Birmingham City and Tottenham Hotspur issued conflicting reasons for the collapse of Hossam Ghaly’s proposed transfer to St Andrew’s. The #3 million deal for Ghaly, verbally agreed between the clubs last Monday, was scrapped after the midfield player spent three days training with Birmingham at Wast Hills.
But while Birmingham released a statement claiming that they "will not be proceeding with the transfer . . . due to footballing reasons", Tottenham suggested that it was the player himself who pulled out of the move. Neither club was willing, or able, to clarify the situation.
The mystery surrounding the failure of the transfer overshadowed the news that Birmingham yesterday confirmed the signings of Liam Ridgewell from Aston Villa and Franck Queudrue from Fulham. In the case of Ridgewell, this was the first case of a player moving directly from Villa to Birmingham since Des Bremner in 1984.
Queudrue, a left back, was signed for #2.5 million, while Ridgewell, a central defender, made the 3.55-mile trip from Villa Park for a fee of #2 million. Both are available to make their debuts when Birmingham play away to Chelsea in the Premiership in eight days' time.
Ghaly, the Egypt international, would only have been eligible had Birmingham been able to secure him a work permit. But that is now hypothetical. The player has returned to White Hart Lane and, given his fractured relationship with Tottenham, his future is uncertain.
Steve Bruce, the Birmingham manager, was last night unavailable for comment but I understand that he was not wholly impressed with the player during the training sessions this week. Usually, these transfers break down because of a failed medical or a failure to secure a work permit. It is rare for a breakdown to happen because of what Birmingham call "footballing reasons".
If the club’s statement is correct, one wonders how much research into the player they actually did. Still, better to know during three training sessions than after the #3 million had been handed over to Tottenham.
Bruce had offered the player a three-year contract and claimed, with much enthusiasm, that Ghaly had all the attributes to replace Stephen Clemence, who left Birmingham last month to join Leicester City. It is clear that Bruce no longer believes this.
Tottenham were in no rush to make a big play of why Ghaly will not be joining Birmingham. The story was mentioned once on their website and only merited a single sentence: "We can confirm that Hossam Ghaly has decided not to proceed with his transfer to Birmingham City."
Birmingham provided only slightly more exposition: "Birmingham City Football Club can today [yesterday] confirm that they will not be proceeding with the transfer of Hossam Ghaly from Tottenham Hotspur due to footballing reasons."
This follows on from the collapse of Birmingham’s proposed deal to sign Mido from Tottenham for a suggested #6 million.
Overall, however, yesterday was a productive time for Bruce as he welcomed two new defenders to St Andrew’s. The arrival of Ridgewell will arouse particular intrigue, for he had spent the whole of his professional career — six years so far — with Villa.
Born in London and partly developed by West Ham United, he joined Villa when in his mid-teens and he became an integral part of the club’s team that won the FA Youth Cup in 2002. He enjoyed spells as a first-team regular but he became a fourth-choice defender at Villa Park and this was beginning to frustrate him. He does not read anything into his move across Birmingham. "I just want to play football," he told Birmingham’s official website. "It [the Villa-Birmingham rivalry] doesn’t come into it. I am looking forward to working with Steve Bruce. He is a good manager and has done a lot as a centre half, so there is a lot to look up to.
"Playing for so many years at Manchester United, you cannot go wrong and I am sure I will learn a lot from him.
"We should be in for a good season. The manager has invested in the squad, along with the lads who did so well last season, so my presence and that of a few others will add to the strength of the squad. Places will certainly be up for grabs."
Bruce had tried to sign Ridgewell last January but Martin O’Neill, the Villa manager, did not have enough strength in depth in defence. That remains the case but there are still four weeks remaining of the summer transfer window.
"I wish Liam well in his new career," O’Neill said. "He wanted first-team football."
Ridgewell is 23 and regards his attributes as "reading of the game, heading of the ball and my left foot is quite sweet, as well." Bruce would no doubt agree.