European football's January transfer window closed with clubs reining in the lavish spending of recent years in an apparent response to UEFA's strict new financial controls.
While £225 million was spent last January by English clubs alone, barely £50 million was outlayed this month.
"It looks like economically the whole of Europe is becoming a bit more cautious," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.
Last week, UEFA revealed that the total debt of 665 European clubs had hit $11 billion.
Manchester City alone has invested more than $1 billion on new players in a little more than three years, but the Abu Dhabi owners have curbed their spending and prioritised losing some big earners.
The only incoming deal by City manager Roberto Mancini on Tuesday (UK time) was to sign 32-year-old David Pizarro on loan from Roma for the rest of the season to bolster his midfield options.
Defender Wayne Bridge was sent Tuesday to Sunderland on loan, although City was unable unload troublesome striker Carlos Tevez, who has not featured for the club since an act of rebellion during a Champions League match in September.
One club interested in Tevez was French leader Paris Saint-Germain, which has been embarking on its own spending spree since the last offseason under Qatari ownership.
Despite pursuing a string of leading players - including David Beckham and AC Milan striker Alexandre Pato - PSG has failed to capture the superstar it craves, although signing midfielder Thiago Motta from Inter Milan on Tuesday will help to soften the blow.
Motta's reported £10 million signing took PSG's spending this season to
more than £100 million with defenders Maxwell and Alex having joined for a combined £12 million earlier this month.
"It's normal that it's more difficult to sign someone in Ligue 1 than in Spain or in England," PSG sporting director Leonardo said. "But things can change."
PSG's plans, though, could be curtailed by the looming threat of expulsion from the Champions League for overspending clubs.
In an initial two-year monitoring period that started in July 2011, UEFA's rules allow clubs to make a total loss in the first assessment period up to £45 million. But persistent loss-makers can first be barred from the 2014-15 Champions League.
"Financial fair play has definitely had an impact (in the transfer window)," said Alan Switzer, director of the sports business group at Deloitte. "The 2011-12 season does now count towards the UEFA rules and that will be part of the consideration which clubs will be giving to any transfer."
Former Chelsea chief executive Trevor Birch, who is head of accountancy firm PKF's football group, highlighted uncertainty about how the new rules will be enforced.
"Until these important questions are answered, clubs with a realistic prospect of making it into Europe are going to err on the side of caution and rein in their spending," Birch said. "Many of the top teams have also finally started taking meaningful steps to get their costs under control in response to continued pressure on revenues."
In England, third-place Tottenham was the busiest leading club on Tuesday.
They signed 33-year-old striker Louis Saha from Everton, sent defender Sebastien Bassong on loan to Wolverhampton Wanderers and were chasing Blackburn's Ryan Nelsen in the closing minutes of the window.
Queens Park Rangers tried to ensure it isn't relegated from the Premier League after only one season by luring former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse back to England from Lazio and signing forward Bobby Zamora from Fulham.
Zamora was replaced at Fulham by Russia striker Pavel Pogrebnyak, who joined from Stuttgart.
Midfielder Marcus Olsson has joined his twin brother Martin at relegation-threatened Blackburn after signing from Swedish side H lmstad.
Chelsea spent £50 million a year ago on striker Fernando Torres, who has failed to deliver and contributed to a loss of £67.7 million in the last financial year that was announced on Tuesday.
Chelsea's only major business on this deadline day was signing winger Kevin De Bruyne for a reported £9 million from Racing Genk and sending him back to the Belgian club on loan for the rest of the season.
In Spain, pacesetters Real Madrid and Barcelona were also quiet, although Barca reached a deal with Alexander Hleb to release the Belarus midfielder from his contract.
In Italy, clubs, players and agents gathered at a Milan hotel and the city's two clubs were the busiest.
Inter Milan signed Porto midfielder Fredy Guarin and Sampdoria midfielder Angelo Palombo, while Sulley Muntari moved on loan to AC Milan.
Serie A leader Juventus signed midfielder Padoin from Atalanta for almost £5 million.
For some players, Tuesday was the last time to leave clubs where they aren't playing regularly ahead of the European Championship. Croatia defender Vedran Corluka joined Bayer Leverkusen after only three league appearances for Tottenham this season.
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