With three points in Harry Redknapp’s pocket, his phone was on alert as the QPR manager left Loftus Road ready to throw himself into the final knockings of this transfer window. More experienced dealers in deadline-day matters are hard to find, and Gus Poyet might have appreciated a word or two of advice on how to win this particular poker game. Juggling the demands of players, agents and owners under a ticking clock is a recipe for high tension.
Poyet, who is in his first summer window as a Premier League manager, admitted that balancing his duties as a coach with all this negotiating was a daunting task. “It’s difficult because you don’t stop,” he said.
“It’s now the international break and normally the managers can relax a little bit. But we need to be up north for two days, staying there, being at the training ground, waiting.
“When the phone rings you don’t want any offers for your players but at the same time you want to get a few in. It’s like a game – a very important game for a manager because how you’re going to do in the next four months until January depends on the players you’ve got.”
Both managers feel compelled to make adjustments to their squads. Vulnerable areas were obvious as QPR and Sunderland scrambled for something from a tight game short of clear openings. Charlie Austin tilted the balance in the home team’s favour, and Poyet was right to suggest it was a contest that revolved around the search for a clinical edge. QPR found it on one occasion and Sunderland did not.
It is clear both teams would benefit from more firepower. Redknapp’s need intensified when he got the pre-match call that Loïc Rémy was off, and the QPR manager is interested in a reunion with Jermain Defoe, who could be allowed to leave Toronto for £6.6m. Poyet still hopes that something can be resolved with Fabio Borini, among other things.
“I’m keeping it open because he’s a Liverpool player but maybe he can become a Sunderland player. The problem is every time we talk about names and there are rumours, other teams get involved and it doesn’t help,” said Poyet, possibly hinting at the interest in Borini from QPR and Milan. “We’re trying to do things as quiet as possible and get it over the line. We’re going to do something, we have to, because of the numbers. I don’t want any panic buys.”
The Sunderland manager is close to completing a loan for the Internazionale midfielder Ricardo Álvarez with an option to make the move permanent for £9m next summer. Poyet also holds an interest in Manchester City’s Micah Richards, although his wages may prove an issue, and he has not given up hope of signing Celtic’s Virgil van Dijk, although Ronny Deila, their manager, claims the centre-back is going nowhere. Poyet is desperate for defensive cover and could also move for Liverpool’s Sebastián Coates.
Redknapp was pleased to see an old face, Lassana Diarra, who will bring more experience to QPR in midfield. The Frenchman is the club’s seventh signing since their return to the Premier League and it is notable how Redknapp has sought to bring in players with abundant know-how.
“It’s a simple game when you’ve got good players and good-quality people around you,” he said. “They run the dressing room. They run the club really. Lassana is a top player. He’s played in six losing Champions League semi-finals. That’s a bit heartbreaking, isn’t it?
“But he has got to be a decent player to play in all those semi-finals. The deal is fantastic. He was earning a fortune in Russia but he wanted to come back here and play for us. He enjoyed his time with me at Portsmouth and I enjoyed my time with him. That’s why he has come here.”
QPR still look to be a work in progress, with so many changes of personnel. As well as recruiting Redknapp is equally focused on pruning unwanted players from the squad, with Danny Simpson already gone – to Leicester for £2m. It will take a while to find a balanced squad which has the rhythm he wants.
The next few hours could make a significant difference to the next few months, and both Redknapp and Poyet know it.
Man of the match Charlie Austin (QPR)