Premier League feels first winds of change
Kaka to Spurs, Adam Johnson to Stoke, Sol Campbell to Southend... there are long stretches of transfer deadline day when the only sane conclusion to make is that it is football's equivalent of Red Nose Day.
After all, what is the "Jim White brings it home" show apart from an extended news readers' skit? Not that I'm knocking it, it's nonsense but it's glorious nonsense. The Johnson "story" had a lifespan shorter than a mayfly's and I am sure I saw its source sniggering behind the reporter with an unusually shaped roll-up.
But amid all the seasonal silliness there was some serious business done this summer and while English football remains curiously "recession-resilient" there is evidence to suggest our leading clubs no longer take that for granted.
On the one hand, you have total summer spending by the Premier League's 20 clubs up 33% on last summer to £485m, only £15m less than the record set in 2008. And the £710m splashed out this calendar year - January's £225m blow-out really was unprecedented - is a new high.
But on the other, the net spend this summer (buys minus sales) was £180m, 10% down on 2010 and 25% less than 2007. In fact, net spend has fallen every year since then apart from 2009 when Real Madrid's shopping spree skewed the market.
There were other encouraging signs that a more sustainable recruitment policy is taking root, one that might actually help the national game and team.
Over a third of the total went on English players (£165m as opposed to 2010's paltry £50m) and 58% of all transfer fees went to English clubs, a huge increase on last year's 28%. Football League clubs, for example, enjoyed a net inflow of £60m against last year's £25m.
Another trend to emerge was the premium placed on youth, particularly English youth. The faith shown in talents like Phil Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Connor Wickham added up to a grand sum of £130m spent on players younger than 21, six times the amount invested in 2009 and double last year's figure.
The reasons for this are so obvious you wonder why it took so long to get there with the home-grown players rule (eight in every 25-man squad and an unlimited number of U21s): young players have more resale value and command lower wages. The right ones tend to be a bit hungrier too.
So I think we can give the home-grown idea a slap on the back but what of that other outrageous restraint of trade/football's last chance to save itself (delete to taste), Uefa's Financial Fair Play initiative?
For a scheme intended to force clubs to live within their means, the 2011 transfer windows would appear to be a giant raspberry towards Michel Platini and his technocrats - a net spend of £180m is still an awful lot more going out than coming in. But even here I detect something is changing.
First, the smart clubs did their spending early to get it on last year's set of accounts - Liverpool and the two Manchester giants were the cutest about this and I was interested to read Damien Comolli's remarks about the "support" he was given by Liverpool's owners to buy first, sell second.
This means that when Uefa comes calling, these clubs won't be able to hide their expenditure but can demonstrate a "positive trend" towards the 2013/14 season, when FFP comes into full effect.
Second, there has been a significant move on clubs' payrolls, particularly in the bloated, out-of-favour, middle tier.
I said a few times yesterday that I thought Liverpool had enjoyed the best summer window mainly because of who they got off their books. But they were given a late run for their money in the clear-out stakes by Harry Redknapp and Arsene Wenger, and Manchester United very calmly went about the same process during the golf and tennis season.
There were also some pretty remarkable examples of individuals agreeing wage cuts to facilitate moves: Mikel Arteta to Arsenal, Craig Bellamy to Liverpool and Cesc Fabregas to Barca. Wages, not transfer fees, are football's real weakness and if FFP is to mean anything, more pressure must be applied here or football's long balancing act will end up in a pile on the floor.
There is another big challenge for Uefa and its well-meaning intention to save football from itself: its own part in the madness.
Five English clubs - the usual suspects - shelled out more than £50m each, accounting for two thirds of the total PL spend. They did that because the only chance they have of meeting the FFP targets is to qualify for the Champions League.
But five into four won't go and that is ignoring the claims of last year's quarter-finalists Spurs. It is a classic arms race and they do not tend to end well.
You also then have the fairly naked challenge to the principle of "fairness" that is the example set by Anzhi Makhachkala, Malaga and Paris St Germain, three seemingly different teams united in their stunning petrodollar-inspired spending. The only way any of these can possibly pass an FFP test is to smash their domestic league rivals out of the transfer-market water.
And what of the unsustainable situation in Spain where two teams gobble 70% of the TV revenues while the rest of the league slides towards bankruptcy? It is Scottish football with better weather, better players and tax breaks.
So there is plenty to talk about when the top clubs assemble in Geneva next week for the annual meeting of the European Club Association, the successor group to the G14 lobby, which is probably a good place to sign off.
Deadline day is done and dusted for another four months, plenty of time for us to forget just how irrelevant 90% of yesterday's business was and allow ourselves to become seduced by the idea that clubs shuffling squad players is an actual story.