One of the canniest pieces of business so far during the January transfer window saw Chelsea snap up Newcastle striker Demba Ba for just £7m, activating a release clause in his contract in the process while ushering Daniel Sturridge out of the exit door and towards Anfield for £12m, but which club really got the better deal? Let’s take a closer look…
After the club’s transfer policy in the summer seemed to be geared entirely around getting the best out of struggling £50m striker Fernando Torres, bringing in the creative triumvirate of Oscar, Eden Hazard and Victor Moses to compliment the existing presence of Juan Mata, the Spaniard’s inconsistent form has necessitated a move for Ba this window.
Torres has stated that since Rafa Benitez came into the club on an interim basis that he thrives on more direct service, thus negating all of the work that had been put in to try and make him a success one last time, contradicting his earlier statements that he does well with tippy-tappy players around him along the way. It’s clear now that he’s a write off and in order to maintain their third-placed league position a move for the Senegalese frontman made sense.
Given that he’s just 27-years-old, Ba seems a natural out-and-out goalscorer less reliant on a particular type of service while also boasting a fantastic record of 36 goals in 66 top flight games before his switch to Stamford Bridge. Indeed, the only baffling aspect of the deal is that nobody fancied signing him earlier. The fact that he’s already struck 13 league goals this season for a struggling Newcastle side speaks volumes for his ability to cope under pressure and he seems content to lead the line either on his own or as part of a partnership. At just £7m, he’s a darn sight cheaper than making a move for long-term transfer target, Atletico Madrid forward Falcao, midway through the season. All in all, a sensible deal in the short-term and long-term by the club; a signing that can have an impact right away and doesn’t need to adjust to the demands of English football.
Moving swiftly on to Sturridge’s switch to Merseyside and the £12m paid for him was widely seen as an expensive gamble on a relatively unproven English player; a rehash of a failed and flawed transfer policy from the past two years with an inflated price in tow due to the nature of his passport. The 23-year-old is seen as a selfish, arrogant egotist and his reported demands over guarantees concerning a central striking role had a knock-on effect in that it moved Luis Suarez away from a position where he has been so dangerous, consistent and effective these past six months. A gamble in every respect.
Nevertheless, there’s a feeling that while the move was a risky one that could potentially backfire, given his bright start it could just as easily prove to be a brilliant piece of business at the same time after he went on to score three goals in his first three appearances since completing the switch, becoming the first player to do so since Ray Kennedy did back in 1974. As starts go, it hasn’t been a bad one.
A lot has been made of the dummy assist for Suarez’s goal against Norwich at the weekend during the 5-0 demolition at home, with that sort of telepathic connection rarely seen in such a fledgling partnership. Perhaps too much hay has been made at this point, but these are exciting times for Liverpool fans in that they finally have a strike partnership of sorts that looks sure to cause even the biggest of teams in the league problems, as they proved during the second half of the away 2-1 defeat against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
It’s been noted that the one time Sturridge has been granted an extended spell through the middle in the top flight was during his successful loan spell away at Bolton to the tune of eight goals in 12 league appearances back in 2010-11. He clearly has some rough edges to his game that still need ironing out, namely his penchant for trying his luck at goal from ludicrous angles when the pass looks the better option (an affliction Suarez also suffers from) and that truly awful body-popping celebration he does, but he offers a direct, pacy and strong outlet up top and he provides manager Brendan Rodgers with plenty of options given his versatility.
There’s a sense that Ba will never quite be top dog at Chelsea simply because he lacks the crucial currency of status and is merely a dependable and hugely effective back-up striker for when the club inevitably does make a move to replace Torres in the summer with a glitzier name. That in itself is not a bad thing; it’s a squad game now and a club like Chelsea can expect to play in 60+ games a season across all competitions and someone of Ba’s calibre will most certainly come in handy, but he’s hardly the missing piece of jigsaw. His willing running means he will always have an impact, either from the start or off the bench, but is he the long-term solution to bridging the ever-increasing gap between themselves and the Manchester duopoly at the top? You’d have to say probably not.
Sturridge on the other hand appears to fit Rodgers style down to a tee and when he’s fully fit and had a full pre-season behind him in his new surroundings, he looks as if he could potentially cause plenty of damage in tandem with Suarez. For far too long now Liverpool have been dependant on just one or two players to provide the brunt of their attacking threat, but the England international could remedy that situation once and for all. His face didn’t quite fit in at Chelsea, but it’s a different story entirely now.
Often with transfer deals it’s tempting to get bogged down in the monetary value of them rather than analysing and assessing what impact they can have on the teams that they represent. As the old adage goes, a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, and with the Ba and Sturridge deals, it would be useful to use the evidence before our eyes rather on the balance sheet to judge their influence in the future.
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