The closing of the summer transfer window in major European leagues has traditionally been a time in which clubs need to have deep pockets, while club officials need to have nerves of steel.
This year was no different.
As Wednesday’s deadline arrived for transfers in the Premier League to be concluded, the day saw a flurry of activity. Clubs looked to boost their squads or off-load high-earning players considered a surplus – among them England goalkeeper Joe Hart, whom Manchester City loaned to Torino.
For the first time, clubs in England spent more than £1 billion (R19.3 billion) on players. The sports business unit at Deloitte said that the total amount came to £1.165 billion, with a major portion being splashed out on the last day.
With little over an hour to go before the transfer window closed, Chelsea signed Brazilian footballer David Luiz from Paris Saint-Germain for £34 million – £16 million more than they received from the French club when they sold him to them just two years ago.
The 29-year-old said shortly after the transfer was announced that he was delighted to have returned to Stamford Bridge.
“I am back and I cannot wait to give back to the club and the fans. I am looking forward to playing here again,” he said.
The Brazilian was not the only big-money move at the last moment.
Leicester City strengthened its squad ahead of the club’s first Champions League campaign. Islam Slimani joined from Sporting Lisbon, and in so doing, was reunited with fellow Algerian international Riyad Mahrez.
“Leicester City is without doubt the best supported club in Algeria after winning the league. I am very pleased to join up with Riyad, who encouraged me to make the move,” said Slimani.
Moussa Sissoko turned down all interested clubs ahead of Euro 2016 in the hope of being able to move from relegated Newcastle to a much bigger club. His gamble seemed to pay off as he did well in the European Championships, generating a lot of interest.
Newcastle, however, were not prepared to move on the £30 million transfer fee and it seemed that the French international would be playing Championship football this season.
Then Everton came to the table on the last day and offered Newcastle the £30 million. The club sent a private plane to Newcastle to fetch the player for a medical checkup. However, he did not board the plane as Spurs had come in at the last moment and lured the French international to White Hart Lane with the promise of Champions League football.
“I am very happy and very proud to be here. I have been waiting for this and now I am very happy,” he said.
Sissoko, Luiz and Slimani were just some of the many last-gasp transfers that went through.
But as officials sit across table, wrangling about millions for a player, things can also go horribly wrong.
Cameroon international Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s transfer from Hamburg to Cologne was once scuppered because of a fax problem.
Hamburg sent the first page of the agreement to Cologne 11 minutes before the transfer deadline, but then experienced a technical problem with its fax machine. So, the page with the players’ signature arrived shortly after deadline, which resulted in the German football league receiving the documentation 13 minutes after the transfer closure – too late to allow the deal to go through.
This year has seen a similar situation arising, as Sunderland was desperately looking to land a replacement for injured goalkeeper Vito Mannone, who fractured his elbow.
Attempts to sign John Ruddy and Wayne Hennessey on the last day failed, so the Black Cats tried to sign Boavista goalkeeper Mika.
A deal was agreed, but the paperwork was not sorted in time, leaving the Premier League club with an appeal to football officials for a special dispensation.
If it is not granted, the club will have to rely on a 20- or a 21-year-old who has played three Premier League matches.
Mika was not the only player whom Sunderland failed to land. Yann M’Vila, who even arrived in England from his Russian club Rubin Kazan, had to fly home as negotiations over the transfer fee could not be settled before the deadline.