By Ewan Roberts
Few players or managers are as synonymous with Deadline Day – in all its capital-lettered, live-blogging, breaking news glory – as QPR boss Harry Redknapp. The 65-year-old has been a consistently entertaining and active member of the transfer window soap opera since its conception.
No other car window in Britain is pre-fixed with the word “famous”, no other manager is more open with the press, oozing (or should that be Uzi-ing?) transfer exclusives, no other person is as diarrhetic a font of news and drama.
But Redknapp’s value for money comes at a cost, a cost QPR are likely to bear long after their current manager has left the club. In the pursuit of survival, Redknapp’s irresponsible and hypocritical conduct in the transfer market has turned QPR into a ticking time bomb.
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“There are a lot of players at this club who earn far too much money,” Redknapp complained last month. “I don’t really want to see the owners have their pants taken down like they have in the past.”
Fast-forward a month and Redknapp is pulling pants down like Silvio Berlusconi at a ‘Bunga Bunga’ party. Samba, who was signed by Hughes for Blackburn for a mere £450,000, has been handed a contract worth £100,000-a-week. As such, the total outlay for the deal will exceed £35m.
Loic Remy also joined the Hoops on a deal worth £80,000-a-week. “You shouldn't be paying massive wages when you've got a stadium that holds 18,000 people,” said Redknapp, weeks before contradicting his own advice in explosive, record fee-smashing fashion – though he pleads ignorance of the financial details of the deals.
The comparisons with Redknapp’s time at Portsmouth are obvious and, frankly, scary, while Tottenham fans will note the stockpiling of players with little or no re-sale value. Sandbanks’ most famous resident gambled Portsmouth’s future on the acquisition of star players for big fees on astronomical wages and left a sinking ship before Pompey’s subsequent administration and relegation.
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Of course, it is not Redknapp’s fault that he’s been forced to throw money at players, oh no, but those nasty devious agents: “It’s like gang warfare…they’re all fighting for the big money – that’s the problem,” says Aitch. “It’s a bit like ice-cream sellers in Glasgow,” he continued, referencing the so-called Ice Cream Wars of the 1980s that claimed six lives.
Redknapp’s response within such a climate is to have chauffeur extraordinaire Kevin Bond drive him around town while he flings flakes and hundreds-and-thousands out of his car window, luring players (from Samba to Jermaine Jenas) and their representatives towards Loftus Road like the Pied Piper of White City – an effect so intoxicating that it turned Peter Odemwingie rather loopy.
Nevertheless, the 65-year-old thinks of himself as a voice of reason and common sense in the mad and extortionate world of football transfers, even though it is a toxic environment that he continues to fuel.
They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results, yet Redknapp is, once more, veering towards a blackhole of his own making. Samba and Remy may keep QPR up, but the long-terms costs, to the club and the fans, could dwarf the fees they have spent this January.
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