To say transfer deadline day was quiet would be an understatement – and is illustrated by the fact late attention centered around whether Bournemouth’s Joshua King would opt for Everton or Fulham, and whether Southampton would seal a loan for Liverpool’s Takumi Minamino. In the end, Norway striker King chose Everton while Saints landed Japan forward Minamino as both deals were confirmed in the early hours of Tuesday morning, with Southampton submitting a deal sheet for Minamino that allows clubs two hours beyond the 23:00 GMT deadline to complete a transfer.
They may not go down as the most exciting ‘after-hours’ signings we’ve seen but were pretty much as intriguing as it got for hardcore followers of the window, with caution rather than drama dominating the last day of trading. Just three permanent deals were completed by Premier League clubs, and double that number of loan moves. The total of transfer fees paid for players in the winter window was the lowest since the £60m spent in 2012. According to financial services firm Deloitte, £70m was spent this time – way down on the £230m paid out last year.
Reigning champions Liverpool gave us most of the interest, bringing in two center-backs within a couple of hours in order to ease their defensive problems. Even then, though, one cost a couple of million and the other was on loan. Some of Deloitte’s other key findings from the window include:
- There were only 24 Premier League transfers during the window, compared to the average of 46 across the previous three years’ January windows.
- The ‘big six’ Premier League clubs (Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester Utd, Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea) made just three permanent transfers and three loan fee transfers, accounting for 35% of the total spend.
- The current bottom four clubs in the table only spent £6m on seven new players. The clubs in the same position last season completed a total of eight signings for a value of £40m.
- The volume of transfers in January 2021 across the other four ‘big five’ European leagues was just over half their previous three-year average for January.
Liverpool turned to the Championship and the Bundesliga to bolster their injury-hit defense as Ben Davies made a surprise move from Preston in a deal worth £2m, while Turkey’s Ozan Kabak arrived on loan from Schalke. Brighton’s capture of highly rated Ecuador midfielder Moises Caicedo and Everton’s signing of King were the only other permanent moves. Caicedo joined the Seagulls from Independiente del Valle for £4m while King’s switch from Bournemouth was for a nominal fee.
The other deals were all loans. In addition to Liverpool adding Kabak and the Saints completing a late deal for Minamino, Newcastle brought in Arsenal midfielder Joe Willock for the remainder of the season while his Gunners team-mate Ainsley Maitland-Niles moved to West Brom, who also brought in midfielder Okay Yokuslu on a loan deal from Spanish side Celta Vigo. Fulham bolstered their attacking options with the loan signing of former Sunderland striker Josh Maja from Bordeaux.
The two biggest deals completed in the whole window were Manchester United’s purchase of Amad Diallo – the Red Devils paying Atalanta an initial £19m for the winger, with a further £18.2m in add-ons – and West Ham’s £20m signing of Said Benrahma from Brentford. Both those deals had been agreed last summer. Aston Villa’s signing of midfielder Morgan Sanson from Marseille for a reported £14m was the only other major deal done in January.
Why was it so quiet?
The obvious reason is the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on clubs’ finances.
Deloitte estimates-the top 20 highest-earning football clubs in the world alone will have lost two billion euros (£1.77bn) as a result of Covid-19.
Dan Jones, partner at the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, said: “Premier League clubs were understandably cautious in the January transfer window given the ongoing financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Despite this, Premier League clubs’ very busy summer window, at a time when the rest of European football was more restrained, saw total net expenditure for the 2020-21 season reach a new record level of £950m.
“It remains to be seen if the relatively low activity in January will continue throughout 2021. We certainly do not expect to see another new record this summer.” Jones added: “During the January 2021 window, Premier League clubs’ expenditure on players from non-English clubs fell to just £45m. In the previous two January transfer windows, Premier League clubs’ spend on this category of expenditure averaged £165m.
“While new post-Brexit rules on acquiring players from overseas may have contributed to this, the financial impact of the pandemic was, by far, a more important factor.”Former Liverpool player Don Hutchison told BBC Radio 5 live: “It might happen again in the summer but I think the pandemic in this window is why no-one was seeing a couple of £100m players coming in.” An additional challenge is the fact transfer deals are now subject to new immigration criteria as a result of Brexit.
The UK left the European Union on New Year’s Eve last year and clubs have found their pursuit of some players scuppered because they no longer qualify for a work permit because of the change in rules. West Brom boss Sam Allardyce said earlier this month that he missed out on three players because of the new regulations, and that they have made life “a bit more difficult”.
Low-key window across Europe
Similar trends can be seen across the other ‘big five’ European leagues as the financial impact of the pandemic is felt across the continent. The volume of transfers in January 2021 across the other four ‘big five’ European leagues was just over half their previous three-year average for January., while transfer spend in the January window has plunged from a collective 660m euros to €195m euros across the Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1 and Serie A.
Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira made a permanent move to Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin while a couple of players left the Premier League to head to Turkey – Everton striker Cenk Tosun joined Besiktas on loan and Galatasaray signed Newcastle full-back DeAndre Yedlin on a free transfer. Elsewhere, Olivier Ntcham left Celtic for French side Marseille on loan until the end of the season
Famous dads’ lads on the move
It may have been a quiet transfer window but there were still some moves that caught the imagination. Championship side Watford appeared to have turned back the clock by signing Bergkamp and Pochettino – but it wasn’t the Arsenal legend or the former Argentina defender who made the move to the Hornets. It was their sons. Midfielder Mitchel Bergkamp, 22, joined the club on a six-month contract while winger Maurizio Pochettino, 19, signed on a free transfer after leaving Tottenham.
Nineteen-year-old winger D’Margio Wright-Phillips – son of Shaun Wright-Phillips and grandson of Ian Wright – was reported to be on his way on loan from Manchester City to Stoke, while the Potters let Tom Ince – son of Paul – join Championship rivals Luton on loan.
Is that it for signings this season?
Not necessarily, because clubs can sign free agents after the deadline – at any stage of the season in fact – but they must have left their previous club before the transfer window closed. No loan signings can be made by EFL or Premier League clubs after the deadline, except in extreme circumstances – such as a club’s senior goalkeepers all being unavailable.