An oven ready, time served, Champions' League, International, top player arrived by special late delivery. A man who finished the recent World Cup Final on the losing side but with the Captain's armband; a man of impeccable credentials with a fine goalscoring record throughout his career at every level; a man that will bring distinction and quality and take a lot of pressure off Modric and Huddlestone and along with Sandro, if he is half the player his advance publicity leads us to believe, a midfield to savour.
Daniel was left counting his fingers as the transfer window 'slammed shut' at the 12th hour and counting. How we got him at that price and in what circumstances is a matter of dispute between Real Madrid.Interesting how the transfer window doesn't just close. It used to be that letters were lost in the post; then the Armstrad fax wasn't functioning; now the server is down. Soon it will be standard practise to teleport the transferred player to pitchside in full kit to confirm his transfer. If he doesn't appear check the other galaxies
Just a word of thanks to all those ITK's who gave us the head's up on this one. Not a very long list to be fair; in fact not a list at all. Never mind fellas not long until January. Close the coffin lids for a month or two. But even without their help this has been a vintage window, more a sort of Elizabethan mullioned classic than a common PVC replacement.
Sandro, whose fine reputation precedes him and who will be helped integrate by his Portugeuse speaking compatriot Gomes: Gallas who will want to prove his doubters wrong: Pletikosa as back up in goal;: a young striker from Honduras who may help Palacios to focus but at 17 is hardly likely to step up straight away. All positions that needed strengthening
The elephant in the room, or rather not in the room, is the failure to land a striker who gives us something different from those we already have. Crounch and Pavlyuchenko can't play the holding role up front whatever other qualities they have. Neither have the control or strength to give us the tactical flexibilty which might be useful away in the Premiership or in the Champions' League.
Keane prospers in a partnership and is better as a second striker. He lacks the tactical discipline to play on his own in any case. Defoe is not interested in the role; he likes to play on the shoulder and is concerned only to score, not to set others up or hold up play for the midfielders to get up in support. A commendable strikers attribute but it does not offer us the variety that Harry might prefer.
Now these four quality strikers, all proven International, would be coveted by most clubs but you need players who can fulfil the roles we need whilst pusuing four strands this year. We are going to play a lot of games under varying circumstances and pressures and only the lack of a strong holding striker might prove a weakness. Not that we didn't try. We were 'chasing', I use the term loosely, up to ten world class strikers from Fabiano to Ruud Van Nistelroy. However they all proved too elusive for us despite our new found status.
But the signing of Rafael Van de Vaart is perhaps the third bonus of this transfer window. The first is that we kept all our main players despite unwelcome attention from elsewhere particularly, alledgedly, on Bale. The second is that none of the players who might well be pushed to the margins by our new signings wanted to leave.Kranjcar welcomes the arrival of his new Dutch team-mate and he could well be one of those to suffer. The third is the signing of another world class player which might just give others pause for thought. We even kept one or two we didn't really want and I would imagine that the loan circus will swing into town soon.
Our real Achilles Heel however might be the limitations of Harry. Recent games indicate a rigidity of appraoich in team selection and tactics. 442 away against Young Boys was a surprise formation that unfortunately backfired. The team against Wigan could have done with a little freshening up.
Harry doesn't do rotation and is loathe to change a winning team which is one of those pearls of wisdom from the past best left in the oyster.
Now I am not ignoring our achievements under Harry or indeed our general improvement since the days of Martin Jol, with one or two blips , and at least one self inflicted wound notwithstanding.
Harry has done us proud and taken us to the inner ring of achievement, further than I and many others expected. But too hit the bull's eye we need to deploy our resources more cleverly and Ha rry is going to have to think more quickly on his feet.
If Van de Vaart is not the marquee signing we have been craving then I'm a tent peg. This has been a frustrating window but the window cleaner has been and the outlook is brighter and clearer and from where I am sitting on the window seat the peaks of the Champions' League are quite sharp in this new dawn.
Here in Madrid there is no gossip to suggest this was anything other than a good player surplus to requirements after the August signings of Ozil and others brought them to the new squad limits. And despite some doubters questioning whether we need another midfielder I just say, along with Marks and Spencers, 'this is not just another midfielder'. As Danny Blanchflower replied when the value of Glen Hoddle was questioned,
' Hoddle a luxury? It's the bad players that are a luxury'.