The Return Of Deadline Day: Boehly's Trolley Dash, United's Late Deal And #EduOut

Tuesday's deadline day revived the yellow-tied madness of old
14:12, 01 Feb 2023

It had all started to get a bit sad. The excitement of deadline day was a collective, yellow-tied delusion we all bought into. Constantly telling ourselves the final hours of the window were a footballing wonderland where anything could happen. But thinking back to examples where anything had happened was becoming increasingly like cultural archeology. I tried my hand at this regressive exercise myself in the summer. The fact this piece on the institution’s best moments featured nothing post-2015 says it all. Deadline day had become an exercise in nostalgia. A comforting collection of memories to keep us warm while uninteresting players joined uninspiring clubs for undisclosed fees.

Enter Todd Boehly. While the Chelsea co-owner is not solely responsible for the revival of deadline day, his “over-sugared child playing FIFA” recruitment strategy certainly helped. Topping off a month in which the west London club signed nine players, Benfica’s World Cup superstar Enzo Fernandez arrived for a British record £107 million fee.


The British transfer record being broken evoked one of the most iconic deadline days in history. Fernando Torres’ £50 million move from Liverpool to Chelsea kicked off a merry-go-round that also saw Andy Carroll sign for the Merseysiders from Newcastle United. In just his second window in English football, Boehly had reactivated one of the great traditions: the last-ditch mega-deal.

The fact the Fernandez transfer was the icing on the cake, rather than the entire confection, offers an insight into how unhinged Chelsea’s window has been. Mykhailo Mudryk, Benoit Badiashile, David Datro Fofana, Andrey Santos, Joao Felix, Noni Madueke and Malo Gusto have all signed for the two-time Champions League winners. This trolley dash was not even a response to summer window profligacy. Ten players joined pre-season, including Raheem Sterling, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marc Cucurella. Nine months after buying the club alongside Clearlake Capital, Boehly has essentially bought an entire matchday squad.

The Stamford Bridge arrivals lounge was not the only aspect that made this a deadline day for the ages. Manchester United’s dramatic late entry into the market created excitement. The Red Devils were expected to keep their powder dry. A big summer of spending, coupled with Wout Weghorst and Jack Butland’s loan captures meant Erik ten Hag’s side would probably stay out of the maelstrom. But then Christian Eriksen’s injury happened.

The Denmark midfielder’s ankle injury is expected to keep him out until late April at the earliest. While Ten Hag initially indicated his side would muddle through with the options they had, news of Scott McTominay also being sidelined forced them to act. Uncharacteristically for the Red Devils, they did so swiftly to secure Bayern Munich midfielder Marcel Sabitzer on loan until the end of the season.


The key to a good deadline day is the big boys getting involved, and alongside Chelsea and Manchester United we also had the league leaders joining the party. Arsenal’s £12 million capture of Chelsea midfielder Jorginho served two purposes. Firstly, it injected a title-chasing team with trophy-winning pedigree and valuable experience. Secondly, it allowed Arsenal supporters to perform another great deadline day tradition: the fan meltdown. #EduOut trended on Twitter as long-suffering Gunners called for the head of their sporting director. Edu’s crime was clear for all to see. Arsenal needed a midfielder and when Brighton & Hove Albion wouldn’t budge over Moises Caicedo, fans were not happy with the alternative. Jorginho only came third in the 2021 Ballon d’Or after all. Shocking.

We’ve had the box office signing, the dramatic late bid and the supporter tears. But there’s more. This truly quintessential deadline day also featured another favourite trope; a high profile deal collapsing. Once again, Chelsea were at the heart of it as they looked to offload Hakim Ziyech. The attacker had been linked to numerous clubs in the window, but a loan move to Paris Saint-Germain came closest. 

It was a transfer that suited all parties. PSG could do with a player of his expertise while Ziyech is stagnating at Stamford Bridge and had been linked with far weaker clubs than the Ligue 1. Also, with Chelsea having to find a way to pay three quarters of the footballers in Europe, getting Ziyech off the wage bill seemed like a good idea.

But the night ended in acrimony on both sides, with PSG alleging Chelsea sent the same incorrect document three times. This mistake ultimately scuppered the deal according to the French side. While it’s not quite the fabled broken fax machine that kept David De Gea in Manchester many moons ago, it’s not far off. 

There isn’t room here to list every deal. The rest of Tuesday’s activity ranged from surprising (Tottenham Hotspur actually signing a player, namely Pedro Porro) to predictable (Nottingham Forest signing loads of players who used to be good, like Jonjo Shelvey and Keylor Navas). Recent deadline days have been so dry that Sky would have been forced to do three hours on Harry Souttar to Leicester City. But the 2023 vintage was a return to the chaotic window-closers of old. The only thing missing was a fan wielding a dildo.

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