It was a World Cup summer and you might reasonably have expected a few stars to have been born. Or bought. That England had ended Italia ’90 on a high made it even more surprising that the transfer business was relatively low-key. Some of that is explained by the absence of a transfer window, or at least in the style which we know now. English football allowed signings from June until the end of March; indeed, when the idea of a structured window was first put to the club chairmen in 1991, it was rejected outright for fear that smaller clubs who needed cash would not be able to raise funds.
At the time, the British transfer record stood at £4.25m, the sum Marseille had paid Tottenham for Chris Waddle. Not bad for a man who in possession of the ball, successfully dummied himself in an England international at Wembley. Between English clubs, matters were more measured.
It wasn’t a vintage summer. No doubt that part of the impact came from the ban on English clubs participating in Europe. It didn’t stop speculation though; Arsenal had already signed Limpar, Linighan and Seaman whilst being linked with Andy Clarke and Steve Bull although how tall those tales were is another matter.
David O’Leary was deemed surplus to requirements in the media and having fallen out with George Graham, most likely to want a move away from Highbury.
Derby were said to be interested although there was a world of difference between making Graham an offer he couldn’t refuse and “firming up their interest“.
Having been leading scorer in the title-winning season of 1988/89, Alan Smith hadn’t hit the heights a year later, managing just 10 goals in the 38 league matches. Rumours abounded of new strikers, most recently Rod Wallace who had managed a goal every three games for Southampton or Alan McInally who had managed one in four for Bayern Munich and barely been any better in statistical terms for Villa, Celtic or Ayr. He stayed in Germany for a couple of seasons longer, before returning to Scotland to play a handful of games for Kilmarnock.
As it happened, it turned out to be the usual chatter and no further arrivals happened that summer. Or autumn, winter or spring. Quite how today’s managers would cope with the all-season transfer window would be interesting. Quite a few would be ducking and diving more than a witch at the village fishpond. Arsène? Well, we haven’t got more than one this summer (at the time of writing) so I doubt he would change his M.O. that much.