Transfer Snippets – 2012 Summer Transfer Awards
Each summer brings about new blockbusters from Hollywood but they are matched for every bit of twist and suspense by the drama that is enacted in the football world in Europe. Teams could, earlier, deal in players right throughout the season. This, obviously created soap operas round the year. To regulate it better, FIFA sought to have two transfer windows in a season since 2002-03 – one for around 12 weeks between end of season to August and the other for about a month in the mid-season break. The summer of 2012 was noted for the splashing of money by the oil-rich kids Paris St. Germain, Chelsea and Zenit St. Petersburg as traditional giants like A.C. Milan, Arsenal and Liverpool tightened their belts. We try to analyse and rate the transfers and the stories of the summer.
Player transfers are one of the most hotly anticipated and debated topics in world football. In this regular column Debopam Roy will showcase different facets of the transfer domain. In the first edition, the summer transfers of 2012 have been analysed
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al NahyanAward for Splash the Oil Cash
We could have made this a list of overpriced Brazilians, as you will see.
At number three, we have the old nouveau riche Roman Abramovich, who forked out €32m plus incentives for 20-year-old attacking midfielder Oscar in a classic deal where Internacional, the Brazilian club, fleeced out almost twice the value for someone who had played only 18 times in the 2011-12 season for his country and club.
At second place, we have another Brazilian club, Sao Paolo, who managed to extract €40m plus incentives off Paris St. Germain for Lucas Moura. Manchester United, who were also monitoring the player and would have signed him, had made a bid of €23m plus incentives and thus priced out. Sir Alex Ferguson, who doesn’t mind his Brazilians being overpriced (remember Anderson and his €28m move?) admitted helplessly, “When somebody’s paying €45m for a 19-year-old boy you have to say the game’s gone mad.”
Top of the pile is the Gazprom-owned Zenit St. Petersburg, who pulled out two deals on the transfer deadline day – €55m for Porto’s Hulk and €40m for Benfica’s Axel Witsel, comfortably outscoring PSG’s dual purchase of Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva for a combined €63m. While Witsel has been a powerful and dynamic presence in the Benfica line-up that so memorably topped Manchester United in last season’s Champions League group stage, 26-year-old Hulk has managed only 15 appearances and four goals for his national side; while sixteen goals in 26 matches in the 2011-12 Primera Liga was impressive, he wasn’t even the top-scoring South American (Benfica’s Oscar Cardozo) or even the top-scoring Brazilian (Braga’s Lima) in the league. Overpriced and uber-hyped!
Antonio Nocerino Award for Sold for a Loaf and Half Carton Milk
Nocerino was memorably purchased last season on the deadline day by Milan for €500K and loan of a youth player. He was the second highest scorer for Milan in the season with 11 goals.
Cristián Zapata was one of the most sought after defenders after having had six top seasons with Udinese in Serie A. When most though the would make a big club move last year, he made a big money move instead – €9m to Villarreal. After a horrid year in which Villarreal were relegated, Zapata made a quick and surprise move to Milan for an initial loan worth €400K which can be completed for €4m. A Colombia national team regular and highly regarded when he was at Udinese, it is a defensive coup that could well rank with Galliani’s capture of Nocerino.
Given that Inter probably just wanted to dump him, it was no surprise that Douglas Maicon fetched only €3.75m. The surprise was that the buyer was Manchester City. At 31, Maicon still has some years of top flight football left in him and is probably the best value for money deal of the summer.
Top of this list is Michu (Miguel Pérez Cuesta) who was bought from Rayo Vallecano for €2.5m by Swansea City. Michu had scored 15 goals and four assists in his last season with Rayo. But his start for the Swans was probably the most explosive of the Premier League – 4 goals and two assists in 3 matches so far. Simply stunning!
Arsene Wenger Award for Catching Them Young
Surprisingly, Wenger doesn’t feature in this. He is catching them older this year!
Young and Brazilian – you must be the next wonder kid. So it must have seemed to CSKA Moscow, who bought 21-year-old Mario Fernandes from Grêmio for a whopping €13m. A tall central defender who can play on the right side, Mario is yet to make his debut for Brazil and was not even part of the Olympic team. Somebody from CSKA might know something which the rest of the world doesn’t see.
When he was 16, he almost signed for Milan. At 19, he almost signed for Juventus. Having spent his career in Serie B, at 19, Marco Verratti finally moved to Serie A and despite Pescara president saying Marco would stay a year with Pescara before moving on, PSG happened! €12m for a player who has not even played in the topmost league tier and has probably had only one outstanding season, is, in all respects, an obscene amount.
Palermo are noted for capturing unknown South American forwards and then selling them for a price –Amauri andCavani. This time they have spent almost €12m on an 18-year-old Argentine, Paulo Dybala who is described as the ‘new Aguero’. Dybala, like Verratti above, only ever played in the second division of his league. But he managed to score at 17, beating Mario Kempes’ record of the youngest goal-scorer. One for the future says Palermo but Serie A is not a league for young debutants and it will be interesting to see if he can become the new symbol of Sicily.
