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Football fans are a strange bunch, at the best of times, but they do seem to go a bit mad in the off-season.
To casuals, it can seem like the season never ends, with the Champions League, continental and World Cups – let alone the increasing range of money-spinning “warm-up” friendlies between mega-clubs set in lucrative TV markets – all conspiring to turn the football season into a 12-month affair.
But to hardcore fans, these have been a few months wandering a desert, desperate for a fix of the beautiful game. But the off-season doesn’t stop the true fans from dedicating their downtime to getting angry at “leaked” new season kit designs, or, of course, rampant speculation over the transfer market – the window in which the commodification of human skill is best exemplified, as clubs literally buy and sell those from whom they have demanded absolute fealty.
Thursday was deadline day for the English Premier League. Any new contract had to be signed off by 5pm local time – and the money involved will leave many shaking their heads in disbelief.
But with the new season kicking off this weekend, who will be playing for who?
Wilfred Zaha is staying at Crystal Palace [Tony O’Brien/Reuters]
This transfer window’s top-price signing was completed by Manchester United, who signed centre-back Harry Maguire from Leicester for $95m. Maguire, who has appeared 20 times for the England national team, is just 26 years old.
Champions Manchester City brought Atletico Madrid’s defensive midfielder Rodri to England for $76m. Meanwhile, Romelu Lukaku was sold by Manchester United to Italy’s Inter Milan for $71m.
Tottenham announced the signing of two new players on deadline day: 19-year-old Ryan Sessegnon, the promising left-midfielder, from Fulham, and Giovani Lo Celso on loan from Real Betis.
But it was probably Tottenham’s north London rival, Arsenal, who have conducted the most productive transfer business, acquiring centre back William Saliba from Saint Etienne ($33m, loaned back for one season) and 18-year-old left-winger Gabriel Martinelli from Ituano in Brazil. They’ve also brought in Dani Ceballos, Real Madrid’s midfield workhorse, on loan.
Arsenal continued its transfer business on deadline day with the arrival of Kieran Tierney, the stand-out Scottish left-back from Celtic. David Luiz, Chelsea’s veteran centre back, was also understood to be hammering out the final details of a contract with Arsenal as the deadline passed.
Chelsea are currently serving a transfer ban after breaking FIFA’s rules on signing overseas children to the club, and are not allowed to sign new players until the end of January 2020.
According to Sky Sports, new Chelsea manager Frank Lampard reportedly told Luiz that, with Antonio Rudiger’s return to fitness, it was unlikely he has going to get many games for the first team. Chelsea fans will also still be feeling the blues after losing Eden Hazard to Spanish superclub Real Madrid at the beginning of the window.
But the excitement of transfer deadline day is not just about the biggest names and numbers. Sometimes it’s about the emotion.
“It’s an amazing feeling. On the way up, it was just butterflies in my stomach,” striker Andy Carroll told Sky Sports after re-signing for Newcastle – the club he played for both as an under-18 and a full senior.
“Now, it’s finally happened, it’s a great feeling. I think I have unfinished business – I left on a high and I want to get back to it.”
And of course, everyone loves a bargain. While Watford, a relatively small club who made it to last year’s FA Cup final, paid a club-record fee of $33m for Ismaila Sarr, they also managed to pick up Arsenal and England centre-forward Danny Welbeck on a transfer after his contract expired at Arsenal. One post on a Watford fan forum rejoiced at the club signing “someone I don’t have to Google”.
Senegal’s Ismaila Sarr shone during this summer’s Africa Cup of Nations, and has now signed for Watford [Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters]
The full list of Premier League transfers at 5pm London time was as follows:
In Gabriel Martinelli (Ituano) Dani Ceballos (Real Madrid) (Loan) William Saliba (Saint-Etienne) Nicolas Pepe (Lille) Kieran Tierney (Celtic)
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