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Deadline day fizzer: Why the days of Torres, Carroll & Abramovich are over

COMMENT: Deadline day. Deadline morning. It started early. An early text - unprompted - which really set the tone of the day. A tone we were always anticipating...

"Sarri dont know Doucoure!" was the text, verbatim, from an Italian intermediary. English isn't his first language. It's much closer to his third. But you get the gist.

And it really summed up what this particular window's deadline has become. An early morning flyer. One to run up the flagpole. See what it attracts. But Abdoulaye Doucoure to Chelsea? C'mon. Yes Maurizio Sarri, the Chelsea manager, was hopeful of a midfield addition to follow last week's arrival of Gonzalo Higuain. He had said as much. But he wanted someone similar to Cesc Fabregas. Someone to replace the now AS Monaco midfielder. Nicolo Barella of Cagliari was one. Leandro Paredes, who left Zenit St Petersburg for PSG during the week, was the other. Two players, like Higuain, Sarri knew from his time in Italy. Doucoure is a great talent, but was never the type Sarri was hoping the top brass would bring him.

And that was deadline day all over. A little bit of promise. Some wild speculation. But ultimately a ho-hum experience. Efficient rather than exciting. Methodical rather than magical. Premier League clubs and their approach to the winter market have now matured. The deadline drama - particularly for the clubs with the readies - is over.

Even the window itself is becoming an afterthought. The £180m spent was the first time it had fallen in seven years. And £55m of that was splashed out by Chelsea on Borussia Dortmund winger Christian Pulisic, who won't be seen until next season.

Driven by managers with greater experience across the continent than on 'the island', any big spending is done early and led by familiarity. It's no coincidence that the two biggest deals of the top six involved reunions: Higuain and Sarri at Chelsea and Unai Emery with his former Seville protege Denis Suarez at Arsenal. Even Manuel Pellegrini, of Real Madrid and Manchester City fame, played it safe at West Ham adding his former City title winner Samir Nasri to his squad.

This is the culture now. The common approach. It's why winter deadline day across the continent never sets the pulse racing. And this is dating back decades. Even well before the Premier League caved into FIFA and scrapped their three-quarter season long transfer period.

The zenith was eight years ago. Fernando Torres, Roman Abramovich and Andy Carroll. Now that was exciting. That made history. And the industry has been trying to recapture that moment ever since. (Just as an aside, the one thing that is missed over that afternoon and evening was another player arrived in the morning at Liverpool. His name? Luis Suarez)

In their wisdom. And for the first time. NBC in the 'States devoted six hours of coverage to yesterday's manufactured drama. Six hours! Six hours of covering AFC Fylde and Stevenage loans. Which is really what January 31 has now become. A final day. Organised. Scheduled. One to send your U23 player - fresh from a midweek game - off to his first loan club. Settle the deal a week out; get permission from the interested club for one last runout with the reserves; then send the lad on his way.

That's not to say the day was a busted flush for all. Well, at least not the evening. Especially if you're a Crystal Palace fan.

At his best Michy Batshuayi could prove a real coup for Roy Hodgson, the Palace manager. Desperate for goals, he'll hope the loanee (yes another loan deal) from Chelsea can hit the ground running.

But in the cold light of morning, Batshuayi's transfer epitomised this January market. A player unwanted at Valencia. Also at Chelsea. The reality being the Blues couldn't give him away. Palace managing to convince Chelsea to slash their fee for a six-month loan in the final hour of the window.

But if you're a Palace fan none of this should matter. And given Hodgson's record with Wilfried Zaha, he could be the manager to finally make it all click for the Belgian.

As an event, deadline day in January has seen it's best days. The winter market is needed. There's no reason to scrap that.

But the hype around January 31 has long past faded. Boards are more mature. Managers more realistic. And agents recognise the reality. They're now busier rubbishing speculative flyers than trying to force something last minute for a client.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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