LONDON - English football's polarisation into a competition between a few clubs with massive transfer funds and the willingness to spend them whatever the wider economic picture was underlined again by Monday's transfer mayhem.
As Winston Churchill might have said if stepping in for a stint of analysis on deadline day: "Never before have so many been bought for so much by so few." Liverpool and Chelsea paid out over £130 million for the services of Fernando Torres, Andy Carroll, Luis Suarez and David Luiz to end a record-breaking transfer window.
When Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea, the Russian's millions led to hyper-inflation of fees and Manchester City took the baton and ran with it following their takeover by owners from Abu Dhabi.
City further distorted the market so players like Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry and Wayne Bridge were elevated from solid Premier League performers into world-class talent on the basis of their cost.
City then paid a massive £32.5 million for Brazilian forward Robinho and this month laid out £27 million on Edin Dzeko, a good but hardly extraordinary Bundesliga striker.
Their squad is so bloated that they currently have 15 players out on loan with a collective price tag of nearly £100 million.
There is no hint of a need to balance the books, despite the demands of UEFA's forthcoming "financial fair-play" rules and the government's austerity measures, as the owners have funds beyond the comprehension of most clubs.
Last year it seemed that Abramovich was tiring of the bottomless money pit his London plaything had become as big earners such as Michael Ballack, Deco and Ricardo Carvalho were ushered out with no mega-signings coming the other way.
They announced a loss of £70.9 million on Monday but far from worrying about that figure, issued a statement stressing the good news that they were "cash positive". Hours later they had splashed out £75 million on Torres and Luiz.
Liverpool's new American owners seem to operate along a more normal business model and though the £60 million they paid for Carroll and Suarez looks extraordinary, they are young players tied to long contracts who might yet prove profitable.
Torres was a big dent in the balance sheet when he arrived from Atletico Madrid for £26 million but, having had three and a half years of generally excellent service from the Spaniard Liverpool have just about doubled their money.
Newcastle fans, for whom the club is the heart and soul of the city, will feel betrayed that Carroll has left just as he was becoming the latest player to excel in the famous number nine shirt but they need a reality check.
Carroll, who joined as a trainee, cost the club nothing. A year ago he could have probably been snapped up for a song if someone was prepared to take risk on his undoubted raw talent and overlook his off-field transgressions.
Now he has been sold for £36 million, the sixth most expensive transfer the game has ever seen. That sort of money can go a long way if used wisely - or it can fly straight out of the door again on a few new players in the ever-desperate battle to stay in the Premier League.
Even Aston Villa, also backed by American money, found £24 million to buy Darren Bent from Sunderland.
Amid the mayhem, Arsenal's sole outlay was a nominal fee for Japanese teenager Ryo Miyaichi, who has already been loaned to Feyenoord for the rest of the season.
Manchester United, swimming in debt, bought only goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard for £3.5 million.
Both clubs have long-serving managers who know the value of building teams but they must be quietly wondering how long that philosophy will continue to reap rewards in a world where the game's best players are moved around like pieces on a board game accessible only to the mega-rich.
For others, the train left the station years ago.
Everton, traditionally one of Britain's richest clubs, have spent more years in the top flight than anyone and are one of the few "outsiders" to crack the top four in recent seasons.
Their sole purchase was a 1970s-style £215,000 for teenage Greek striker Apostolos Vellios and their deadline day coup was fighting off Tottenham Hotspur's bid for 34-year-old captain Phil Neville.comments