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England managed to delay the seemingly inevitable on Sunday in Adelaide, some stoic batting making sure Australia had to wait to go 2-0 up in the Ashes series.
The latest transfer window slammed shut on Monday night after a typically frantic deadline day, leaving Premier League managers to contemplate the rest of the season in the knowledge that they will not have another chance to strengthen their squads.
Most clubs did not go crazy in January, preferring to go in search of loan agreements and bargain buys that will provide a boost for the second half of the campaign without severely affecting the finances.
There were obvious exceptions though, with Chelsea, Liverpool and even Aston Villa prepared to spend huge amounts of cash in the pursuit of stars who they believe will take them forward to a higher level.
It is a significant gamble to pay out £35million or £50million regardless of a player's reputation and potential, and whether the likes of Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres prove to be good value can only be judged a few years down the line.
Skysports.com here examines ten of the winter's top transfers, including all the major big-money moves as well as some less publicised deals which could turn out to be inspired pieces of business.
Torres' remarkable switch from Liverpool to Chelsea for £50million trumped all the other stories on deadline day but there were doubts over whether the move would go ahead until it was finally announced minutes after the cut-off point. The Reds had initially insisted he was not for sale and rejected a couple of lower bids, but the Blues were not to be denied after identifying the Spaniard as somebody who could help them finally win the UEFA Champions League and remain the dominant force domestically. The transfer fee might be staggering but that is the sort of price tag that a genuinely world-class player wears around their neck. Torres may have looked out of sorts for some time now but is still only 26 and should be reinvigorated by a fresh challenge at a club challenging for major honours, while the prospect of a strike partnership with Didier Drogba will fill opposing defenders with dread.
Chelsea's purchase of David Luiz would appear more difficult to justify. Although he may have cost around £30million less than Torres at a fee of roughly £21million, a defender is unlikely to have the same sort of impact as a match-winning centre-forward. The Blues, despite their well-documented problems this season, have conceded fewer goals than anyone else in the Premier League and Luiz faces a battle to establish himself in the starting XI, especially when Brazilian compatriot Alex returns to fitness. Luiz is nevertheless a fine player, having excelled at Benfica over the past four seasons, and at the age of 23 is likely to be a key component of the squad at Stamford Bridge for many years.
Another deal that has divided opinion, with many Liverpool supporters feeling the club should not have paid £35million to prise Carroll away from Newcastle. The Magpies' determination to hold on to a man who has become a talismanic figure in a very short space of time was understandable but they eventually decided to let him go and Carroll must now deal with the pressure of being the most expensive British player in history, quite a title for somebody with just one England cap. The 22-year-old's aerial prowess and battering-ram approach does not seem to suit Liverpool's style either, but he has already shown that he can prosper in the Premier League and will be relishing the opportunity to play up front with fellow new recruit Luis Suarez.
A cheaper acquisition than Carroll at around £23million, Suarez's arrival has been greeted with wider approval by Liverpool fans. The Uruguayan has no Premier League experience and may take a few months to settle, with the gulf between the English game and the Dutch Eredivisie wider than even he might expect. However, the 24-year-old's phenomenal goalscoring record for Ajax, where he scored 111 goals in 159 appearances, suggests that he should be successful at Anfield. Suarez also showed his class at the World Cup with a series of devastating displays to help his country reach the semi-finals, although he will forever be remembered for the controversial handball against Ghana.
Manchester City were surprisingly upstaged in the January transfer window, having got their business out of the way early with the signing of Bosnia-Herzegovina international Dzeko from Wolfsburg. The Eastlands club have such financial strength that they can afford to spend a reported £27.5million without too much worry, even if Dzeko does not take the Premier League by storm. The early signs are that the 24-year-old will need time to adjust to his new surroundings and the pace of the game, but he will enjoy the physical side of things and could prove to be a lethal finisher considering the service he is sure to receive from City's creative talents.
Bent grabbed the headlines in the middle of January with a controversial switch from Sunderland to Aston Villa, with the two clubs later becoming embroiled in a war of words over the way they carried out their business. What cannot be disputed is that Villa now have a proven Premier League performer on their hands following his arrival for an initial fee of £18million. The England international has been one of the most consistent frontmen in the game over the past few years and, following a terrific stint with the Black Cats, has already made an impression for his new club. Bent scored on his debut to inspire a 1-0 victory over Manchester City that helped push Gerard Houllier's men clear of the congested relegation area.
Apart from the big-money signings listed above, there were plenty of examples last month of smaller deals and loan moves that could prove to be far greater value. Keane's loan switch from Tottenham to West Ham is one such transfer, with the Irishman joining a ferocious scrap for survival at Upton Park. The Hammers are currently languishing near the foot of the table and needed a number of quality reinforcements to raise hopes of beating the drop. Keane certainly fits the bill as he is a striker capable of unlocking rival defences or scoring those crucial goals himself, while he also has a point to prove following a frustrating few months at White Hart Lane.
Another player with a point to prove is Ireland, who linked up with Newcastle from Aston Villa on deadline day on a loan deal until the end of the season. The midfielder has found regular first-team action hard to come by for some time, having fallen down the pecking order at Manchester City last term before in the summer moving to Villa, where he has once again been reduced to a fringe role. It is therefore easy to forget just how good Ireland can be when he is fit and on song, as he was during the 2008/9 campaign. The 24-year-old can be a very inventive playmaker and will be desperate to get his career back on track at St James' Park.
While Chelsea were spending over £20million on a new centre-back this winter, Bolton pulled off what would appear to be a shrewd defensive move with the signing of Wheater from Middlesbrough for an undisclosed fee thought to be in the region of £1.5million. Owen Coyle is looking to lead the Trotters to a top-half finish in the Premier League and perhaps even challenge for Europe, and a leaky backline has been something of a problem this season. The arrival of Wheater, once tipped to become an England regular, should help if his debut performance in a goalless FA Cup draw against Wigan is anything to go by. Coyle also believes his international ambitions, which have faded following 18 months in the Championship with Boro, can be rekindled at the Reebok Stadium.
Birmingham will be hoping for big things from Martins after recruiting the Nigerian striker on loan from Rubin Kazan. Martins has struggled to settle in Russia over the past six months, having also endured a difficult spell with Wolfsburg last season. But he showed enough flashes of brilliance during his Newcastle days to suggest that Alex McLeish has made a good decision to bring him to St Andrews. Blues have become embroiled in a relegation battle this season and could do with added firepower, having only averaged a goal a game so far.
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