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Europe’s big clubs keep quiet on deadline day

February 1, 2014

The much-hyped deadline day in Europe’s January transfer window passed with a flurry of late deals but few signings of note on Friday, with the richest teams opting to sit tight ahead of the last few months of the season.

The likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and the two Manchester giants decided not to dip into the market, while there were no headline-grabbing moves to match that of Fernando Torres to Chelsea in 2011 and David Beckham to Paris Saint-Germain last year.

That two of the most high-profile moves on Friday were loan signings — Italy striker Pablo Osvaldo to Serie A leader Juventus and Dimitar Berbatov to French title hopeful Monaco — said much about the largely subdued nature of the final day of the window.

The biggest spender was Inter Milan, which bought Brazil midfielder Hernanes from Lazio in a deal reportedly worth up to 15 million euros ($20.2 million).

Even the English Premier League — usually the place where big acquisitions are made — was quiet, with the standout deal seeing Arsenal take Sweden’s Kim Kallstrom on loan from Spartak Moscow for the rest of the season to ease its midfield problems.

Many European countries are still gripped by the economic recession, while the top targets of the big teams are often cup-tied for the Champions League and managers can be put off by inflated prices.

Even so, an inspired deadline-day signing can sometimes make the difference between winning a title, qualifying for the Champions League or Europa League or surviving relegation, and it was a surprise to see so few big deals take place.

Six points clear in Serie A, Juventus is on course for a third straight Italian league title and the signing of Osvaldo from Southampton will strengthen its push for the championship.

“Everything happened very fast,” Osvaldo said, “and I still can’t believe it.”

The forward scored four times for Southampton after his club-record 15.1 million euros (then $20 million) from Roma in August but was suspended for two weeks on Jan. 23 following a training-ground incident.

Juventus has the option to buy the 28-year-old Osvaldo before May 31, for 19 million euros ($25.6 million).

Elsewhere in Italy, Hernanes left Lazio’s training ground in tears on Thursday amid reports he was on the verge of signing for Inter and the move was completed the following day in a 4½-year deal.

He has scored two goals in 23 appearances for Brazil and helped his country to Confederations Cup success last summer. Inter is fifth in the league, 11 points off the Champions League places.

Berbatov ended his eight-year stint in England, where he played for Tottenham, Manchester United and most recently Fulham, to become the latest big-name signing by Monaco.

“I’m happy, excited, and a little bit nervous to be honest,” the 33-year-old Berbatov said. “I’m looking forward to training with my new teammates and to open a new chapter in my career.”

Monaco is challenging fellow big-spender Paris Saint-Germain for the French title and needed to sign a striker to compensate for Colombia striker Radamel Falcao’s long-term injury. Falcao is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing a ligament in his left knee on Jan. 22.

In England, Chelsea ended the month as the division’s top spenders — nearly 50 million pounds on four players — after signing 19-year-old Saint-Etienne defender Kurt Zouma. He was immediately loaned him back to the French club until this summer.

The late deals were almost exclusively done by clubs battling to avoid relegation from the world’s richest league, with next-to-last Fulham bringing in three players and Crystal Palace signing five.

It took the spending of Premier League clubs this season to more than 700 million pounds ($1.15 billion), a new record.

In Spain, Atletico Madrid brought back Brazilian midfielder Diego on loan from Wolfsburg until the end of the season to strengthen its Spanish league title push, with the team level on points with leader Barcelona.

And the most eye-catching deals in Germany were Borussia Dortmund’s signing of Serbian midfielder Milos Jojic from Partizan Belgrade and Werder Bremen’s purchase of attacking midfielder Ludovic Obraniak from Bordeaux.

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