Chelsea buck trend on dull deadline day

Frank Dalleres
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CHELSEA last night bolstered their Premier League title challenge with the £23.3m signing of Colombia winger Juan Cuadrado from Fiorentina, the biggest deal of an anticlimactic close to the winter transfer window.

Cuadrado, 26, signed a four-and-a-half year contract at Stamford Bridge in a move that saw Chelsea winger Mohamed Salah join the Italian club on loan and completed following confirmation of German World Cup-winner Andre Schurrle’s departure to Wolfsburg for £22m.

The Blues’ business was by far the most high-profile of a deadline day that only saw around £45m spent by English top-flight sides, taking the total for the window to approximately £125m. That was the highest deadline-day spend for four years but the January total was down on 12 months ago, despite clubs being richer than ever before both in absolute terms and relative to European rivals.

Cuadrado’s flair and tenacity on the right flank made him a star of Colombia’s stylish run to the quarter-finals of last summer’s World Cup. His performances caught the eye of Barcelona, who flirted with signing him but balked at the asking price.

Southampton, meanwhile, beat the deadline to complete the permanent transfer of full-back Ryan Bertrand for a fee in the region of £10m from Chelsea on a four-and-a-half year contract.

Tottenham signed MK Dons’ England Under-19 midfielder Dele Alli on a five-and-a-half year deal for £5m, although the teenager will be loaned back to the League One side until the end of the season. Spurs also let Aaron Lennon join Everton on loan and released full-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

Crystal Palace were among the busiest of the other clubs, completing the permanent transfer of on-loan forward Wilfried Zaha for around £3.5m and signing South Korea midfielder Lee Chung-Yong from Bolton for £1.5m.

January 2011 remains the most high-spending window, with around £135m of £235m blown on a dramatic final day that saw Liverpool replace £50m Fernando Torres with £35m Andy Carroll. A quiet 2012 had been followed by increases in the following two years to £128m and £145m, and another uplift was expected given a vast boost in spending last summer prompted by booming broadcast rights income, now worth a collective £5m to clubs over three years.

City A.M. reported last month how a little-known Premier League rule that restricts the amount by which clubs may increase their wage bills from one year to the next was likely slowing down trade.

The regulations, which only came into effect last term, prevent teams with salary costs of £56m or more this season from spending in excess of an additional £4m on wages compared to last year, unless they can demonstrate additional revenue uplift from a source other than the league’s central distributions. The rules were drawn up and passed by clubs in 2013 in response to concerns that increases in television cash tended to have a knock-on effect on wage inflation.