Shopaholics fail to get prime goods

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini (behind) with new signings (from left) Aleksandar Kolarov, David Silva, Yaya Toure and Jerome Boateng.-AP Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini (behind) with new signings (from left) Aleksandar Kolarov, David Silva, Yaya Toure and Jerome Boateng.

While clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea, have as usual, splurged on summer transfers, they have not been able to net the big fish. The Kakas, the Robinhos, the Messis, the Ronaldos and the Robbens will all operate in other routes, writes Raakesh Natraj.

When the transfer season wheels around, some clubs look for incremental additions, replenishment in specific areas and occasionally, a coup, a statement of intent (or a show of money). The English Premier League, by and large, has stuck to the former approach to the market, choosing to bide its time and be resourceful with the squads than spend the big bucks or sign the star player.

One manager who has consistently backed the products of his youth-academy, Sir Alex Ferguson shut shop pretty early in the day, the signings of Chris Smalling (€8m, from Fulham) and Javier ‘Chicharito' Hernandez (€10m, from Guadalajara Chivas) sealed well before the August-end deadline. The 6 ft 4 in central defender Smalling has already made an impact in Manchester United's pre-season tour of the US, appearing assured at one end while his height made him a threat from set pieces at the other. The best bit of business, however, was the signing of Hernandez before the World Cup and going by his form in it, Sir Alex agreed that post-South Africa, his valuation would easily have doubled. ‘No more strikers says Sir Alex' read a few headlines, effectively putting an end to speculation that Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, whom Sir Alex almost signed last year, could be on his way to Old Trafford. Nemanja Vidic extended his contract and claimed he always intended to do so, long delay and intense speculation of a move to Spain notwithstanding.

Rumours that World Cup star Mesut Ozil, with just one-year left on his contract at Werder Bremen, is being offered to both Manchester United and Arsenal reached a crescendo and then seem to have ebbed a bit, with none of the three parties that are allegedly involved coming up with any statement to which one's fancy could attach itself to. Ozil (the figure touted is £12m) agrees that it would be great playing in England while Manchester United's fan forums cry out for a ‘long-term replacement for Paul Scholes.' Anthony Annan (of Ghana and Rosenborg BK) also finds an occasional mention in this regard. Reports that Ozil is on the verge of signing a pre-contract agreement with Real Madrid, which will allow him to play out his contract at Werder Bremen, before joining Madrid (and German mate Sami Khedira) for free next year, have also been doing the rounds.

The gossip on Arsenal forums seem to have skirted the Ozil question, instead centring squarely on the Cesc Fabregas issue, and with the Spaniard deciding to stay on, for a year at least, the threads have moved on to discuss the merits of new arrivals — defender Laurent Koscielny (from Lorient for €12m), forwards Wellington Silva (from Fluminense for €4m) and Marouane Chamakh (free transfer from Bordeaux). Thirty five-year old Sol Campbell continues his journeyman ways, moving on to Newcastle, his short-term contract at Arsenal having expired.

Liverpool's era under Roy Hodgson started off with the crafty tight-fistedness of a flint institution. The retention of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, and the addition of Joe Cole (free transfer from Chelsea) and Milan Jovanovic (free transfer from Standard Liege) saved Hodgson the millions that could be used in the pursuit of defensive midfielder Christian Poulsen (€6m) from Juventus. The deal may well be done by the time this sees the light of print, but the consequent implication is that Javier Mascherano is headed for the exit door, and possibly Inter Milan. Left-back Fabio Aurelio has also decided to re-sign with Liverpool, and 18-year-old Scottish Young Player of the Year Danny Wilson, signed from Rangers, will be one for the future..

Chelsea's acquisition of Yossi Benayoun (€6m) in the wake of Joe Cole's departure has prompted a comparison of styles from Carlo Ancelotti, and a rather uncharitable one at that. “Yossi is better tactically. He understands what I tell him” opined the Chelsea boss. Though the Ashley Cole-Real Madrid speculation seems to have died down a bit (with the injury to Kaka, which would otherwise have allowed for a swap between the two, if some gossip sites are to be trusted), Chelsea have been fairly active in the market. Brazilian Ramires (from Benfica for €22m) will possibly figure in the midfield diamond this season while Sergio Aguerro (Atletico Madrid), Neven Subotic (Borussia Dortmund) and David Luiz (Benfica) are all linked with moves to the club.

The club that has seen the most comings and goings, as with the last transfer window, is of course the nouveau riche ‘noisy neighbours' Manchester City. Serbian defender Aleksandar Kolarov (from Lazio for €19m), Yaya Toure (from Barcelona, €30m), David Silva (from Valencia, for €32m) and German defender Jerome Boateng (from Hamburger, for €12.5m) have already signed on while James Milner and Mario Balotelli are also linked with big money moves to City. On the way out are Craig Bellamy, Roque Santa Cruz and Stephen Ireland. The transfer season isn't done yet, and expect more names to be tacked on to the list. Everton, chasing Champions League, will hope Marouane Fellaini follows Mikel Arteta's lead in signing a contract extension with the toffees. Tottenham, the other contender, will be boosted by the arrival of Brazilian midfielder Sandro (from Internacional, for €10m).

Birmingham, in a surprisingly extravagant mood, has splurged seven million Euros apiece on custodian Ben Foster (from Manchester United) and Serbian forward Nikola Zigic (from Valencia) while veteran Juventus midfielder Mauro Camoranesi is also reportedly on the way. Bolton Wanderers, too, haven't done badly, this window will see the arrival of Croatian forward Ivan Klasnic on a free transfer from Nantes, Spanish defender Marcos Alonso from Real Madrid for a fee of €2.4m and Bulgarian midfielder Martin Petrov from Manchester City.

Sunderland and Wigan will see the arrival of Paraguayans Christian Riveros and Antolin Alacraz respectively while newly promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers have loosened the purse strings with the purchase of Stephen Hunt and Steven Mouyokolo from Hull City for around €3m each and forward Steven Fletcher from Burnley for a fee of €7.8m.

The Kakas, the Robinhos, the Messis, the Ronaldos and the Robbens all operate other routes, but the EPL, going by the way the squads have taken shape over the transfer season, promises to offer in terms of competition what it might lack in lustre.