Torres & Carroll lead frenzy
If January's transfer deadline day was football acting in a deep recession, the mind boggles at what will unfold should the good times roll once more.
Two British record transfer fees within minutes in a blur of aircraft and fast cars travelling between Tyneside, Merseyside and London as Liverpool and Chelsea sent the markets into a frenzy.
And the catalyst for it all was the conversation Fernando Torres conducted with Liverpool late last week which culminated in a written transfer request only three days before the transfer window closed.
Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres cost a combined £85m on transfer deadline day
Once Liverpool accepted the inevitability of Torres' departure, a chain of events was set in motion that ended with his £50m arrival at Stamford Bridge and - arguably even more remarkably - the £35m arrival of Newcastle United's Andy Carroll at Anfield.
When Liverpool rejected Chelsea's initial £35m offer for Torres on Thursday, I suggested subsequent events would reveal much about the hunger of Roman Abramovich and his Anfield counterparts, the Fenway Sports Group.
The developments throughout Monday delivered the answer spectacularly - although the sceptics might also suggest insanely. Indeed Chelsea's £70m outlay on Torres and Benfica defender David Luiz, two players of huge pedigree admittedly, came on the day the club announced losses of £70.9m for the financial year ending June 2010.
For all the parsimony preached by Chelsea this was a return to old habits, bustling rivals out of the way in the desire to claim their prize assets. For Liverpool's owners, it was at odds with the claims that their transfer policy would be fashioned around Sabermetrics, a statistical analysis to make acquisitions used in baseball.
And yet, amid what many would regard as financial madness in the current austere climate within and without British football, these £134m deals bring genuine excitement and intrigue complete with sub-plots.
So what are we to make of the deals for Torres and Carroll? Value for money or wild gambles at odds with the stated recent transfer policies of both Chelsea and Liverpool?
For Chelsea owner Abramovich, the last 24 hours have been a dramatic reinstatement of the lavish funding of old and a confirmation that claims he had lost interest in Stamford Bridge were wildly inaccurate.
Torres has the capacity to be a spectacular purchase for coach Carlo Ancelotti if he can weave him successfully into an attacking set-up that currently includes Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.
Just 18 months ago, Torres was coveted throughout the world as a magnificent piece of football work. He had the pace, power and finishing ability to grace any side and the idea of capturing him for £50m, post-Cristiano Ronaldo's £80m move to Real Madrid, might have been regarded as fanciful.
The gamble for Chelsea is whether their money buys them that player or the disaffected, injury-prone figure that has hovered over Liverpool like a dark cloud this season, flickering briefly and only rarely brilliantly, ironically when scoring twice against Carlo Ancelotti's side at Anfield.
Torres' demeanour of discontent has been obvious almost from the start of the season. One of the more memorable images of his final days at Liverpool will be his reaction to a verbal blast from Jamie Carragher after a lame contribution early in the Merseyside derby at Everton - a finger to the lips "shush" gesture that was almost arrogantly dismissive of his colleague.
And the manner and timing of his departure has wrecked his iconic status among Liverpool fans, who will no doubt get the chance to vent their feelings publicly when they visit Chelsea on Sunday.
He created instability at a key point, with Liverpool starting to stir again under Kenny Dalglish, who could not have been more sympathetic tactically or emotionally to the Spaniard.
Roy Hodgson's thoughts will also be worth more than a penny. Torres' lame contribution during his ill-fated reign can now be framed in what many regard as a sulk with life at Liverpool, his lack of impact contributing to the manager's downfall.
Chelsea will not spare a moment on these concerns. Ancelotti will be confident he can reignite Torres and in signing a genuine world star they have signalled loud and clear they are back in business, to their rivals, supporters and any other players they will pursue in the summer.
For Dalglish, as well as John W. Henry and his FSG cohorts, this was also a defining day and one that fashions a new era at Liverpool.
Dalglish may currently be in charge in a caretaker capacity, but Henry's willingness to allow the Scot to preside over such landmark developments suggests his appointment on a permanent basis, short of a calamity, will be a formality.
Damien Comolli may be Liverpool's transfer strategist, but Dalglish's hand was all over Monday's dealings. A swift glance through Anfield history will also have told Henry he is a man used to undertaking such extensive renovations.
When Ian Rush left Anfield for Juventus in 1987, amid similarly pessimistic forecasts, Dalglish shrewdly rebuilt his side without the brilliant striker to come up with something different - and better.
John Aldridge arrived from Oxford United before Rush left, John Barnes and Peter Beardsley came in the summer and Ray Houghton was the final flourish in the early days of the folllowing season. The result was some of the most thrilling attacking football ever witnessed at Anfield.
No-one in their right mind would suggest there will be a similar outcome now, but the arrival of Luis Suarez (almost overshadowed by later events) and the blockbusting £35m capture of Carroll demonstrates that a big club mentality has returned to Liverpool.
The easy route for FSG would have been caution and to sit on the money until summer, but on Monday they were left in a position no amount of Moneyball theories or Sabermetrics can account for. They had a mountain of cash, a Fernando Torres-sized hole in their team and little time left to address the problem.
The answer was Andy Carroll, a 22-year-old wild card of undoubted talent but questionable temperament with only 41 Premier League appearances and 72 minutes of England action to his name.
For all the hurt demonstrated by Liverpool fans towards Torres, it is worth a reminder that they have only done to Newcastle what Chelsea did to them. An idol has been unceremoniously stripped away.
In the real world, if such a phrase can even come within a million miles of the Premier League after Monday, £35m is an almost ludicrous figure for Carroll given his lack of experience at elite level. When passions cool among the Toon Army, most realists will surely realise this was an offer owner Mike Ashley could not refuse.
The problems will come should he fail to spend at least the same amount on replacing the lost footballing symbol of Tyneside in the summer.
Placing the fee for Carroll in context, it suggests Aston Villa may have landed a bargain by claiming a proven Premier League goalscorer like Darren Bent at £24m, a cost widely derided when sanctioned by owner Randy Lerner and manager Gerard Houllier.
Dalglish has stated he will be careful with FSG's money. He has a sure touch for talent and a gut instinct for what Liverpool and their supporters need and want - so it is certain he believes he has captured a special talent in Carroll.
Some Liverpool players had already earmarked Carroll as the man they should sign if Torres left, an opinion formed after he scored and gave Liverpool a harrowing time in Newcastle's 3-1 win at St. James' Park earlier this season.
Powerful in the air and adept on the ground, although with plenty of room for improvement, it is easy to see how Dalglish feels his partnership with Suarez can flourish. The giant will make his own goal contribution and unsettle defences with obvious physical presence while the Uruguayan poacher can operate on the margins to fill the gaps left by Torres. It will be a different approach but, as stated previously, Dalglish has form for perfecting it.
Time will tell who has got the better end of the deals, starting at what is sure to be a highly-charged meeting between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.