QPR sitting on a time-bomb after January splurge
A few days ago they were blaming the high-rollers. Queens Park Rangers had hired too many mercenaries. There was only one thing for it. Hire some different high-rollers, on even more money, and to hell with the long-term cost.
No month parodies football or tests the intelligence of fans quite like the January transfer window, which needs a brick through it. The last-day cabaret of deadline-beating conceals desperation and recklessness. For every one Wilfried Zaha signing for a Manchester United there are 20 short-term fixes.
This buying window became increasingly crazed to the point where QPR tried to splurge their way out of the relegation zone by offering the kind of wages that brought Portsmouth and Leeds to their knees. They started humble, insisting that Loic Remy had refused even to talk to them in Marseille, before signing him three days after that claim was made.
Remy's shyness evaporated when QPR's wage offer blew Newcastle's off the park. From thwarted and sombre, the masters of Loftus Road moved into overdrive as Christopher Samba was enticed from Anzhi Makhachkala for a fee of £12.5m and a reported wage of £100,000 a week.
By Wednesday night reliable reports had Harry Redknapp, the QPR manager, chasing David Bentley, Jermaine Jenas, Peter Crouch, Niko Kranjcar and Andros Townsend – all serving or former Spurs – as well as Peter Odemwingie and Roger Johnson, the Wolves centre-back.
By the time Samba pulled on his new training gear, Remy, Tal Ben Haim and the Korean full-back Yun Suk-young were already tied to Shepherds Bush.
Simply, QPR, who bought virtually a whole team last summer under Mark Hughes, were trying to buy another for Redknapp.
Anyone in football who has failed or refused to heed the lessons of Portsmouth and Leeds is either chronically naive or a nihilist. At QPR we observe a classic case of spending tomorrow's TV money today – of gambling with projected broadcast income, which will rise dramatically next year. As with Leeds and Portsmouth, the bet relies on the team staying in the milk and honey land of the Premier League.
Alejandro Faurlin's departure on loan brought to five the number of players culled by QPR, so there was some attempt at book-balancing. But, according to one calculation, the cost of buying and honouring long contracts for Remy and Samba alone is nearly £63m. Wages at QPR are already believed to be more than 100pc of turnover. A figure of 150pc has been mentioned.
Notable, amid all this extravagance, is Redknapp's faith in players he either bombed or marginalised in previous managerial jobs. Bentley and Crouch certainly fit that description.
Redknapp described the agent culture as "gang warfare" but held his own both with the middlemen who feast in January and his chairman, Tony Fernandes, who he persuaded to spend big to acquire Samba and who says he may step down if QPR are relegated.
"If can't fix it, I will be first to go," he tweeted.
A major fault-line, we were told, was that QPR's big earners were dragging the club down with their indolence. Redknapp has endorsed that theory several times.
Shaun Derry, regarded as one of the stalwarts, protested: "I'm very proud of what I've achieved to play at this level and I will never take it for granted. When you see players taking it for granted it hurts. Hand on heart I don't resent anyone at the football club for what they earn. I know there are guys there that earn an absolute bucketload, more than I could ever dream of earning.
"Honestly I don't resent them for earning that. What I do get upset about is if they don't work hard to earn that. You have got to work hard for your money regardless of whether you earn £10 a week or £100,000."
This impassioned statement of old-school QPR values has led, via desperation, to one of the great January splurges on players who may or may not see their raison d'etre as fighting to keep the club up.
If Redknapp has chosen well, Fernandes and the insanely rich Lakshmi Mittal can expect dramatic improvement. But there is little evidence that Mittal regards himself as a Roman Abramovich who will pick up all the bills.
Meanwhile, a table published last autumn showed QPR to be the third highest payers to agents. Their £6.8m placed them behind only Manchester City and Liverpool.
With this kind of bill, and an 18,600 capacity at Loftus Road, QPR are now perilously reliant on both Premier League survival and the willingness of Fernandes and Mittal to fund a time-bomb wage bill if it all goes wrong. Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets. (© Daily Telegraph, London)