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Transfer 'madness' returns to Premier League

sports Updated: Feb 01, 2011 17:13 IST
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England's Premier League clubs were back splashing the cash and defying austerity in a transfer window that climaxed with Fernando Torres' record-breaking £50 million ($80.5 million, 58.5 million euro) move from Liverpool to Chelsea.

In a dramatic finale to the transfer window on Monday, reigning champions Chelsea smashed the British record with their purchase of the Spanish striker.

As the clock ticked towards the deadline, Liverpool agreed a deal to sign 22-year-old Newcastle forward Andy Carroll -- still in only his first Premier League season -- for a club record £35 million.

In the end, total spending by English Premier League clubs approached £200 million ($321 million) compared to £29 million last January, proving again that when it comes to football, prudence goes out of the window.

Football likes to play by its own rules and the mantra of 'spend big to win big' might have been coined with the Premier League in mind.

Since 2003, Chelsea have been bankrolled by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and Monday's swoop underlined his ambition to re-assert the club's dominance after a shaky start to the season.

Last season he reined in his spending yet Chelsea still won the double of the Premier League and English FA Cup.

However, Abramovich's ultimate ambition is to win the Champions League, hence his decision to 'revert to type' with the big-money signing of Torres and Brazilian defender David Luiz in a £21 million deal.

Torres, 26, was keen to leave a Liverpool team which has failed to challenge for major honours in recent seasons, although new manager Kenny Dalglish told him he was leaving a team on the rise.

Abramovich's spending spree Monday represents "only a fraction of his undoubted wealth," according to Joe McLean, a partner at accountants Grant Thornton, who specialises in football finance.

"What we have to do is look at the entire investment he has made thus far in Chelsea. That would suggest he has paid over £750 million to £800 million into Chelsea over the last five or six years, which is 15-20 percent of his entire wealth," McLean told BBC Radio on Tuesday.

Chelsea's huge outlay on Torres came on the same day they announced an annual loss of £71 million.

That has led to fears they could be barred from the Champions League by contravening 'fair play' rules set to be introduced by European governing body UEFA that are designed to get a grip on club finances.

When the American-based Fenway Sports Group (FSG) bought Liverpool in October, its chairman John W Henry said: "When we spend a dollar, it has to be wisely."

In signing Carroll -- capped just once by England so far -- Liverpool have opted for a player based more on potential than proven ability, although his 11 league goals this season have shown the long-haired striker's effectiveness.

Liverpool's spending did not end with Carroll. As he arrived at Anfield, the club completed the signing of Uruguay forward Luis Suarez from Dutch club Ajax for £22.6 million ($36 million).

Aston Villa, with only goal difference separating them from the relegation zone, raised eyebrows when they signed Darren Bent from league rivals Sunderland for £24 million earlier this month.

Bent promptly scored a match-winner on his debut and, if Villa avoid the drop, his arrival at the Midlands club will look like money well spent.

There is no doubt money can propel an otherwise struggling side towards the top of the table -- Manchester City have been transformed since being taken over by Sheikh Mansour, although not all their signings have been successful.

The Abu Dhabi-based Mansour brought Robinho to City for a then British record of £34.2 million only for the Brazil forward to fail to settle in England and leave for Italy's AC Milan at a loss of £20 million.

However, McLean warned that English football, even with its wealthy backers and lucrative TV deals, could only remain isolated from economic reality for so long.

"Football is a microcosm of the UK economy and just as the UK economy has reached a point when there is a period of correction going on, one has to imagine there will be a period of correction one day in football," he said.