x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The window of anti-climax

Previous years delivered Robinho and Dimitar Berbatov, while 2009 provided Mike Williamson and David Nugent with new employers.

Whereas previous years had delivered Robinho and Dimitar Berbatov, Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez, William Gallas and Ashley Cole at the equivalent stage, 2009 provided Mike Williamson, Ibrahima Sonko and David Nugent with new employers.

So Tuesday felt something of an anti-climax. Transfer deadline day, a rather artificial event in the football calendar, generated considerable anticipation. The hype exceeded the reality. High drama was expected, low returns resulted. Nevertheless, the final few hours provided a microcosm of the entire window. The supposed superstars such as Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema, Sergio Aguero, David Villa and David Silva eluded English clubs throughout the summer. On Tuesday, Everton's audacious bid to take Rafael van der Vaart from Real Madrid failed.

There are contributory factors. The forthcoming increase in income tax in the United Kingdom, coupled with the shift in the exchange rate between the pound and the euro, makes England a less attractive destination. Yet it was a comparatively rare instance of football reflecting the common man's experience. There are times when Premier League clubs can appear immune to global economics, and while a combined spending of around £450 million (Dh2,67bn) would be exorbitant by most other divisions' standards, this may be England's age of austerity.

There was one exception. Manchester City were responsible for more than a quarter of the outlay, with an expenditure greater than the combined total of Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton. Three of last season's top five recorded a profit, while Rafa Benitez was only just in the red. For many, prudence was the watchword, even if the underlying emotions were of frustration and desperation. The question "what if...?" could be posed at most clubs; the ones who got away may loom large in the thinking.

Last-minute trading produced an overhaul at Fratton Park. Portsmouth spent the summer selling off talent, only to make eight signings in the final few days, including the aforementioned Williamson, a defender who was playing in League Two 12 months ago. First Sulaiman al Fahim's takeover, then the makeover of the team. Elsewhere, Hull's late scramble to replace Michael Turner produced Sonko on loan though Phil Brown, continually spurned by strikers, missed out as Nugent joined Burnley. While Harry Redknapp probably pulled off the coup of the day - and perhaps the entire window - in signing Niko Kranjcar for just £2.5m, even the stereotypical wheeler-dealer could not land several prominent targets.

Other managers experienced similar disappointment. It was apt, though, that the biggest deals of the week concerned central defenders, as Johnny Heitinga moved to Everton and Aston Villa signed Richard Dunne and James Collins. More excitement is produced by signing strikers but, Emmanuel Adebayor excepted, too few of the forward additions have begun with a flurry of goals. In contrast, plenty of the defenders recruited - whether Glen Johnson or Thomas Vermaelen, Joleon Lescott or Kolo Toure, Sebastien Bassong or Roger Johnson - have made an auspicious start to life at their new clubs.

But among the many debutants in the Premier League next Saturday, none will face the same scrutiny as record-breaking recruits such as Robinho and Berbatov did last year. @Email:rjolly@thenational.ae Read Jolly's view on the Premier League weekend every Tuesday exclusively in The National