Football: Few star buys as clubs seek to offload excess stocks in January

Yaya Toure missing a chance in Manchester City's 0-1 loss to Liverpool on New Year's Eve. Despite his form revival after returning to full fitness, he risks being sold in the current transfer window.
Yaya Toure missing a chance in Manchester City's 0-1 loss to Liverpool on New Year's Eve. Despite his form revival after returning to full fitness, he risks being sold in the current transfer window.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LONDON • As the January transfer window opened yesterday, top English Premier League clubs seem more likely to ship out unwanted players rather than sign big names.

Now that the likes of new managers Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte have had a better understanding of their squads after half a season, some players may inevitably be surplus to requirements.

Yaya Toure, Wilfried Bony, Joe Hart, Eliaquim Mangala are among the names at Manchester City, while rivals Manchester United look to offload Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Make a reasonable offer for any of these famous names, in some cases simply put together a salary package capable of convincing them to move to a new football club, and their current employers would wave them a cheery goodbye.

It is a new phenomena of the richest league the sport has ever seen - the difficulty of dispensing with "unwanted stock".

In order to ease Guardiola's initiation into English football, City invested more on transfer fees in the summer window than any Premier League club had ever spent before.

United reset a global record with Paul Pogba's purchase and were headed in the direction of the total spend of Louis van Gaal's ill-judged first shop at Old Trafford.

Both clubs would have spent significantly more - if only they had been able to make room in their squads by offloading the famous names listed earlier.

On many pre-season predictions Guardiola and Mourinho were supposed to be scrapping for the Premier League title by now.

As they begin the new year, both are under no illusion that the window which opened yesterday will furnish either with a squad of players they could be wholly comfortable with.

Guardiola wants to make City a lot younger, and Mourinho knows his squad still requires an infusion of technical quality and mental strength. But they first must dispense with the leftovers from their predecessors' regimes.

At Arsenal, Arsene Wenger's two most impressive players - Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez - are agitating for improved contracts. Arsenal are scouting for replacements in the fear they are forced to cash in on the pair's contracts this summer.

Chelsea are coasting on the points generated by Conte's astute counter-attacking. He knows his squad is shallow and wants high-quality additions, but is prepared to wait until the summer.

Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp does not have as much money to deploy but is looking to strengthen at left-back. That could also mean someone has to go before a new player is signed.

Tottenham are the most financially restricted of the leading six. Chairman Daniel Levy has concentrated revenues on securing staff to new contracts and Mauricio Pochettino's camp has been grumbling about the quality of players he is allowed to recruit.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2017, with the headline 'Few star buys seen as clubs try to ditch excess stock'. Print Edition | Subscribe