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Logic often gets lost in winter transfer window

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Phil Minshull | 14:06 UK time, Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The European winter transfer window was flung open with a flourish last Saturday with Roma putting on display their newly acquired Italian international striker Luca Toni.

Everybody seemed happy with the 18-month loan deal from Bayern Munich, not least the free-spirited Toni, whose chances of being part of Marcello Lippi's squad going to South Africa next summer will doubtless improve thanks to the likelihood of playing regularly and being back on Italian soil.

Toni has also rid himself of the burden of having to continually explain himself to the authoritarian Bayern coach Louis van Gaal.

Luca Toni arrives at RomaLuca Toni arrives at Roma

"Ever since my problems at Bayern started, I just wanted this," said Toni, who had joined the German giants in the summer of 2007.

He was too diplomatic to say his problem was specifically the arrival of van Gaal last summer. However, the interest of a Serie A club that currently lies fourth and has serious Champions League ambitions made it an easy decision to quickly leave Bayern behind, especially following the comments of club president Uli Hoeness two weeks ago that he was free to go.

The feelings are likely to be mutual from the other side as van Gaal has spent the last three months criticising the attitude of the allegedly disruptive Toni.

So, is this just the start of a flood of disgruntled big-name players swapping clubs in the middle of the European season or just an isolated example?

In the current European economic climate, common sense would probably dictate the latter.

However, the head doesn't always get to rule the heart, as the bank accounts of most Spanish and Italian clubs could testify if independent auditors could get to see the true picture.

Last season, despite the financial crisis in Spain having started in earnest, La Liga clubs laid out €62m on 25 players, a figure that was respectably close to the record €72m in the middle of the 1997-98 season - thanks partly to a sudden influx of TV money that year - and a long way away from the miserly €3m that was spent in the 2002-03.

Real Madrid's outlay of €27m on Klaas-Jan Huntelaar from Ajax - which that proved to be a rather poor piece of long-term planning - and €20m on Portsmouth's Lass Diarra certainly distorts the true perspective of last season's winter transfer window in Spain, but the theme remains the same: this time of year has often brought a rush of blood to the head.

So far, some of Spain's biggest clubs appear set to resist lurching with wanton abandon into the marketplace.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has said that they are not looking to make any new signings and will fill any holes from an impressive generation just starting to emerge from the youth team.

"It's a symptom of a team's weakness (making winter transfer window signings)," commented Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, in an ironic contradiction of the practice of his predecessor Ramon Calderon, whose acquisition of Huntelaar and Diarra, plus the bizarre loan-signing of West Ham's Julien Faubert, preceded his downfall last January

Even Sevilla, who are looking around urgently for a replacement for their highly-rated defender Sergio Sanchez, who has had to stop playing at least temporarily due to a heart problem, have put a brake on any extravagant spending.

"Our budget is such that we are not going to be able to be able to buy a player for four or five million (euros)," said Sevilla president Jose Maria del Nido.

By contrast, it seems to be Italy where a lot of the January fireworks could be exploding prior to the closure of the window.

In Italy, La Befana - the mythical witch who arrives on her broomstick during the night of 5 January and fills the stockings with toys and sweets for the good children - arrived the best part of a day early for Goran Pandev.

pandev_afp595.jpgGoran Pandev played for Inter in Wednesday's win at Chievo

The Macedonian striker sealed a move from Lazio to Serie A leaders and Champions League contenders Inter Milan.

Pandev, who like Toni was definitely a square peg in a round hole at his former club, will be quite happy to say arrivederci to Lazio after his trials and tribulations with the Rome-based club's president Claudio Lotito.

Nevertheless, plenty of Inter fans, judging from a quick look around the internet at various websites, are wondering aloud: "Where is Pandev actually going to fit in at Inter?"

The obvious answer to that question appears to be that Jose Mourinho has bought him as immediate cover while Samuel Eto'o is at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Once the Cameroon player returns, Pandev will then have to settle for a place on the bench as the third-choice striker for the the Nerazzurri.

Logic, whether it is financial or out on the field, doesn't always seem to be a priority during the January transfer window.

Changing the subject rather dramatically, I'm sure many British-based football fans will have already seen the latest issue of FourFourTwo magazine (the one with Cristiano Ronaldo on the front cover).

However, if you haven't seen it, it's worth getting your hands on a copy. There are plenty of good articles in this issue but the one that caught my eye was "11 reasons why the Bundesliga Rules".

As the blurb accompanying the story says: "The German top flight is the place to go if you want exciting, fun and cheap football that you can watch while enjoying a beer." It's a good read, and all this without Luca Toni even being at Bayern any more.

The start of a new year is also a good place to start new things, so let me follow in the footsteps of my colleague Tim Vickery and open myself up for questions about European football.

Comments on this piece in the space below, other questions to, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.


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