Football: Pep Guardiola to Man City, English spending passes £1 billion

Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola (left) with Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini during a Champions League match in 2014.
Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola (left) with Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini during a Champions League match in 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - English clubs took their spending on players for the season soaring past £1 billion (S$2.05 billion) on Monday (Feb 1), but the biggest signing on transfer deadline day was that of a manager as Manchester City confirmed Pep Guardiola will take over this summer.

A relatively quiet final day for Europe's mid-season transfer window saw the biggest deals done by mid-table Premier League clubs.

Everton shelled out £13.5 million to bring Senegal striker Oumar Niasse from Russian Premier League club Lokomotiv Moscow, while Stoke City shattered their club record by signing French midfielder Giannelli Imbula from Porto for £18.3 million shortly before the window closed.

Deloitte said the £175 million spent by English clubs was the highest for a January transfer window since the 225 million spent in the 2010/11 window.

Manchester City, who spent £100 million in the summer to bring in Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, did not add to their squad in the window but Guardiola is unlikely to be the only big-name arrival at the Abu Dhabi United Group-owned club in July.

City's current manager, Manuel Pellegrini, stunned a pre-match news conference on Monday by saying he would leave the club on June 30.

Shortly afterwards, City announced that Bayern Munich manager Guardiola, one of the world's most respected coaches who won 14 titles in four years at Barcelona, including the Champions League twice, had agreed on a three-year contract.

His arrival will more give weight to the Premier League's claim to being most attractive league in the world.

City's rivals sat up and took notice, with Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp saying Guardiola was on a mission to conquer Europe. "Pep won everything in Spain, nearly everything in Germany, so I think he wants to win everything in England, that is clear."

SPENDING POWER

While Guardiola will have a huge war chest to add to the squad in the summer, he might be surprised by the spending power of the Premier League's smaller clubs.

Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid enjoy a huge financial advantage over their La Liga rivals, while Bayern Munich have a similar advantage in the Bundesliga.

However, in the Premier League, where a new three-year £5.1 billion television deal kicks in next season, the world's top talent is within reach of all 20 clubs, levelling the playing field to a certain extent.

That spending power also ensures an element of unpredictability and sees champions Chelsea flirting with the relegation zone this season and outsiders Leicester City challenging for the league title.

Unfashionable Stoke, who sit ninth in the Premier League, broke their transfer record when signing Swiss forward Xherdan Shaqiri from Inter Milan in August for £12 million but blew past that figure with the capture of Imbula on Monday.

Relegation-threatened Newcastle United spent a reported £25 million on England internationals Andros Townsend from Tottenham Hotspur and Jonjo Shelvey from Swansea City.

Fellow strugglers Sunderland also made a clutch of signings while Watford, Bournemouth and Norwich City have all been busy.

Ominously for fans of bottom club Aston Villa though, not a penny was spent to boost their seemingly hopeless task of avoiding relegation, leading to speculation about the future of manager Remi Garde. "We've seen Premier League clubs again use the January window to invest significantly in playing talent," Mr Dan Jones, partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, said. "Total gross spending this season has reached £1 billion for the first time." The big-spenders were not limited to the Premier League.

Such is the lure of the riches in the top flight that Championship promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough pulled off one of the biggest deadline day deals by signing Scotland striker Jordan Rhodes from Blackburn Rovers for an undisclosed fee reported to be around £9 million.