January deals should carry a wealth warning

Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll (below) ..poor show in the EPL.-PICS: AP Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll (below) ..poor show in the EPL.

Statistics do not always tell the whole story but in the case of Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll they are pretty revealing. By Frank Malley.

Almost 12 months on from the last January transfer window, the question remains — where are the real Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll?

One thing is certain. They are nowhere to be seen at Stamford Bridge and Anfield where they arrived in a blaze of headlines at the beginning of this year.

Torres was supposed to be the final ingredient in Roman Abramovich's plan to deliver the UEFA Champions League trophy for Chelsea. The man who guaranteed goals.

Carroll was Torres' GBP35 million replacement at Liverpool, the big, English, rumbustious striker who promised so much when he arrived from Newcastle.

Let's not wrap it up in euphemism. Greek bankers have had a better year than Torres and Carroll. Statistics do not always tell the whole story but in the case of Torres and Carroll they are pretty revealing.

Since joining Chelsea for a British record GBP50 million, Torres has scored five goals in 36 appearances in all competitions with six assists. You do not need to understand Pascal's Triangle to do the maths. Each goal has cost GBP10 million, each assist GBP8.33 million. Even in the billionaire ball park in which Abramovich resides that is serious money for scant reward.

In the same time frame Carroll has scored five goals in 25 appearances with no assists. A mere GBP7 million per goal, although as if to prove he can be just as costly as his counterpart down the King's Road he missed a penalty in Liverpool's recent Carling Cup victory against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The point of all this is not to dwell on the personal grief of two strikers whose undoubted talent appears to have been suffocated by the ridiculous price tags put on their heads. It is to highlight the stupidity of lashing out serious money in the January transfer market.

No problem with clubs sorting out loan deals and indulging in pragmatic transfers designed to smooth out the frayed edges of a long and arduous season. No problem with transfers such as Rafael van der Vaart's move from Real Madrid to Tottenham which came two hours before the 2010 summer transfer window closed and cost a bargain GBP8 million. With 22 goals in 48 appearances as an attacking midfielder, Van der Vaart has more than paid his way.

The same simply cannot be said for Torres and Carroll.

Everyone in football, down to the Stamford Bridge tea lady, knew Chelsea, at GBP50 million, were paying roughly double what Torres was worth. Likewise, few believed the GBP35 million fee for Carroll was anything but a punt in the dark for a then 21-year-old striker who had scored 33 goals in 91 matches for Newcastle but who remained rough around the edges.

The problem is that such transfers have not only turned sour for Chelsea and Liverpool, they have also skewed the financial landscape for the rest of the Premier League.

If Torres was valued at GBP50 million then what must Arsenal's Robin van Persie be worth? The Dutchman has scored 18 goals so far this season, has 32 Premier League goals in 31 matches in 2011 and needs just five more to overtake the 36 goals in a calendar year record of Alan Shearer.

Van Persie, by the way, cost GBP2.75 million when Arsene Wenger bought him seven summers ago.

In football buying big in January makes no sense. Managers are driven by desperation, chairman are beset with panic, agents are motivated by greed. Ideally, clubs should be forced to manage for an entire season with the more considered personnel decisions they made in the summer.

Failing that, however, the pictures of Torres and Carroll and their combined statistics of 10 goals in 61 appearances at a cost of GBP85 million, not including wages, should be circulated to Premier League club owners with the greetings cards this Christmas.

And the message? Buying in January can seriously damage your wealth.

* * *

Roberto Mancini wore a straight face and an earnest demeanour after his Manchester City side were eliminated from the UEFA Champions League despite a home win against Bayern Munich.

“We go into the Europa League,” said Mancini. “It's another trophy and it's an important trophy for Manchester City.”

He was fooling no one. The big one now for City is eclipsing Manchester United and winning the Premier League. You suspect City losing their Champions League status brought that one step nearer.

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