The transfer window as a whole pretty much sucks. It teases you with literally thousands of tantalizing rumors about so-and-so team going after so-and-so player, drumming up a cacophony of irrelevant takes about value and fit and ideal roles for transfers that do not and were never going to actually happen. It is a months- long period of indulged fantasizing that is so insidiously alluring that it runs the risk of making you forget that what’s actually good about soccer is the kicking of the balls, not endless speculation about who might do the kicking for your team in the future.
However! There’s something about transfer deadline day that makes a full-on bathing in the mindless chaos for a single day a rewarding experience. It’s basically the entire window condensed to a single day, with plot lines of espionage, betrayal, joy, and agony all played out over the course of a few hectic hours. Something about the brevity of deadline day’s madness, the way its rapid-fire nature cuts out all the phony “analysis,” and its deliverance of finality makes the deadline day’s rumor mill much more enjoyable. Or maybe it’s just the dildos.
Last year’s magnificent David de Gea debacle on the final day of the window was always going to be hard to beat. Luckily, yesterday’s action proved just as ridiculous, and maybe even more entertaining with its number of intriguing moves. Let’s look at some of the better ones.
Obviously, Moussa Sissoko sonning Everton and signing with Tottenham at the very last moment was the highlight of the day. We’ve already broken down that whole ordeal for you when it happened, but it’s worth catching up on where things stand today. Everton’s majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri reportedly made some mealy-mouthed statement, claiming that actually it was Everton who ultimately didn’t want Sissoko to join the club:
Apparently that jet they sent to France to pick up Sissoko and bring him to Liverpool was just so that they could tell the player face to face that they had decided against making Sissoko a Toffee. A literally unbelievable display of classiness.
At the same time, you have Everton fans truthering White’s report of Moshiri’s statement, claiming that maybe the Sky Sports reporter made the whole quote up for... some reason even they can’t surmise. As preposterous as Moshiri’s reported quotes about favoring James McCarthy’s playing time—an explanation that is particularly hard to believe given that McCarthy already can’t beat out Idrissa Gueye and Gareth “I’m ancient and can’t move but I’m still starting because the rest of Everton’s central midfielders are so trash” Barry for a starting spot—it’s even less plausible that someone invented them for no good reason. But who knows, and the affair remains hilarious no matter who is ultimately vindicated.
Ever since Zenit paid a shit-ton for the highly coveted Axel Witsel a few years ago, during that short flush period when Zenit were throwing around all kinds of money in hopes of doing something real in the Champions League, Witsel has been a transfer rumor staple. Witsel looked really good during his time in Benfica, apparently plays well in the Russian league, and also generally acquits himself well when suiting up for Belgium in international play. It’s no wonder then that teams regularly sound him out each summer, seeing as how the greatest aspirations of the Zenit project have died over recent years, and now both the club and many of the players have found themselves looking for a way out.
This time, Witsel was supposed to join Juventus and help fill the Paul Pogba-sized hole in their midfield. According to reports, Juve had come to an agreement with both Witsel and Zenit, and were only waiting on Zenit to sign off on the deal. Zenit, though, didn’t want to let Witsel go until they could secure a replacement.
As the deadline neared, the transfer at first looked like it would die because Zenit failed to find a new midfielder. But right before the final whistle, the deal was revived again when Zenit decided to sell anyway. However, that decision came too late and the deadline passed before everyone could finalize things. Witsel spent the whole day in a nearby hotel in Turin waiting to take a medical and officially sign, but instead had to fly back to St. Petersburg.
Witsel is in the last year of his contract and Juve are reportedly so mad at Zenit for lolly-gagging that they’ll supposedly sign him to a pre-contract later this season and get him for free next summer. This probably would have been deadline day’s marquee gaffe if not for the Sissoko hijinks.
This transfer was just kind of confusing. Chelsea had been chasing after an elite center back all window and for whatever reason couldn’t get one for a price they were willing to pay. Out of nowhere, there were reports that they had approached PSG about their old center back David Luiz the day before deadline day, and credible reporters called those reports false. Then, just a few hours later, the deal was sewn up.
Luiz is an interesting case. He’s not as bad as his detractors make him out to be, but he’s also nowhere near as good as his reputation once had him. He’s good enough at most of the things defenders are supposed to be good at, can be really good with the ball at his feet driving forward with his dribbling, but he’s also inconsistent and error-prone and liable to have at least a couple god-awful performances every now and then. After crowing about their ability to offload Luiz onto PSG a couple years ago for a crazy-large fee, it’s kind of funny to see Chelsea right back in the Luiz business, signing him once again for what is now considered another crazy-large fee for a player this flawed.
If Luiz was brought in as cover for John Terry, Gary Cahill, and Kurt Zouma (if/when he returns from injury and stays healthy), then this is probably an expensive but needed and fine move. If he was brought back to be a starter, this Chelsea season might look a little more like the last one than Blues fans would’ve hoped.
Jack Wilshere’s situation is a little bit like David Luiz’s. He too gets pilloried more often than his actual talents deserve—including with jokes about his injuries, which are pretty unfair seeing as he can’t do anything about those (well, except for the ones he courts himself with his penchant for the unnecessary lunge tackle), and they have in all likelihood permanently hobbled what could very well have been a spectacular career—but is also overrated by certain Arsenal fans still enchanted by performances he put a long time ago and has failed to consistently recreate, let alone improve on.
Wilshere’s choice of Bournemouth over the likes of Roma and AC Milan elicited laughs amongst some. But going to Bournemouth allows him to play for a well-respected young coach whose playing style should fit well with Wilshere’s, lets him keep his young family home in England, and should offer him loads and loads of playing time while limiting the risk of overburdening, since Bournemouth don’t have any European obligations. A quite sensible move for a player in his circumstances.
Above everything else, Wilshere needs games to prove first that he can stay healthy, and second that he can be a consistent difference maker. And with so many years finishing fourth-from-top with Arsenal, shooting for fourth-from-bottom with Bournemouth shouldn’t feel all that different.
Mario Balotelli’s newest last chance has been given to him by Nice. Nice have a really good manager in Lucien Favre, and turned around the career of Hatem Ben Arfa last season (albeit not under Favre), and Ligue 1 is pretty bad. Maybe this will be the place where Balo finally puts it all together. It’s not likely, but we’ll be watching and hoping all the same.