Liverpool and Chelsea produced an extraordinary finale to the January window yesterday when both broke the British transfer record to sign Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres respectively in a combined spending spree totalling £134.3m.
Torres became the most expensive signing made by a British club when Chelsea finally met Liverpool's £50m asking price but it was the Anfield club's decision to pay £35m to lure Carroll from Newcastle United that caused the greater surprise on deadline day. Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool's owner, also secured the £22.8m signature of Luis Suárez from Ajax but failed with a £10m bid for Blackpool's Charlie Adam, while Roman Abramovich's outlay reached £76.5m when Chelsea sealed a deal worth £26.5m to purchase David Luiz from Benfica.
Liverpool moved for Carroll after Torres insisted on joining the champions during talks with Kenny Dalglish on Sunday. An initial £25m offer was rejected by Newcastle but Liverpool were informed an additional £10m would be sufficient to sign a 22-year-old who has made only 41 appearances in the Premier League and won one England cap. FSG then sanctioned Liverpool's record transfer and Carroll flew to Merseyside in a private jet to undergo a medical and finalise terms. He submitted a transfer request once it became clear that Newcastle, who failed in a late attempt to re-sign Charles N'Zogbia for £10m from Wigan, were willing to sell.
Carroll will form a new-look Liverpool attack with Suárez, who received his work permit last night. Both players, as well as Torres and David Luiz, signed five-and-a-half-year contracts with their new clubs. FSG attempted to take their spending towards £68m by signing Adam but Blackpool rejected offers of £8.5m and £10m for the Scotland international. Blackpool demanded £14m to sell their hugely influential captain, with Adam said to be devastated at Liverpool's reluctance to go that high.
Liverpool's extravagance may appear to contradict Damien Comolli's brief as director of football strategy to find emerging talent at sensible prices but, having sold Torres and Ryan Babel for a total of £56m, their net spend in the window was only £1.8m. There will also be a reduction in the wage bill without the Spain international.
Torres departed with Dalglish, Liverpool's caretaker manager, insisting the club were on the rise and could withstand any major loss, just as they did when he replaced Kevin Keegan as a player in 1977 and when he reinvested Ian Rush's transfer fee from Juventus in 1987. Dalglish said: "I started off at Celtic and moved on, but if Kevin Keegan had not gone, maybe I would not be here. It's no different now – people move on. The most important thing is the club. That is much more important and bigger than any one individual, no matter who has been through it previously and who will in the future – the club is the club. I will never forget that and anyone who does is being a wee bit stupid and irresponsible."
Ironically, Torres had grown disillusioned at Anfield due to a lack of investment and its impact on the club's ability to compete for honours and qualify for the Champions League. The 26-year-old, Chelsea's new No9, signed too late to feature at Sunderland tonight but could make his debut against his former club at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Suárez, meanwhile, has been allocated Dalglish's former No7 jersey at Liverpool and Carroll will wear the No9 vacated by Torres.
Chelsea's lavish outlay came on the day the club announced losses of £70.9m for the financial year ending June 2010, with Abramovich's sudden willingness to return to the mind-boggling spending of the early years of his ownership a reflection of the need to strengthen the champions' relatively thin squad. It means the oligarch effectively spent as much yesterday as he has on transfer fees since José Mourinho's departure from Stamford Bridge in the autumn of 2007.
The payments for Torres will be spread over the five years of his £175,000-a-week contract. The striker will compete with Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka for a starting place at Chelsea, though his arrival may herald a change in style and tactical approach from Carlo Ancelotti and a switch from the manager's tried and trusted 4-3-3. The Spaniard is eligible to play in the Champions League, which was an attraction given Abramovich's obsession with claiming that trophy for the first time.
The deal for David Luiz followed tortuous negotiations between Chelsea and Benfica, with the Premier League club emerging with a relatively favourable deal after the Portuguese's attempts at brinkmanship late last week. Twice the Benfica president, Luís Filipe Vieira, had threatened to pull the plug over the amount to be paid up front, though the final arrangement has not altered dramatically from that first offered by the London club.
David Luiz will cost around £18m up front, with a further £3.5m to be paid in 2013 and the young Serb midfielder Nemanja Matic, valued at around £5m, moving in the opposite direction at the end of this season. He will stay until then on loan at Vitesse Arnhem in Holland, where he has been since the campaign started.
David Luiz, a 23-year-old Brazilian, flew to London last night to take his medical and will ease the club's concerns at centre-half, where Alex and John Terry have suffered bouts of injury over the course of this season.ends