A busy summer of transfers for Blues culminated in a total of 9 signings (including the Gardner / Jota swap-plus-fee deal), far more than the 4 that came to the club this time last year.
With the transfer ban lifted and Blue free to spend (within reason) it’s fair to say it’s been a successful window overall, with a focus on injecting the club’s midfield with youth, energy and creativity. The blueprint laid out by Clotet, Herrera and the board has been, for the most part, met with signings that should do the job – given that they don’t flop.
But what about the targets that Blues missed out on this summer? As with every window, there were plenty of names linked with a move to St. Andrews that didn’t actually end up wearing the shirt – so in this blog we’ll take a look at a few of the names thrown about the rumour mill this past summer; seeing whether Blues missed a trick or dodged a bullet.
The one that got away. Pușcaș, a Romanian striker for Inter Milan, had attracted a fair bit of interest across Europe after netting 9 goals for Palermo last season as well as an impressive outing at the U21 European qualifiers earlier this year. When his and Ivan Šunjić’s names were brought up around the same time towards the beginning of the window, Blues fans commended the aspirations of the links but believed them to be nothing more than rumours. However, when Šunjić did actually arrive at the club much later suddenly the thought of bringing in the 23-year-old goal-getter wasn’t such a ridiculous thought. It’s believed Blues had extensive talks with Inter, with it being reported at one point that a fee had been agreed, but it was Reading of all Championship rivals that came in and swooped on Pușcaș at the last minute, agreeing an £8 million fee for the striker who himself believed the Royals were the better option as they “Had more chance of getting to the Premier League” with them. Go figure.
In one of the strangest turn of events seen within Blues’ business this summer, Mateo García’s transfer from Las Palmas seemed to fit the bill of the pattern Blues were creating pretty well. Young, quick and good on the ball, it was reported by a number of different Spanish outlets that the deal was mostly done and a medical was to take place shortly after his name had popped up. Blues fans posied themselves for the announcement with the now-typical “ANNOUNCE GARCIA” flooding every social media post – but it never came. It was revealed that there was never any deal done for the winger and any confirmation of the move was a complete fabrication. A deal that was picked up and carried by the papers, Mateo García’s switch to English football was as ‘fake news’ as you can get in modern football.
After the departure of club captain Michael Morrison, Blues needed a new centre-back – one that could keep it at his feet as well as do the dirty work. 25-year-old Pablo Marí fitted the bill, having played in LaLiga2 for Deportivo de La Coruña and being a tall, capable and technically above-average defender. Blues were in talks with Manchester City way back in early July, hoping to bring in the left-footed Spaniard as Morrison’s replacement. It was not to be, however, as the 6’3 centre-half opted for a move to Brazilian giants Flamengo instead. Apparently, Rio de Janeiro can actually appeal to some over the beautiful sights of Small Heath.
Another winger from a far-off land, Jérémie Bela was a name that was tossed around social media a fair bit – with a little coverage from French media. The 26-year-old, known for his pace and a surprisingly good goal record for a wide player (9 goals for Albacete Balompié last season) was a player thrown about the social media market like a crash test dummy – with a variety of different reports telling differing stories. Ranging from sending scouts out to watch him, to Blues having talks with his agent to him being apparently spotted having his picture taken at Wast Hills, the whole thing was a mess and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it was another Mateo García case study.
Bright Enobakhare, a 21-year-old striker from Nigeria, came to be linked with Blues around the same time as Dan Crowley was. Having impressed at Coventry in the second half of the 2018/19 season, he’d caught the eye of a few Championship clubs for his powerful drive and close control. Sounding a little too similar to Che Adams’ style, it was no surprise that Blues were reportedly in pole position for his signature – competing with the previously-mentioned club who we now loan our ground to. With it seeming like he was set to play at St. Andrews (no matter which club he chose) the rumours slowly faded away across July and Enobakhare’s name didn’t pop up again until a deadline day loan move to Wigan manifested.
Replacing Che Adams was always going to be a mighty task for both Clotet and the board, but the linking of a name like Dwight Gayle on deadline day was too good to not keep an eye on. A proven goalscorer in the Championship, the Newcastle striker would’ve been the perfect player to step into the shoes of the pacey finisher we so desperately needed (and still don’t have). After the 5PM cut-off point passed on deadline day, it emerged that Blues had indeed bidded a record-amount for the 28-year-old, though this was rejected as Newcastle valued him more than Blues were willing to go. As if we needed another reason to dislike Mike Ashley.
Leon Clarke’s name popped up for the best part of about 30 minutes one day in late July as it seemed Blues were looking almost everywhere for a new striker. Thankfully, those 30 minutes were the last that the club was linked with the 34-year-old. Happy days.