The start of the January transfer window signals a month of both terror and opportunity for players, managers, chairmen and supporters alike.
The top sides in the Premier League see the window as an opportunity to splash out millions of pounds on players that will provide that extra bit of quality to push for the title, or achieve a highly-lucrative Champions or Europa League finish. However, smaller clubs are counting down the minutes until the window closes as they aim to keep hold of their most prized assets until the summer. The loss of a star striker at this time in the season could end the hopes of the whole club for another year.
Supporters become hooked to Sky Sports News in the hope that their club will capture a player who will excite them whilst clinging on to their favourite players. Already big money moves are underway, with Daniel Sturridge making the switch to Liverpool and Demba Ba having completed his move to Chelsea. Joe Cole has sealed an emotional return to former club West Ham United, and growing speculation surrounds the future of Manchester City frontman Mario Balotelli, after his up-and-down relationship with manager Roberto Mancini.
Although the media attention focuses on the high-profile signings that are in the offing, clubs further down the football pyramid will be making their moves too. This is a crucial time for teams suffering a poor run of form - they want to strengthen their team in order to improve results on the pitch. Many of these clubs do not have the financial clout to simply buy better players. This is the time of year where managers and their respective chairman earn their money for their negotiating skills, coupled with persuasion and financial acumen. In addition, those teams hoping to sustain a challenge for promotion are also keen to improve their squads. Everyone is seeking the perfect player to boost the team, but competition is fierce.
Players can use this time of year to try and engineer a move away from their present club, or even renegotiate lucrative contracts as their employers fear losing them to a rival. Increasingly, players hold the power in transfer dealings, but it is important to note that managers use the window to ship out players who no longer figure in their plans.
Some managers, such as Sir Alex Ferguson, rarely use the window to buy or move players on. Prices become inflated in January, not least because of the deadlines involved but also because clubs with the huge financial backing, such as Manchester City and Chelsea, are often held to ransom. If they want a player badly enough then they will be forced to pay over the odds to secure their main targets.
There are clearly winners and losers during the transfer window, but the appeal to supporters throughout the month is clearly evident. How many fans on the 31st January will be glued to the television, website or radio to see what last minute deals have gone through? Quite a few, I imagine - I know I will.
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