As the Premier League considers moving its August transfer deadline day to the eve of the season, we could be about to witness the last overdramatic 24 hours of transfers as we know it.
We’ve encountered plenty of deadline day drama over the years, from West Ham’s shock swoop for Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano to Arsenal clinching a last-minute club-record deal for Mesut Özil.
But there have also been far more dismal deadline days. In the summer of 2015, Anthony Martial’s move to Manchester United was the only deal worth more than £12 million, while January 2012 was highlighted by Nikica Jelavić joining Everton.
That hasn’t stopped the usual fanfare, however, with Sky Sports monopolising the colour yellow and promising high drama from start to finish. And there’s one reason why: the summer of 2008.
The 2007/08 season was arguably the pinnacle for English football in the Sky era. Three Premier League teams had made the semi-finals of the Champions League, with Chelsea ultimately falling to Manchester United in the final in Moscow, and Tottenham, Everton and Bolton had all come close to the UEFA Cup quarter-finals.
In January, Premier League clubs had splashed out a record £100 million between them, with highlights including Nicolas Anelka’s £15 million move to Chelsea and Middlesbrough smashing their transfer record for £12 million Brazilian Afonso Alves.
As it turned out, that was just the beginning.
We had seen a fair bit of movement earlier in the summer. Tottenham threw £15 million at Blackburn to secure the services of David Bentley and Liverpool forked out £19 million to bring Robbie Keane to his ‘boyhood club’, while Chelsea’s new signing Bosingwa also cost a fair whack.
What we didn’t count on, however, was Manchester City being taken over at the exact time to ensure maximum drama.
At the start of the day, the idea of ‘Manchester’ being followed by anything other than ‘United’ in a big-money deal would have been laughed off. By midnight, it was more a question of who City hadn’t come in for.
Those of us who were following the goings-on while at work will have been greeted with the following message from the BBC’s liveblog just after 10am:
“Not strictly related to the transfer of players, but there are strong reports suggesting that there has been a takeover at Man City, with the Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment splashing the cash.”
City had already made a few signings – the biggest of them being Brazil striker Jô for £18 million – so chances were they wouldn’t be doing a great deal even if the supposed takeover went through in time.
How naïve we were. Within a matter of hours we were no closer to knowing whether the takeover was done, but we did know the club’s prospective owners were bidding for anyone and everyone.
Spurs striker Dimitar Berbatov? Sure, why not. David Villa from Valencia? Can’t hurt. Germany and Stuttgart star Mario Gomez? Can you ever really have too many strikers?
The targets, and the £30 million plus transfer fees, seem almost par for the course now. But then?
We were dealing with a City side who had finished the previous season in ninth, 21 points adrift of Champions League football, having ended the campaign with three straight defeats including an 8-1 drubbing at Middlesbrough. Middlesbrough!
They couldn’t, could they?
WTH is up with Man City? They get taken over and make bids for Berbatov, Villa, Gomez and Robinho?! My money's on them not signing anyone...— Jonno Cohen (@jonnocohen) September 1, 2008
Well, yes and no. None of those players arrived, but Robinho did. The Robinho.
Sure, he might be a bit of a joke now, but back in 2008 – which was nine years ago, suddenly making us feel really old – he was basically Neymar.
A 24-year-old ex-Santos forward and Brazil star playing for one of the best teams in Europe. Joining a mid-table Premier League team.
After scoring 15 goals in a Real Madrid squad that boasted Raúl, Gonzalo Higuaín and Ruud van Nistelrooy, the rumour of Robinho joining Chelsea was stunning enough. But City? That really felt like a gamechanger.
We may well get a flurry of last-minute deals this season – god knows plenty of teams are in desperate need of reinforcements – but it’s tough to imagine anything like the drama of 2008.
At 11pm, we were both coming to terms with City splashing the cash, and awaiting confirmation of Berbatov’s move to Manchester United for what was then a club record £30.75 million.
We certainly don’t usually expect to see other clubs’ record signings relegated to afterthoughts, but that’s what happened with Everton’s recruitment of a talented young Belgian by the name of Marouane Fellaini, who snuck in through a side entrance while we were all staring at Manchester like Donald Trump in front of an eclipse.
And it was all playing out in front of an increasingly flabbergasted Jim White: the perfect foil for an evening of – and I’ll use a technical term here – not having a fucking clue what the fuck was going on anywhere.
Jim White's made a career out of just happening to be on shift when Man City signed Robinho— James Dutton (@jrgdutton) February 1, 2016
Much like Taylor Swift, Sky Sports have decided to lean in to something on the mistaken assumption that people like them because of it rather than despite it.
We’ve long passed the point of no return when it comes to deadline day drama, deadline day comedy and indeed deadline day graphic violence and scenes of a sexual nature.
Honestly, guys, when even Ben Foster is taking aim at your antics then it might be time to stop.
I swear if I catch my son dancing behind a reporter on sky like these kids are I'm gonna 2 foot him.— Ben Foster (@BenFoster) September 2, 2013
It won’t stop, though.
We know it won’t, because that’s just the nature of rolling news coverage. It exists in part to fill a vacuum, and in part as televisual FOMO.
Now, close to a decade on, only one question remains.
If Jim White is reporting on deadline day rumours and there’s no one there to watch him, does he make a sound?
(Main image: Sky Sports)