Cash in short supply as Euro transfer window opens

The global economic turmoil may be forcing shops to slash prices, but European football clubs won’t expect be expecting similar winter bargains when the January transfer window opens on Thursday.

Even West Ham, with its owner facing bankruptcy due to the collapse of Iceland’s banking sector, says it won’t be selling its best talent on the cheap.

Likewise, even though Manchester City is now bankrolled by wealthy Arab investors, manager Mark Hughes has said he won’t be embarking on an unchecked spending spree—despite being linked with many of the world’s best players from Kaka to Lionel Messi.

City broke the British transfer record to bring in $50-million Brazil striker Robinho on the last day of the September transfer window as Abu Dhabi United were finalising its purchase of the underachieving
club.

“We’re aware of this assumption about the level of finance that we’ll throw at the project in January, but we still have realistic market values,” Hughes said on Wednesday. “There is also an assumption that we will stimulate the market, that the money sloshing around will be from the deals that we have started, but we have to make sure we protect the club as well.”

City’s transfer ambitions are likely to be modest in this transfer window, as many of the world’s best players are committed to teams competing in the Champions League and are unlikely to want to move midseason to a club only two points above the relegation zone.

“We know that there will be a premium that we will probably have to pay because it’s January, and teams don’t want to lose their better players,” Hughes said.

“But it will not be to the extent where we are paying hugely over the market value.”

Buying from the continent will cost more than 12 months ago with the pound losing 30% of its value against the euro.

For instance Portsmouth’s deal to sign Algeria defender Nadir Belhadj from Lens for €4,5-million on Tuesday would have equated to £3,3-million last January, but is a million pounds more now.

Some Pompey players, including Jermain Defoe and Glen Johnson, are being linked with moves to Tottenham to be reunited with manager Harry Redknapp.

“If the price is right and [Portsouth] want to sell [Defoe] and it’s what we consider at our valuation and theirs, then fine,” Redknapp said on Wednesday. “There are other options as well, I have a little list and if we don’t get one we can move to another.”

A Tottenham bid for West Ham striker Craig Bellamy has already been turned down.

Spurs replaced Juande Ramos with Redknapp in October to arrest their decline, but are only out of the drop zone on goal difference.

Ramos has since taken charge at Real Madrid until to the end of the season and has been linked with some of his former White Hart Lane charges to help the defending champions close the 12-point gap on
leader Barcelona.

Upton Park isn’t going to be the bargain basement for talent that some clubs might have expected. Although beleaguered owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson is looking for a buyer for the club, he knows that to retain its value it must maintain its top-flight status.

“We’ve been assured as senior players that there won’t be a fire sale,” West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green said. “But it’s something completely out of our control at the moment.”

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez will likely have to sell players if he wants to add another striker to his league-leading squad, and winger Jermaine Pennant has been linked with Real Madrid.

Luiz Felipe Scolari believes he needs another striker to close the three-point gap on Liverpool, but chief executive Peter Kenyon has repeatedly ruled out any purchases.

Defending champion Manchester United isn’t going to be very active with Zoran Tosic likely to be the only arrival—if contract negotiations can be resolved.

With its title hopes fading, Arsenal’s priority is finding a
midfielder to ensure it clinches one of the four Champions League spots since inspirational midfielder Cesc Fabregas is likely to miss the rest of the season through injury.

The decline of the pound against the euro could open the way for Premier League players to move to the continent.

But most reinforcements for Italy’s top teams are expected not to come from the transfer market but from the return of injured players from Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to AC Milan forward Marco Borriello.

Although Inter Milan is interested in signing Genoa’s Diego Milito, one of Serie A’s top scorers with 12 goals, or, as an alternative, Sevilla strikers Frederic Kanoute or Luis Fabiano.

Juventus is seeking a defender to replace injured players and is focusing on Fiorentina’s Manuel Da Costa, while Liverpool defender Daniel Agger is said to be on Milan’s radar.

In Germany, Bayern Munich has said it has no plans for any further transfer activity after signing Landon Donovan on a loan deal through March 15.

Striker Lucas Podolski, frustrated at spending too much time on the bench, had expressed interest in seeking another club, but Bayern has said it does not plan to release him this winter.

Hertha Berlin’s key striker Marko Pantelic, whose contract runs out in July, will reportedly be looking for a new club in the transfer window. According to media reports, Pantelic is seeking a €4-million contract.

It wouldn’t be January without Henrik Larsson being linked with a loan move—and Marseille manager Erik Gerets is the latest wanting the 37-year-old Swedish striker.

Marseille needs to boost its attack after dropping to fifth in the standings—six points behind leader Lyon, which is not expected to bring any new players in despite injury problems. - Sapa-AP

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