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Football | Europe

Mario Balotelli © Action Images

Crisis, new rules force clubs to sober up



Premier League spending in the January transfer window rose this year but the biggest market agitators were once again the English top-flight's struggling clubs.

The 20 teams in England's highest division spent around £120 million ($190 million, 139 million euros) in transfer fees over the last month, according to business advisory firm Deloitte.

The figure was double the amount spent in January 2012 but well short of the record of £225 million established in 2011, when Fernando Torres joined Chelsea for £50 million and Andy Carroll went to Liverpool for £35 million.

Transfer activity in the mid-season window is often likened to panic buying and this season once again saw teams towards the bottom of the table scrabbling around for players to boost their bids to avoid relegation.

Newcastle United signed six new players, including five Frenchmen, while bottom club Queens Park Rangers broke their transfer record twice to sign French striker Loic Remy from Marseille for £8 million and former Blackburn Rovers centre-back Christopher Samba from Anzhi Makhachkala for £12.5 million.

Along with Liverpool, who spent a reported £12 million on Daniel Sturridge and £8.5 million on Philippe Coutinho, the three clubs' spending amounted for over half of the Premier League total.

The top clubs, in contrast, were relatively prudent.

Manchester United agreed a deal for 20-year-old winger Wilfried Zaha that could ultimately cost £15 million but immediately loaned him back to Crystal Palace until the end of the season.

Notoriously cautious Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger waited until the final hours of the transfer window before splurging £8.3 million on Spanish left-back Nacho Monreal, while champions Manchester City did not sign anyone.

"Premier League clubs have been relatively restrained in their player transfer fee spending, in spite of the upcoming uplift in their broadcasting revenues of between £20m and £30m each from next season," said Dan Jones from Deloitte's Sports Business Group.

The caution shown by Premier League clubs can be partially explained by wariness of Uefa's Financial Fair Play rules, which will oblige the leading clubs to break even or risk exclusion from European competition.

"Clubs are now in a reporting period that will count towards the first assessment of Uefa's financial fair play break-even requirement for international competition and Premier League clubs are also considering the implementation of additional cost control regulation at a domestic level," Jones added.

"Their apparent relative restraint in this transfer window may reflect an increasing focus on clubs achieving more sustainable levels of expenditure relative to revenues."

Despite an absence of mega-money transfers this year, English clubs have now spent over £1 billion on new players since the January transfer window was introduced in 2003 and continue to lead the way for spending in Europe.

Total spending in Italy's Serie A accounted for roughly 70 percent of the Premier League total, with that figure falling to around 45 percent for Germany and 30 percent for France.

The money spent on transfer fees by Spanish clubs was "minimal", according to Deloitte, despite the vast resources available to Barcelona and Real Madrid.

The challenge facing Samba, Sturridge, Zaha and company is to avoid joining the ranks of previous January transfer window movers who spectacularly failed to make an impact at their new clubs.

The careers of Torres and Carroll have both flat-lined since their January moves, while Andrey Arshavin disappeared into anonymity at Arsenal despite a superb start to life at the Emirates Stadium after he arrived in January 2009.

"You are always under pressure to buy in England and every problem has to be sorted out by buying people," said Wenger.

"It is not only in buying players that you sort out problems, especially from people who live in a different country. They come at the end of January and by the time they adapt, the season is over."

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