A rundown of some of the key talking points from a busy deadline day in the January transfer window.
Mahrez staying put
Deadline day brought yet another player hopefully waiting at an airport for a phone call to confirm his move away. It’s tragicomedy, and the Riyad Mahrez saga was the 2018 edition. Mahrez was the subject of a late bid from Manchester City, a proposed player-plus-cash offer worth an estimated £60m. Talks broke down after Leicester demanded at least £80m for the Algerian.
In much the same way as Jurgen Klopp’s words before the signing of Virgil Van Dijk, Pep Guardiola’s quotes from 2009 came back to haunt him again:
“Nowadays there can be more focus on big name signings rather than promoting youth, and that makes me sad. I have grown up with the Barcelona method and I hope to stay true to it for the whole of my career. Why buy a striker for £50m when there is one waiting in the youth team?”
There’s a germ of truth to Guardiola’s comments; after all, Manchester City pulled out of the deal when they clearly could have afforded the player. For the neutral, there’s a warm feeling to a deal like this falling through, not least in a market with such ludicrous valuations. Mahrez, meanwhile, has gone AWOL. His friend commented:
“Riyad is very depressed this evening over the events of the last two days. He doesn’t understand why Leicester have behaved in the way they have. Joining Manchester City would have been a dream for him. Playing for Pep Guardiola is something he is still desperate to do. That seems a long way off right now. He’s very down about how he’s been treated by a club he has served so well”
Deals like this often happen eventually and the messy situation will no doubt become clearer in the summer. The move was accelerated by the injury to Leroy Sané in their FA Cup win over Cardiff last Sunday, but Manchester City simply made their move too late.
Aubameyang confirms his move to the Emirates
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has signed for Arsenal in a deal expected to be worth £56m. He will form a front four with the oh so hilarious acronym of LMAO (Lacazette, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Ozil).
Aubameyang brings a stunning goal scoring record from 5 years at Borussia Dortmund, with 98 goals in 144 appearances for the club. As well as goal scoring prowess, his speed and flexibility to play as both a striker and a winger makes him an exciting signing for Arsenal fans. He told the BBC:
“I think the club has such a big history and great players like Thierry Henry. He’s an example for us strikers. I’m really happy. I’m a fast player and I score goals too, like Henry a little bit. But as I said, I have to work a lot more”
Ozil, incidentally, has signed a contract extension which keeps him at Arsenal until 2021. Delaying on the contract negotiations paid off for the German in the end, as he becomes the highest-paid player in the club’s history – earning about £350,000 a week before tax. Better than a kick in the cobblers.
Michy Batshuayi the man to replace Aubameyang
Dortmund have lined up Batshuayi as the man to lead the line in place of ‘Auba’. As part of a loan deal, the Belgian will play for the German club until the end of the season. Batshuayi has struggled to make himself a favourite with Conte since his £33million move from Marseille in the summer of 2016, managing only 19 goals in 53 appearances.
Dortmund are believed to be keen on throwing Batshuayi straight into action against FC Cologne on Friday night. It’s an early opportunity for the Belgian to show Conte was he is missing.
Olivier Giroud the man to replace Batshuayi
You get the gist of this now. There’s been a chain in motion for some time. A lot of clubs have been hamstrung by having to offload their unwanted striker before they can make their move.
Olivier Giroud has been used sparingly since the arrival of Lacazette last summer, although has a solid goal scoring record with double figures in league goals every season of his six years at the Emirates. The time is right to move on.
Chelsea have shown interest throughout the transfer window in a host of players who loosely fit the term ‘target man’, including Peter Crouch, Andy Carroll and Ashley Barnes. Giroud is, ahem, head and shoulders above the other options, and aligns with the Blues’ propensity to deliver crosses from deep.
Working as a pundit on Sky Sports, Joleon Lescott even suggested Giroud would be their first-choice attacker, even with Alvaro Morata fully fit. The feeling remains that Giroud was too good to be used as back-up at the Emirates, not least in a World Cup year where he is competing for a place in a French squad currently overflowing with stunning attacking talent.
It’s curious that Giroud has effectively gone from being surplus to requirements for a club in sixth position to the potential focal point of attack for the reigning league champions. Either way, it’ll be fascinating to see how he fits into an altogether different system across London at Stamford Bridge.
Palmieri also makes the move to Stamford Bridge
Emerson Palmieri followed Olivier Giroud to Chelsea in a deal from Roma reported to be worth £17.6m. Palmieri is a versatile left-sided player, which will give Antonio Conte the opportunity to finally rest and rotate Marcos Alonso. The transfer looks like more of a long-term option, although the 23-year-old provides a more viable rotation option at a decent price point.
Other notable deadline day moves:
- Didier Ndong – Sunderland to Watford (Loan)
- Badou Ndiaye – Galatasaray to Stoke City (£14m)
- Lucas Moura – PSG to Tottenham Hotspur (£25m)
- Islam Slimani – Leicester City to Newcastle United (Loan)
- Andre Ayew – West Ham to Swansea City (£18m)
- Jordan Hugill – Preston North End to West Ham United (£10m)
- Alexander Sorloth – FC Midtjylland to Crystal Palace (£9m)
With Premier League matches over the next couple of days, the focus now switches back to the actual football and new signings across the country have the opportunity to make a quick impression.
The Premier League’s top six alone have spent £276m in January in unprecedented transfer spending. For now, using the common football lexicon, the transfer window has firmly slammed shut.