Winners and losers at the transfer deadline

Martin Rogers
Winners and losers at the transfer deadline
Alex Ferguson's early work on transfers paid off at the deadline for Manchester United

European soccer's financial madness began a few months of enforced hiatus Wednesday as the transfer window came to a close after a frenetic final day.

The center of the soccer money markets revolved around England this year, with the Premier League's elite trying to flex their muscles to gain an edge for the new campaign.

And just like the current EPL, it was the two Manchester clubs which came out on top as a summer's worth of deals finally could be scrutinized.

Manchester City has the deepest pockets of any club in the world, thanks to its Arabian ownership group, but in terms of effectiveness, local rival Manchester United could be equally pleased with its business.

Here's a look at the winners and losers of the latest spending spree as soccer shows no sign of being bitten by the dynamics of the global economic slump:

Winner: Manchester United

Manager Sir Alex Ferguson followed his typical policy of doing business early, and it seems to have worked again. Ferguson's moves always are tailored to specific effect, with his signings of Ashley Young and Phil Jones filling the only holes in his rock-solid lineup.

The season is only three games old, but Young was instrumental in the team's destruction of Arsenal last week and Jones looks like a defender who can serve United successfully for the next decade. The jury still is out on new goalkeeper David De Gea, for the most part, Ferguson's summer decisions served to make a championship-caliber team even better, and thus United once again is the team to beat.

Winner: Manchester City

On the other side of Manchester, things are done a bit differently. The billions of owner Sheikh Mansour mean that City can afford to take a scattergun approach and acquire whatever star names take its fancy.

The past three seasons have not always seen the smartest of acquisitions, but Roberto Mancini looks to have got things absolutely right with Sergio Aguero. Yes, the young Argentinean striker cost $60 milion, but it is money the club easily can afford and Aguero, along with fellow newcomer Samir Nasri, could be the impetus behind a title challenge.

But most interesting of all is a signing that cost City no transfer fee at all. Free agent Owen Hargreaves rocked up at Eastlands this week – if he can finally attain full fitness, Hargreaves still has the ability to be a world-class midfielder.

Loser: Arsenal

A busy closing day to the transfer window may not be enough either to save manager Arsene Wenger's job or convince anyone that this has been a good summer's business.

Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri both departed in late August, ripping the spine out of the team and leaving precious little time to recruit the kind of replacements needed to limit the damage.

Wenger didn't get the man he really wanted – Juan Mata – instead making do with Mikel Arteta, Andre Santos, Per Mertesacker and Yossi Benayoun on loan.

Winner: Barcelona

What does the best team in the world, and one of the best ever, really need? Pep Guardiola decided he needed Cesc Fabregas, and Guardiola finally got his man.

Fabregas has been a Barca target for three summers, with the young Spaniard equally keen to relocate from Arsenal. At last the move went through with two weeks of the transfer window left, and now the Catalan club has the midfield force that it feels will continue its dynasty of success.

Loser: Real Madrid

Jose Mourinho has had a tortured summer and may be banned from the touchline for several months for his part in a melee during the Spanish Super Cup. In the transfer window he claimed to be happy with his dealings, but he may feel differently come the end of the season.

Mourinho, more than anything, needed a difference-maker to overhaul Barcelona. And while Hamit Altintop, Jose Maria Callejon, Fabio Coentrao, Nuri Sahin and Raphael Varane can all be effective contributors, none are likely to close the gap at the top of Spain's soccer hierarchy.

That man could have been Neymar, but despite the best efforts of Mourinho and the Madrid board, the talented Brazilian refused to make the move from Santos.

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