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Bent deal a rarity in murky world of transfer deadlines

A player flew to England to complete his medical and sign the relevant forms having received an acceptable offer from a Premiership club. At the time he was away on international duty and was granted permission by the manager to leave for 24 hours. It was transfer deadline day, so that's all he needed.

A weekly wage of 14k was agreed before he boarded the flight and it was on that basis that he decided to sign for that club and end all discussions with others. When he arrived, he was told there was an administrative complication which delayed matters for a few hours. As midnight approached, the contract was finally put in front of him to sign. The agent was confused as to why the weekly wage was a mere 11k.

Discussions got heated and tempers were lost. Despite turning down offers in excess of that amount elsewhere, there was no room for negotiation. The message from the club was simple. "Sign it or don't sign it, but that figure's not changing". The agent was furious, but the player had little option but to accept the reduced wage.

The chairman, though he had completely shafted the player in the process, had done his job superbly well. Spread over the three-and-a-half-year contract, his antics would save the club over 500k.

None of this was made public at the time, but it is not uncommon in football for at least one party to feel aggrieved when a deal is done. What is fairly unusual is for all involved to claim they have been wronged, which is exactly what's happened this week in the transfer of Darren Bent. From where I'm sitting, I can't see how anyone has lost out, which makes it all the more amusing to see all parties claim to be victims.

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce is beside himself with disbelief at how "brutal" Bent has behaved. According to him, he is most hurt by the timing of it all and the lack of notice given by the player. Have a quick look at Bruce's managerial track-record, timing and notice haven't exactly been his forté either. He described it as a "horrible situation" that clubs know they now have money to spend. As a result, he is fully expecting to be quoted inflated prices for players he wishes to sign, but maybe this isn't the best week for Steve Bruce to be moaning about exorbitant transfer fees either.

The row as to whether Bent was aware of Villa's interest before Sunderland is pointless. It would be astonishing if the deal was concluded in such a short space of time if neither the player nor his representative had been contacted previously. Niall Quinn was right in thinking the same thing, but was obviously wrong to have said it on camera.

The denial from Aston Villa was predictable but hollow. They said they had no contact with Bent which may well be the truth. But there is no way there was no contact with his agent. This is how things work in English football. Complaining about it makes you look naive at best or a liar at worst, but mainly you come across as insincere.

It is difficult to be too sympathetic to Bent either, but he appears hurt that both Bruce and Quinn were critical of him. The stick from Sunderland fans was to be expected, as was the accusations of greed and disloyalty. They'll come round soon enough though, probably around the time Bruce signs a replacement as the result of tapping up his agent and enticing him with an offer of higher wages.

Everyone has played their part in the whole pantomime, but that is all it has been. The deal was done in the way deals have always been done, but on this occasion everyone can be pleased with the outcome.

When potential add-ons, wages and bonuses are factored in, the deal could cost Villa over £40 million. The fee and the publicity bring their own pressures, but Bent has joined a squad in desperate need of inspiration from somewhere. I can't help thinking a change of manager would have provided it a lot easier.


Sunday Indo Sport