Unwise spending

In the recent transfer window, vast sums were paid for certain stars, little or nothing for players of lesser renown, writes Brain Glanville.

The last day of January’s so called transfer window was frenetic to a degree. Vast sums were paid for certain stars, little or nothing for players of lesser renown. Milan, renowned over the Berlusconi years, for splashing out huge fees for the likes of those three great Dutchmen, Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard, now acquired what might be called a job lot of new players at strangely limited expenses. The total cost was less than a million pounds. In contrast, Manchester United shelled out £37 million for the Spanish international attacker, Juan Mata, whom Jose Mourinho and Chelsea let go, despite the fact that for the past two seasons, he had been voted their Player of the Year.

Mourinho was arguably dicing with death by letting such a star go, though with the supremely talented trio of Brazilians, Oscar and William, and Belgian Hazard, even Mata could not be guaranteed a regular place in the line-up. But with soccer so much alas a game of injuries — Arsenal for example have recently lost their dynamic outside-right Theo Walcott for the rest of this season — who can say whether these three stars can avoid being hurt all through the campaign!

Ah, injuries? Two well established internationals bought in the window by London clubs are grim testament to the part they play in an increasingly fast and hectic game. The day after the window closed, Fulham, before an ill-starred home game against Southampton, paraded their new £12.5 million centre-forward, the Greek international Kostas Mitroglou, before a loudly enthusiastic crowd. Only for their manager to announce after a game in which Fulham had been humiliatingly beaten that Mitroglou was injured and could be out for weeks. Weeks which will crucially decide whether struggling Fulham remain in the Premiership.

And when he does get fit, how will he fit in, in a team which in that same window allowed the celebrated Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov to move to Monaco, admittedly on loan? A player of subtle skills and clever invention, Berbatov may not always have looked wholly committed in a game, but he could, in the old Italian saying, “invent the match,” with his flair for doing the unexpected.

He was known for wanting to leave Fulham, and Tottenham Hotspur were hoping to acquire him for the second time, having sold him previously and expensively to Manchester United. But to some surprise it was Monaco that Berbatov chose, and who could blame him?

For as a tiny principality adjacent to France, Monaco imposes no income tax, which in France has rocketed to colossal heights for big earners.

You wonder at what point Fulham found out that Mitroglou was injured. Presumably after he had passed the essential medical test. Given Fulham’s parlous plight, Mitroglou could now prove a highly expensive indulgence. By the time he plays, and he will presumably need a while to settle in, Fulham could be dead and buried.

Arsenal, by contrast, are riding high in the Premiership and have an impressive array of talent, even if injuries have deprived them for weeks of such stars as Aaron Ramsey and all too often of the precociously inventive Jack Wilshere. They must still, however, be appalled by the news, on that same Saturday after the window closed, to learn that the Swedish international midfielder Kim Kallstrom, with more than a hundred caps, will be out of action for at least six matches, having injured his back while playing, would you believe it, in a game of beach football in Abu Dhabi on tour with his club Spartak Moscow. The mystery of it is that Arsenal knew all about his injury in the course of his medical examination, but still agreed to sign him, albeit on loan. Make sense of that if you can. Kallstrom is 31, not an age at which recovery is easy.

Milan, that same Saturday, now under the managership of their former star Dutch midfielder, Clarence Seedorf — his first managerial job — hardly set San Siro alive, being held 1-1 by Torino. Admittedly without the once again suspended Mario Balotelli, who cost plenty when he arrived from Manchester City.

Milan in the window acquired at least one player of stature — for nothing — with the contract with CSKA Moscow for Japan’s Keisuke Honda having expired. And £300,000 for the loan of the French international defender for six months — 27-year-old Adil Rami — hardly seems excessive. Valencia let him go because he had publicly criticised their coach and his team-mates. But how wise an investment is the once highly effective midfielder, Michael Essien, of Ghana? At 31 and after a plethora of injuries, he had looked something of a spentforce when recently deployed in the Chelsea midfield.

Nor is it easy to make sense of the arrival of Adel Taarabt, on loan from Queens Park Rangers, who in their turn had lent him to Fulham. There has never been any doubt about the Moroccan international’s many talents as an attacker, but consistency has long eluded him. Tottenham let him go, to QPR. Seedorf admits that he “doesn’t know him that well” but diplomatically adds he is excited to welcome him. We shall see.

Juventus have ignored the appalling disciplinary record of the Argentine-Italian striker Dani Osvaldo, taking him on loan from Southampton, who got rid of him after he head-butted a team-mate Fonte in a confrontation on the training ground.

Quite why Southampton, under the iron rule of now departed chief executive Cortese, should pay a vast fee to buy a player, from Roma, with such a shocking record?