Summer sucks. Sunny weather, days on the beach, cider at the pub, and ice lollies can go to hell. Because, while everyone else is frolicking in their flip-flops the big football fans are battling starvation.
Tuning in to Chinese league games at 3am, watching games from the 90s on ESPN Classic, and generally rocking with a blanket round you in a dark room like a recovering crack addict become regular summer activities.
But, bar occasional international football, there is one saving grace during these dark, sunny days – the transfer window.
Now formally renamed the Bale-Suarez Gossip Window of Bullshit, it gives football fans small morsels to feed on while the hard-working players take a few months in Barbados. Maybe the big boys have their eye on your superstar while your chairman thrusts various contracts at him, maybe the fans are praying they can keep their highest paid player another season, or even praying he’ll leave – whatever your team is, there’ll be activity.
But this isn’t all good for you. Maybe you’ll do a Dalglish’s Liverpool and waste tens of millions on floppity floppers, perhaps you’ll do an Arsenal and just trade children like Ugandan warlords rather than dipping into the bank, you might even do a Steve Bruce’s Sunderland and attempt to amass all the worst defenders in one team.
But maybe, just maybe, your chairman will loosen the purse strings, the manager won’t get distracted by hype players, and you’ll have a great window… like these clubs:
Disclaimer: I’m not bothering to mention Chelsea or City because, with their endless pots of gold they always have the ability to have a great window, I’m looking more at teams that have achieved value for money, or made shrewd signings, rather than launched rockets of cash at international players. Also, I’m not counting loans as proper transfers because I don’t want to. So there.
Liverpool – In: Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas, Simon Mignolet, Kolo Toure | Out: Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Jamie Carragher, Jay Spearing, Jonjo Shelvey
For Liverpool, the most important column is the outgoings. Firstly they are getting rid of two criminal dumplings in the shape of Carroll and Downing in what is shaping up to be an enormous gamble by Big Sam. Secondly, there is no Luis Suarez in there which is a massive boost to the Red’s hopes of 4th place.
Obviously the blow of Carra’s retirement will sting Liverpool for years but in Toure they have got themselves a physical, fit, and hungry player for free. He will be raring for a starting spot and when he’s at his best he can be a great asset.
Alberto is a ‘one for the future’ signing but Aspas as has already made a huge impact in Liverpool’s pre-season with a great return of goals and assists. Suarez may be battling for a place when he returns from his biting ban.
Pepe Reina going to join Benitez at Napoli for at least a season raised some eyebrows, but any grounded Liverpool fan knows that Reina hasn’t been his best for a year or two now, and in Mignolet, they have a reliable replacement. Plus it’s fashionable to have a Belgian.
Fulham – In: Fernando Amorebieta, Sascha Riether, Maarten Stekelenburg, Derek Boateng | Out: Chris Baird, Simon Davies, Mark Schwarzer, Giorgos Karagounis
The most surprising thing about Fulham’s transfers is that the big ones all happened before Shahid Khan’s takeover of the club. In fact, the new owner hasn’t made any great strides toward any marquee signings yet.
Letting the venerable keeper Schwarzer go might have seemed odd at the time (and his signing by Chelsea) but replacing him with Dutch stopper Stekelenburg is a great move. The former Ajax and Roma player is experienced and even reached the World Cup final in 2010.
Their first big swoop was the free transfer of Amorebieta from Athletico Bilbao. He will almost certainly add solidarity to their defence and possession. With over 250 games for the Spanish team, he is another experienced player without being old. Expect to see him beginning moves from the back.
Rounding out the pack of players I actually know is the signing of Riether from Cologne. The right-back thoroughly impressed me last season on his loan spell at the club; he was positionally responsible, energetic, and exciting out wide. Add in Hangeland and Riise and the Cottagers have themselves a fine defence.
They’ve also got Adel Taarabt on loan for the season which is like being given a chocolate bar covered in hair. It could be good but you’ve gotta change it first.
Heading out is three experienced players in Baird, Davies, and Karagounis but they were all old so it’s okay.
Norwich – In: Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Gary Hooper, Nathan Redmond, Javier Garrido, Leroy Fer, Martin Olsson | Out: Grant Holt, Simeon Jackson, Elliot Ward
The Canary’s transfer window so far has been outstanding. It could serve as a template for so many teams looking to strengthen without rapid investment. It is the masterclass in a discerning eye on a budget. You won’t find any over-hyped, over-paid potential flops here.
Firstly Norwich fans had to wipe away the tears as club hero Holty left for Wigan, but they were not left in despair as the Ricky ‘The Wolfman’ van Wolfswinkel joined from a deal that began back in March.
I’m not entirely sure, without disrespecting the Norfolk team, how they managed to muster £8.5m for the Sporting Lisbon striker, let alone beat other rivals to him, but it’s a quality signing. He’s a tall player with more to his game than height and could unlock defenses that Norwich struggled with last season.
Adding to this firepower is another sought after striker in Celtic’s Gary Hooper. Coming off the back of 63 goals in 95 games for the Scottish outfit, Hooper will provide the tenacity to van Wolfswinkel’s technique, and if they click, it could be great news for the Yellows.
Unlike some managers with a bit of money to spend, Hughton didn’t just focus on attack (cough Mark Hughes). Bolstering the back line is another great capture in former Man City and Lazio man Garrido. He had an impressive last season with Norwich and making the move permanent made a lot of sense. Joining him is Blackburn’s Olsson, a player with Prem experience to provide cover for Garrido or play on the left of midfield.
Adding to the middle of the team is Dutch international 23 year old Leroy Fer. Nicknamed ‘The Bouncer’, the former Twente player will provide strength in midfield and a threat in the air from set-pieces. Out wide in midfield is 19 year old Nathan Redmond – a winger with a bright future who recently broke into the England U-21 team.
Bar losing Grant Holt (who let’s face it, was getting on a bit) Norwich haven’t had to sacrifice much to get these players which is the other half of having a great transfer window. If everything works, the Canaries could be looking higher up the table than ever before.