out of joint, but they also firmly rained on Chelsea F.C's parade, by pipping them to the signing of Brazilian superstar Robinho. Chelsea had been so confident of a deal that they had advertised Robinho club shirts on their megastore website before an agreement had been reached with the Brazilian's club Real Madrid. This antagonised Real, who promptly added a few more million to their valuation of the selecao frontman, allowing City the opening they needed.
The deal came fresh off the back of the arrival of City's new billionaire owners, the Abu Dhabi United Group, who wasted no time in flexing their significant financial muscles by breaking the then British transfer record by splashing out 32.5 million pounds for the former Santos forward. This signing, alongside City's other actions in the transfer market that day signified the emergence of Manchester City as a new force on the face of football and demonstrates the impact they would soon have in changing face of the English Premier League. Within one day the new investment at the City of Manchester Stadium had already blown the previous big spenders of the league, Chelsea, out of the water in the transfer market, and ruffled the feathers of their rivals, whom they had previously had to watch as they dominated English football over the last decade.
Robinho, despite his schizophrenic time at the club, during which he was equally likely to strop and trudge around the pitch as he was to beat three men and send the net rippling, was the pioneering superstar that City needed, seduced by the big bucks on offer. Many more have since followed, and will continue to do so (although not many will be caught riding the buses of Manchester, a la Robinho). City have now reached the hallowed ground of the Champions League and at last look fully capable of sustaining a title charge, much to the displeasure of the onlooking United and Chelsea.
3. Rafael Van Der Vaart to Tottenham Hotspur (September 1st, 2010)
Spurs boss Harry Redknapp further enhanced his reputation for a being a 24 carat diamond in the transfer market, by pulling off one of the most successful pieces of deadline day business to be seen in recent years. His swoop for forgotten Real Madrid man Rafael Van Der Vaart took everybody by surprise when just two hours before the midnight deadline Tottenham lodged an offer, of a reported 8 million pounds.
Spurs, after qualifying for the Champions League proper for the first time, had endured a frustrating summer in which only the then relatively unknown Brazilian, Sandro, had completed a move to White Heart Lane. Tottenham fans had so nearly resigned themselves to the fact that the grindings of the rumour mill had flattered to deceive them, with its promises of star signings to compliment their new standing in Europe's elite club competition. With the transfer window about to pass the club by, Tottenham had yet to land any of the promised 'headline signings'. Then so late in the day news on the Van Der Vaart deal broke.
With the spurs fans lifted, their optimism was almost dashed as sources reported technical problems threatening to scupper any signing. The deadline passed and no confirmation of the transfer arrived. Spurs appeared to have left it too late, and fans bemoaned an apparent dodgy internet connection for preventing the transfer. But alas, the sympathetic heads at the Premier League granted Tottenham special dispensation (clearly everyone has suffered the torment of a stuttering internet connection) and Spurs completed the deal on September 1st, one day after the deadline had passed.
The rest, as they say, is history. Van Der Vaart went on be an essential part of Tottenham's season, scoring 15 in all competitions, as they swept aside both Inter and A.C Milan in the Champions League and pushed Arsenal all they way in their hunt for a second successive fourth place finish in the Premier League.
4. Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano to West Ham United (31st August, 2006)
On the 2006 31st August transfer deadline, West Ham made not just ripples, but waves within the footballing World as they pulled off the double signing of Argentina internationals Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano.
The deals were as spectacular as they were totally unexpected, as a fee of a combined 24 million pounds was reported for the pair from Brazilian club Corinthians. West Ham fans despite their elation could still only join in with the rest of the World as they asked, "Why?!" Why on Earth had two of World footballs most promising players pitched up at Upton Park? The pair themselves would probably have asked the same question, should they have spoken a word of English upon their presentation to the media. Looking confused and dazed, they too probably wondered how on Earth they had ended up here, when they had been continuously linked to a whole raft of European footballs top clubs, including; Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Chelsea and Manchester United. West Ham fans could only shut their gaping mouths and look forward to the prospect of their side tearing up the Premier league with the aid of their two new superstars. West Ham had pulled off the signings of their dreams.
Fast forward to the end of what proved to be a difficult season for the Hammers, as they escaped relegation on the last day of the season, Tevez scoring the only goal of a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford, and the dream was swiftly becoming a nightmare. Despite Tevez' on field success, being named club player of the year, Mascherano had rarely featured and was sent on loan to Liverpool in January 2007. Furthermore the discrepancies of the deal which brought the two players from the sunny climes of Brazil to East London had been placed under heavy scrutiny by the Premier League. It emerged that both players registrations was not officially owned by West Ham, but instead by a third party, Kia Joorabchian's Sports Media Investment. West Ham were immediately fined 5.5 million pounds by the Premier League enquiry. A lengthy legal battle with the relegated Sheffield United, feeling aggrieved they had lost their position as a Premier League club to West Ham, who had benefited from the use of an illegal player followed. West Ham eventually agreed an out-of-court payment of 20 million pounds to Sheffield United in compensation.
The transfers of Tevez and Mascherano cost the club approximately 50 million pounds, and they began the next year with both players departed.
5. Fernando Torres to Chelsea F.C (31st January, 2011)
The protagonist of a long drawn out transfer saga, the unhappy spaniard was hampered by injuries throughout his first six months of the 2010/11 season at Liverpool. The behind the scenes chaos instigated by now former owners; Tom Hicks and George Gillett, was still being reflected on the pitch as Liverpool continued to flounder. Labouring on the field, Torres; increasingly resembling a character from a Shakespearean tragedy, seemed disinterested and disjointed to the Liverpool cause. He began playing with a distinct lack of commitment, and his declarations of "loyalty" lacked any real conviction. The most convincing act of Torres' season came when he handed over a transfer request three days before the deadline on the 31st January.
This transfer is significant for a number of reasons, none less than the British transfer record of 50million pounds that Chelsea eventually paid for him. However this deal is also a perfect example of just how a quick flutter of some Russian billionaires chequebook can result in an incredibly exciting flutter of last minute transfer activity. The money Liverpool received enabled them to pull off the intriguing signing of Newcastle United's Andy Carroll. Another transfer record was broken, with the 35million pound fee making the Gateshead born Carroll the most expensive British player in the history of the game.
The sale of Torres has since been perceived as the first move of Liverpool's re-building process, as fans have seen all the funds re-invested in the squad. Torres, on the other hand got the move he helped engineer, and would soon be the spearhead of a revitalised Chelsea back at his goalscoring best....
Hmm, hindsight is a wonderful thing.