Early Doors

Sturring the transfer pot

After a false start on New Year's Day - blame the Bank Holiday and the hangovers for that - the winter window properly opened yesterday with a welcome gust of momentum to get that transfer merry-go-round swinging into action.

The two most prominent teams carefully placing down their candy floss and leaping aboard a horse speared through the guts with a plastic pole and fixed to a garish, nightmarish, rotating platform were Liverpool and Chelsea, getting their January business in early.

With Chelsea moving to secure a £7.5 million deal for Demba Ba, and undeterred by recent experiences of purchasing English talent at a fairly high mark-up price, Liverpool parted with £12 million for Blues forward Daniel Sturridge in a deal that, at present, is hard to gauge.

Just over 12 months ago, when starting most games under Andre Villas-boas, he looked one of the most exciting young talents in the country, albeit one who embodied the spirit of the playground 'hogger' - the kid who would shoot at every given opportunity with one of those yellow sponge balls, probably taking a chunk out of it as he landed it on the roof of the geography building.

But over the last year this quirk has become irksome. His starts plummeted under Roberto Di Matteo and Rafa Benitez hasn't fancied him either, with optimistic shots landing high in the stands becoming an all too familiar tale when he did get on the pitch. Given Luis Suarez's propensity to hold onto possession, Liverpool might be best off lobbying for a multi-ball system for the rest of the season.

After playing immediately to the more deluded sections of the gallery by describing Liverpool as a "humongous" club and saying he wanted to be part of "a revolution" Sturridge was in full suck-up, ‘first day of school’ mode, dressed up in shirt and tie as he watched from the sidelines as Liverpool took Sunderland apart in a 3-0 win at Anfield.

It was a game which suggested he is unlikely to get a regular gig in his favoured centre-forward position, certainly given Suarez’s form this season. A role wide on the left or right looks more likely.

As one talented young England international took his seat at Anfield, a former bearer of such a title was leaving Merseyside for good, Joe Cole finally removing his burdensome salary from the wage bill. The sigh of relief from Liverpool’s accounting office could be heard for miles as his career turned full circle with an imminent return to West Ham. At this point the merry-go-round was spinning so fast it was disrupting the space-time continuum and actually going back in time.

Across the country, other new players were sliding into place after sizing up mock Tudor mansions in the new leafy, Bentley-studded suburbs they will now call home.

Mathieu Debuchy – like some kind of minor star of Geordie Shore - was showing off a shiny ensemble and a mobile phone adorned with a bejewelled skull at St James’ Park as he pondered the possibility of regressing from the French championship to the Championship in the space of three years.

Ba, arguably the most eyecatching off all the day’s transfer manoeuvres, was in attendance at Stamford Bridge, secreted somewhere in an executive box as he had the privilege of watching a cataclysmic 1-0 defeat for the team he is on the brink of joining.

Certainly Ba won’t have seen much from Fernando Torres that will have concerned him regarding what could be an imminent head-to-head battle for the right to spearhead the Chelsea attack at home and abroad.

At £7.5 million – plus whatever Chelsea must pay in agents’ fees – Ba is a very good acquisition. Only Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney have outscored him since his arrival in the Premier League and he represents a far superior alternative to Torres than Sturridge, whose form dipped alarmingly in 2012. He fits the system and has proven pedigree.

In any normal circumstances Ba’s form would dictate he go straight into the starting XI at the expense of Torres – a far more costly January addition at that ridiculous price of £50 million in 2011 – but since when did form come into the equation when dealing with Roman Abramovich and Rafa Benitez’s golden boy?

Furthermore, on a night when Harry Redknapp secured the "best result" of his career to give QPR renewed hope of survival and Chelsea fans renewed reason to loathe Benitez, ED was delighted to see even the high priest of wheeler dealing get in on the act, announcing that the club are to sign free agent Tal Ben Haim - most recently seen in the Championship with Portsmouth last season.

It seems a bizarre move. Don't QPR have enough average players in their squad? Yet now the hypnotic swirl of the merry-go-round is in full flight, it seems churlish to complain. Here's to an eventful January.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It is anyone’s guess how you stop them, with the service which goes up to Van Persie and the players they have, they are brilliant. We might have to build a wall in front of our goal, I don’t know." - Mark Noble is ready to take drastic action to prevent Manchester United from scoring against West Ham in the FA Cup on Saturday.

FOREIGN VIEW: Cristiano Ronaldo is to avoid public discussions of a possible contract renewal with Real Madrid and plans to focus instead on winning matches, he said on Wednesday. "The issue has already been talked about," the Portugal forward told a news conference when asked about his contract situation after training. "I won't talk about my renewal anymore," added the 27-year-old whose deal with La Liga champions Real runs until June 2015. "It's not the most important thing, the important thing is to win our next games."

COMING UP: We speak to Jan Molby and Paul Parker to get their perspective on the week in football, while we also publish our Team of the Week at lunch. Oh, and don't forget the Eurobot is back up and running with all the latest news and gossip.