Ferguson right not to go window shopping
ALEX FERGUSON made two of his best buys in a January sale, but he was right to argue this week that the transfer window just closed was not worth entering.
Six years ago, Ferguson bought Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra for a combined total of £12.5m. They have subsequently become key figures at Manchester United, but back in January 2006 none of this seemed likely.
Evra was hauled off on his debut, a 3- 1 defeat against a then-impecunious Manchester City and spent the following season contesting the left-back spot with Gabriel Heinze.
Vidic did not establish himself until October 2006. Which is why Ferguson said this week: “I've never seen it work, a player come in January, sign for big money and settle before the start of next season.”
A glance at the major signings over the last four Januarys suggests he is largely correct. The travails of Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll are well known.
Last year's third-biggest signing, Edin Dzeko, had a woeful spring and, despite a productive start to this season, his form with City remains mixed. David Luiz is settling at Chelsea, but only Aston Villa's Darren Bent and Luis Suarez at Liverpool could be said to have fitted in at their new clubs immediately.
The success of lesser buys was just as patchy. Stephane Sessegnon is now looking worth the £6m Sunderland paid Paris St-Germain for him, but it was not until April that we saw his real form. Another £6m recruit from Ligue 1, Jean Makoun, is now playing in Greece having failed to make an impact at Villa Park. Previous windows show a similar pattern.
Younes Kaboul (Tottenham), Asmir Begovic (Stoke) and Victor Moses (Wigan) are now prospering, but they made little impact in their first half-season in 2010. The prices in the 2009 window reflected Ferguson's other observation: “To go into the market in January you never get full value, people think you're desperate so ask for more.”
Thus, Robbie Keane, Wilson Palacios (both Spurs) and Wayne Bridge (City) moved for £12m each; none could be said to be a success and the lengths Arsenal went to to register Andrey Arshavin as January moved into February have reaped scant reward.
A year earlier, arguably the worst window signing of all was made, Middlesbrough paying a club record £12m for striker Afonso Alves who had a wretched time on Teeside.
The reasons for these failures are many. Often the new signing has not been playing, either through injury or lack of first-team chances. He will thus take time to gain match fitness.
Bridge was a classic example when loaned to West Ham last season. Others have been moved on because they are out of form, such as QPRs' new striker Djibril Cisse, who has not scored in his last 23 appearances for Lazio.
Foreign players take time to adapt to England even with a full-pre-season, players as good as Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires began slowly.
There have been successes, notably Jermain Defoe who has moved three times in January and kept scoring each time. Mark Hughes will be hoping at least one of his buys can replicate Defoe's efforts at QPR after bringing in six players. Spending £9m on two strikers aged 30 (Cisse) and 31 (Bobby Zamora) and earning big wages smacks of short-termism.
While Hughes and Everton's David Moyes look to have done well this January, it may be the most successful managers will prove to be not the buyers, but the ones, like Alan Pardew at Newcastle and Blackburn's Steve Kean, who managed to avoid selling. (© Independent News Service)