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At third position, we have Clarence Seedorf, the ageless wonder, who was released from his decade long association with Milan and then joined Botafogo in Brazil for free. The fans already knew that this will be a coup and flocked his arrival. So far in the Brazilian season, he has 5 goals and two assists from 12 games. Given that the league operates more on skill than pace, Seedorf, even at 36 can probably put in a magical year.
Coming a close second, is another Milan legend who was one of the few players in his thirties that Milan desperately wanted to retain, and who, at 35, stopped the likes of Leo Messi and friends on their tracks – Alessandro Nesta. Having decided he wants a less rigorous regime for his body, Nesta shifted to Montreal Impact on an 18-month deal. Inevitably, his inclusion has sparked a defensive solidity – only 1 goal conceded in first three matches before losing 2-1 away against Columbus Crew.
The most high profile free deal is probably one that might yet fall through. Didier Drogba, fresh from leading Ivory Coast to the African Cup of Nations finals and Chelsea to their first Champions League victory, joined Shanghai Shenhua for free. At 34, he could have easily found a team in Europe and there is a chance he might rescind his contract to join another European team, but till then, he remains the pick of the free lot.
The Hamlet Award for To Move..or Not To Move
Some transfer sagas just stretched on and on and then took surprising turns. We rate our top three.
At third place, is probably the most bizarre transfer story. Milan had lost an entire squad due to retirement of its senators. They wanted to get rid of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the highest wage earner in the squad. But along with him, they also got rid of Thiago Silva – probably the best centre-back in the world and the only player deemed irreplaceable in the Milan squad. PSG offered €48m for him and it seemed that the medical was in the offing as Milan were ready to make deal. Then suddenly out of nowhere there was a U-turn. President Silvio Berlusconi scuppered the deal. Silva came back to Milan and he was offered a new deal till 2017, with a wage hike. Then within two weeks of this, PSG returned – with a double bid for Ibrahimovic and Silva. Common sense said, Milan would sell Ibra and keep Silva. Logic would say, if Milan sold Silva, that would be for a higher value, because now he was on an improved contract and they had just rejected €48m. But both common sense and logic went for a toss, as Silva was sold for a deal which amounted to €43m. Baffled and mystified, distraught fans asked for refund of season tickets. The only logic of the deal was that Milan tried to sweeten any deal that took Ibra off their books. Silva later said he never sought to move from Milan and it was the club’s decision to sell that made up his mind.
Second on the list is Luca Modric’s transfer to Real Madrid, which was probably the most stretched out transfer saga of the window. It began in June 2011, when Modric wanted to move out of Tottenham who missed out on Champions League in finishing fifth. At that point, his target was Chelsea but Spurs rejected bids of €25m, €30m and €38m from their London rivals. One year later, Spurs finish fourth but are denied a Champions League spot by their London rivals who win the continental championship, albeit finishing sixth in Premier League. Chelsea though look elsewhere for reinforcements and enter Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid. In June, Modric publicly stated his desire to join Madrid but long time Madrid man Guti sniggered, “He hasn’t even been the key man for Tottenham, I don’t think he’s done enough to play for Real Madrid“. Then Chelsea re-entered the fray while PSG too weighed in, having an interest in most players that were moving in the summer. Madrid though limited any move for Modric to be within €35m while Spurs wanted €40m. Meanwhile, Modric showed his hand by refusing to travel on Spurs pre-season trip at which point he was hit with a €100,000 fine by his club. And then around the end of July and early August it emerged from sources like NicoKranjcar, Harry Redknapp and Igor Štimac that Daniel Levy had promised to sell Modric this summer. On August 21, it suddenly emerged that Madrid had a Modric profile on their webpage. Finally a week later, Modric had his medical on August 27. The final fee was thought to be €30m plus incentives.
At the top of the pile sits Robin van Persie’s move from Arsenal to Manchester United. He remains only the third player to be transferred directly between Ferguson managed Manchester United and Wenger managed Arsenal (Matt Wicks and Mikael Silvestre being the other two). That alone should highlight how difficult it has been to cross this divide, but with Arsenal being trophyless for seven years, the long-standing rivalry has probably mellowed. After an unbelievable season of scoring 37 goals and sweeping most of the awards on offer, RVP drops a bombshell on July 4, claiming he won’t sign a new deal for Arsenal. Captain and talisman, and after having the club back him through many a barren injury-ridden season, it was the last thing that fans wanted Van the Man to do. Suitors like Juventus, Manchester City and Milan hovered around but only City seemed willing to match the €300K wages that was thought to be something RVP wants. Juventus bid €11m but it was rejected outright. Amidst all this, Arsenal’s jersey numbers were announced and even though RVP retained his No. 10, new signing Lucas Podolski wasn’t given a number, provoking thoughts that he would be offered No. 10 once RVP left. By August 9, it was clear that United, not City, were the main protagonists. After United’s initial offer of €18m was turned down on August 15, they successfully bid again with a deal worth €30m, sweetened with wages of €300K per week.
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