Europe’s much-hyped deadline day in the last month’s transfer window passed with a flurry of late deals, but few signings of note on Friday, with the richest teams opting to sit tight ahead of the last few months of the season.
The likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and the two Manchester giants decided not to dip into the market, while there were no headline-grabbing moves to match that of Fernando Torres going to Chelsea in 2011 and David Beckham to Paris Saint-Germain last year.
That two of the most high-profile moves on Friday were loan signings — Italian striker Pablo Osvaldo to Serie A leaders Juventus and Dimitar Berbatov to French title hopefuls AS Monaco — said much about the largely subdued nature of the final day of the window.
The biggest spenders were Italy’s Inter, who bought Brazilian midfielder Hernanes from SS Lazio in a deal reportedly worth up to 15 million euros (US$20.2 million).
Even the English Premier League — usually the place where big acquisitions are made — was quiet, with the standout deal seeing Arsenal take Swede Kim Kallstrom on loan from Spartak Moscow for the rest of the season to ease their midfield problems.
Many European nations are still gripped by the economic recession, while the top targets of the big teams are often cup-tied for the UEFA Champions League and managers can be put off by inflated prices.
Even so, an inspired deadline-day signing can sometimes make the difference between winning a title, qualifying for the Champions League or the Europa League, or surviving relegation, and it was a surprise to see so few big deals take place.
Six points clear in Serie A, Juventus are on course for a third straight scudetto and the signing of Osvaldo from Southampton will strengthen their push for the title.
“Everything happened very fast and I still can’t believe it,” Osvaldo said.
The forward scored four times for Southampton after his club-record 15.1 million euro move from AS Roma in August, but was suspended for two weeks on Jan. 23 following a training-ground incident.
Juventus have the option to buy the 28-year-old Osvaldo before May 31 for 19 million euros.
Elsewhere in Italy, Hernanes left Lazio’s training ground in tears on Thursday amid reports he was on the verge of signing for Inter and the move was completed the following day in a four-and-a-half-year deal.
He has scored two goals in 23 appearances for Brazil and helped his country to FIFA Confederations Cup success last summer.
Inter are fifth in the league, 11 points off the Champions League places.
Berbatov ended his eight-year stint in England, where he played for Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and most recently Fulham, to become the latest big-name signing by Monaco.
“I’m happy, excited and a little bit nervous to be honest,” the 33-year-old Berbatov said. “I’m looking forward to training with my new teammates and to open a new chapter in my career.”
Monaco are challenging fellow big-spenders Paris Saint-Germain for the Ligue 1 title and needed to sign a striker to compensate for Colombian Radamel Falcao’s long-term injury. Falcao is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing a ligament in his left knee on Jan. 22.
In England, Chelsea ended the month as the division’s top spenders — nearly ￡50 million (US$82.2 million) on four players — after signing 19-year-old AS Saint-Etienne defender Kurt Zouma. He was immediately loaned back to the French club until the summer.