Transfer deadline day: money talks on football’s record breaking day

Radio 5 Live's senior football reporter Ian Dennis reveals the behind-the-scenes bartering that will seal the deals before 11pm

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There isn’t a day quite like transfer deadline day. It has become one of the most eagerly anticipated in the footballing calendar.  At times it has something of the Supermarket Sweep about it, with a mad dash to get everything finalised before the 11pm deadline. Considering the transfer window has been wide open since 1 July, it’s amazing how many deals are concluded so late.

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On deadline day last year an estimated £140 million worth of business was done in the Premier League alone – Arsenal’s Ozil and Manchester United’s Fellani being the two out of 28 that really caught the eye. This summer has already been a record transfer window in terms of money spent, and the deals concluded on 1 September this year could propel spending in England’s top flight through the £1 billion pound barrier for the first time ever. At times, the amounts involved can be obscene.

But who pulls the strings? The players obviously occupy centre stage: some are willing for a move to happen; others are begrudging pawns, involved in the process after a club has decided their future lies elsewhere. Then there are the agents, the club chairmen, chief executives, managers and their scouts. 

“Every deal is different, with a different keyholder,” one respected agent told me. “A club might wish to move a player on, but if he doesn’t want to go he has the power. An agent might try to facilitate a move on behalf of his client, but there might not be any interest from the buying club”. 

Manager Gordon Strachan says he “never got a bargain” on transfer deadline day

There is also the media, who have hyped up deadline day in recent years. My day will start with a scattergun approach in the morning, putting in calls to all my contacts before the madness begins, hoping for a snippet. The calm before the storm. 

It worked last January, as I called the chief executive of a Premier League club who happened to have the manager in his office. “Why don’t you get the information from the horses mouth?,” he said, passing me over. Within two minutes I was briefed as to what to expect. 

Sometimes the call lasts a matter of seconds, I remember once being told in hushed tones, “I can’t talk now but XXXX is going to XXXXX.”

There is often a domino effect on deadline day, when one deal goes through it triggers another. Somebody who I trust implicitly gave me my biggest “exclusive”, breaking the Andy Carroll transfer from Newcastle United to Liverpool for £35 million in 2011. Once I knew that was happening, it was safe to deduce that Liverpool had agreed to sell Fernando Torres to Chelsea for £50 million.

The basic economics of supply and demand determine how much is paid for whom. One thing is certain: the players who capture the headlines this final day will be the subject of intense scrutiny in the coming months. However, both Wayne Rooney to Manchester United (2004) and Chelsea’s capture of Ashley Cole (2006) were deadline day signings, so there is always room for an excellent deal. 

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Deal or no deal, one thing I can guarantee is a huge sigh of relief from all sides when the clock strikes that 11pm deadline on Monday – a clock that will resume ticking in January when transfer dealing can begin all over again…