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January sales is a thing of the past with just £97million spent in transfer window that almost never happened

IT was the transfer window that almost never happened.

Football’s January sales barely got off the ground with Premier League clubs gripped by fear of Financial Fair Play measures.

Fulham's signing of Armando Broja was one of several Prem loan deals last month

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Fulham’s signing of Armando Broja was one of several Prem loan deals last monthCredit: REX
Prem clubs were reluctant to splash the cash last month in fear of FFP violations

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Prem clubs were reluctant to splash the cash last month in fear of FFP violationsCredit: Getty

Profitability and Sustainability Rules have proved a major buzzkill — with Everton’s ten-point deduction and further charges against the Toffees and Nottingham Forest spooking most top-flight clubs into keeping their wallets shut.

After weeks of feverish speculation, the £25million deal for the Romanian centre-half Radu Dragusin from Genoa to Tottenham was comfortably the biggest single deal involving a Premier League club throughout the month of January.

And with Cristian Romero and Micky van de Ven in such commanding form for Spurs, even Dragusin will only be a bench warmer.

The expected flurry of late activity on the February 1 deadline day largely failed to materialise.

After a record January spend of £815million by English top-flight clubs last year, the market has crashed spectacularly — only £50m had been coughed up before deadline day.

While there are other factors at play — an unexpected slump in the Saudi Pro League spending spree included — it is the dreaded PSR which has truly burst the bubble.

The last three windows, including the summers of 2022 and 2023, were all record-breakers in English football.

But now that clubs are aware that Premier League chiefs are serious about enforcing financial regulations with meaningful punishments, the bottom has fallen out of the market.

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Crystal Palace's £22.5m singing of Adam Wharton from Blackburn Rovers was one of the biggest signings of the window

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Crystal Palace’s £22.5m singing of Adam Wharton from Blackburn Rovers was one of the biggest signings of the windowCredit: REX

The current transfer window system has been in force for 21 years. Before then, clubs were free to trade at any time of year until a deadline at the end of March for the rest of that season.

Deadline days have become a major part of the great Premier League soap opera. In Sky Sports News’ heyday, these became something close to unofficial public holidays, Christmas for grown-ups.

Viewers were glued to football’s transfer Santa Jim White, in his trademark yellow tie, wondering what gifts their clubs would bring them — or whether under-siege TV reporters stationed at training grounds would have sex toys thrust in their ears by excitable punters.

But this window has put the brakes on all that and called into question whether PSR — which restricts Premier League clubs to losses of £105m over a three-year period — are too stringent.

Whatever we think about Newcastle’s Saudi paymasters, it does seem bewildering that world football’s richest owners — who have been relatively modest in their buying since a 2021 takeover — have been fending off interest in key players like Kieran Trippier, Callum Wilson and Miguel Almiron, rather than looking to buy.

In keeping with a nationwide trend, Toon boss Eddie Howe has suffered a stressful window, without much happening in terms of first-team players moving in or out of St James’ Park — bar lending Javier Manquillo to Celta Vigo.

Last January was inflated by Chelsea’s drunken-sailor spending routine under their new owners Clearlake, headed by Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali.

The Blues signed eight players in a mid-season trolley dash which included the erstwhile British record-signing of World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez for an initial £106m and the £88m capture of Mykhailo Mudryk, hijacked from Arsenal.

This time, Chelsea — in danger from PSR — have been looking to balance the books, primarily by attempting to off-load striker Armando Broja, who was eventually loaned to West London rivals Fulham.

Kalvin Phillips loan move to West Ham was one of the biggest of the window

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Kalvin Phillips loan move to West Ham was one of the biggest of the windowCredit: REX

There have been a fair few high-profile loan moves, including Kalvin Phillips ending 18 months of torment on the Manchester City bench by joining West Ham.

Jadon Sancho headed to Borussia Dortmund and Eric Dier to Bayern Munich, while Timo Werner made a temporary switch from RB Leipzig to Spurs.

Even with most of these loan deals, the parent clubs are still footing a decent amount of the player’s wages.

But permanent deals have been rare.

Crystal Palace’s £8m signing of Colombian full-back Daniel Munoz from Belgian club Genk would barely have registered in most years.

Yet it has been among January’s most expensive deals.

Transfer windows were introduced as a compromise deal with the EU Commission to bring football closer in line with employment laws in other industries.

Perhaps it is time to scrap the idea of a mid-season sales period entirely, allowing clubs and players greater certainty.

That is unlikely but as long as PSR measures remain so punitive, the thrill of the window has gone.

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