What a window it has been for the Blues.
Alex McLeish realised the job in hand when promotion was confirmed and he has set about improving the squad to somewhere near the level required to ‘hack it’ in the self-proclaimed best league in the world. McLeish knew, and he still does know that there is much work to be done, as he sets about trying to reinvigorate a side labelled as nothing but ‘efficient’ and work-man like by the media.
Unlike many managers who have refrained from acting early, McLeish took the initiative by sending scouts all across Europe and the world, in search of ‘value for money’. Fans had heard it all before. This is just what they expected. Money pinching, stingy Blues were going to try and stay in the Prem through loan signings and freebies. Fans thought they were right.
They were wrong. Oh so wrong. Barely three weeks into the transfer market, and Alex McLeish had signed not only Stephen Carr, who had impressed on a short term-deal, and an exciting young Ecuadorian striker by the name of Christian Benitez. Benitez joined from Mexican side Santos Laguna for a club record fee, believed to be around £6 million with instalments taking the fee up to £9 million.
Benitez is something of an unknown to many Blues fans, but experts label him as a South American version of Obefemi Martins. Benitez is short, only around 5 foot 6, but he is built like a brick wall and can strike a ball as good as anybody. Many ‘experts’ have gone on record stating their belief that Benitez will be able to settle and adapt to the pace of the Premier League. Whatever happens, it cannot be said that the board have not tried their all to keep the club in the Premier League. The fans believed that their biggest signing this summer would be possibly a £3 million player, and so to get a player of the calibre of Benitez, and to beat numerous other European clubs to his signature is a massive coup for the club, and it has given the fans an enormous morale boost ahead of the new season.
Thought that would be it?
McLeish moved onwards and upwards as Blues then went on to steal Coventry defender Scott Dann from under the noses of local rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers. Dann signed for an undisclosed fee, believed to be in the region of £3.5 million, and it was also revealed by the club that the fee paid was a record fee for a defender. Dann is an aggressive defender who is more than capable at Championship level to say the very least. He is powerful in the air and he has scored numerous goals for Coventry in the past 18 months. Dann is young (22 years old), and he has plenty of potential. He has risen through the ranks of English football.
Fans have once again reacted positively to the news of Dann’s signing, seeing it as proof that the club’s board mean business. At the 11th hour, the club returned to the negotiating table with an offer of a basic salary £6,000 higher than the fee offered by Wolves. The offer swayed the favour of the young centre-half and he signed on with the Blues even though he had already undergone a medical with Wolves.
Who else could be coming through the doors at St Andrews?
It has been said by numerous media outlets, on numerous occasions, that Manchester City keeper Joe Hart would be on his way to Blues on a season-long loan as Hart seeks first team football before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The deal has been mooted because of Colin Doyle’s frustration at a lack of opportunities under Alex McLeish. Signing Hart would allow Blues to loan Colin Doyle to a Championship side for the next season. Rumours suggest that the Hart deal could include a deal for Birmingham to sign the shot-stopper on a permanent deal at the end of the loan period, and it would be a fantastic signing for the club, signalling their intent for the forthcoming campaign and beyond.
Defence has been the priority for Alex McLeish lately, and it is not hard to see why. Liam Ridgewell is out until Christmas, and Rahdi Jaidi has been released, leaving Martin Taylor as the only reasonable alternative for Alex McLeish (that was until the signing of Scott Dann). Blues are close to signing Giovanny Espinoza, a 32 year old Ecuadorian who plays for Barcelona. Sporting Club Barcelona, that is. Blues have paid a nominal fee for the defender and they are waiting only on his visa so that they transfer can be completed.
Blues have also had two bids rejected by Cardiff for their centre half Roger Johnson. It has not been confirmed by the Birmingham club, but local newspapers in Cardiff have said that chairman Peter Ridsdale has rejected two deals from the club. After an initial ‘feeler’ bid, Blues are said to have returned with a £5 million take it or leave it offer for the centre-half which was rejected by Ridsdale.
It appears that McLeish’s interest in the defender has cooled after the latest rejection, and he will go on to explore alternatives because of the price wanted by Cardiff.
The perfect alternative for Roger Johnson is Oguchi Onyewu. He played for Standard Liege last season, but his contract has run out and so Onyewu is a free agent. He is a 27 year old defender who previously has played in the Premier League, on loan at Newcastle. He is strong, excellent in the air but often prone to the odd mistake. However, he would still be a good addition, and brilliant value for money, especially considering that he has already played Premier League football once before.
McLeish appears close to signing Lee Bowyer on a permanent deal, after he impressed with his all action displays at the back-end of last season. However, McLeish is still searching for that ‘bit of craft’ in the midfield, as he looks for a player who can cut open defences at the highest level, whilst also providing adequate cover alongside the experienced Lee Carsley. Who could do the job? Well, it’s a hard one. There aren’t many quality players of this ilk around nowadays, and that is reflected by the sheer minimum number of links being made between the club and midfielders.
Other rumours that have stated that McLeish is after Doncaster defender Matt Mills and Aston Villa centre-half Zat Knight appear to be wide of the mark. The most laughable of all the end of season rumours linking the Blues to defenders was the rumour that Olof Mellberg could be on his way to St Andrews. Can you imagine that?!
It’s been a tremendous start to the transfer window for Blues, as McLeish has looked to waste no time whatsoever.
Here’s a question for you. Which team are the biggest spenders in English football in this transfer window?
You guessed it. Birmingham City FC. Never thought you’d hear that in your lifetime now, did you?