By Mark Meadows
LONDON (Reuters) - Paris St Germain signed a cut-price David Beckham on Thursday while English Premier League strugglers Queens Park Rangers took a big gamble on the costly Christopher Samba during transfer deadline day.
Former England captain Beckham, 37, who signed a five-month contract with the French club, said his salary would be donated to a children's charity in Paris.
Samba was almost joined at QPR by Peter Odemwingie but the Nigerian striker turned up at the London club's ground without his side West Bromwich Albion's consent and a deal fell through.
The annual dash for transfers at the end of the January window was less busy than in some previous years with many top clubs sitting tight with the onset of UEFA's financial fairplay scheme meaning they have to break even or risk sanctions.
Spending was still brisk in the Premier League, the world's richest soccer competition, thanks to those desperate to avoid the huge financial hit of relegation and others keen to try to sample the benefits of European competition.
QPR, four points adrift at the bottom with 14 matches left, signed Congo's former Blackburn Rovers defender Samba from Anzhi Makhachkala for what media reports said was a club record fee of 12.5 million pounds ($19.82 million).
"Chris is just what we need. He's a monster," manager Harry Redknapp told the club website (www.qpr.co.uk).
The 28-year-old centre back had been in Russia for only 11months but was on huge wages and reports say QPR have had to match his 100,000 pounds a week to secure his services.
Jermaine Jenas and Andros Townsend also joined from Tottenham Hotspur, who unusually for deadline day brought no one in.
If bulky defender Samba saves QPR's season, fans and famed transfer maestro Redknapp will think it is money well spent.
However, relegation with a spiralling wage bill after the eight million pound signing of France forward Loic Remy on January 16 does not bear thinking about for owner Tony Fernandes.
UEFA brought in the financial fairplay rules to try to curb unrealistic spending and the move has had a mixed effect.
The Deloitte Sports Business Group said that before Thursday, Premier League clubs had spent around 85 million pounds on players, almost three times the amount spent at the same time last year but similar to the level in January 2011.
Wealthy French league leaders PSG, backed by Qatari owners, avoided shelling out large amounts on Beckham having splashed 45 million euros ($61 million) at the start of the window on Brazilian Lucas.
Beckham, the former Manchester United midfielder was a free agent after leaving Los Angeles Galaxy.
Also in France, West Ham United's Alou Diarra joined Stade Rennes on loan but Olympique Lyon duo Bafetimbi Gomis and Lisandro Lopez stayed with the cash-strapped club after Michel Bastos raised funds by leaving on loan for Schalke 04 this week.
Togo's Romao signed for Marseille and Israel's Eden Ben Basat joined Toulouse from Lorient and Brest respectively.
GOMES TO HOFFENHEIM
Italy's Serie A, which welcomed back Mario Balotelli on Tuesday with his transfer from Manchester City to AC Milan finally confirmed on Thursday, will also now be graced by Fiorentina's Momo Sissoko and Napoli's Rolando.
Dinamo Zagreb teenager Mateo Kovacic also joined Atalanta winger Ezequiel Schelotto and VfB Stuttgart's Swiss-born Serbia midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic at previously frugal Inter Milan, along with Lazio goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo.
The Nerazzurri have plugged a hole in midfield after cutbacks led to them selling Brazilian Coutinho to Liverpool on Wednesday and Netherlands playmaker Wesley Sneijder to Turkish champions Galatasaray, who also now boast Didier Drogba.
Germany was quiet on deadline day with Stuttgart signing Romanian midfielder Alexandru Maxim until 2017 and strugglers Hoffenheim taking error-prone Brazilian goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes on loan from Tottenham for the rest of the season.
Spain, with many lower profile clubs facing financial pressures in the debt-ridden country, was quiet but Malaga did sign Chile midfielder Pedro Morales until the end of the season after letting Argentine Diego Buonanotte join La Liga rivals Granada.
Former Real Madrid flop Fernando Gago left Valencia for a loan spell back home at Argentina's Velez Sarsfield and Barcelona's Isaac Cuenca went on loan to Ajax Amsterdam.
Malaga's Spain defender Nacho Monreal quit La Liga for Premier League Arsenal, who were desperate for cover at left back with Kieran Gibbs out through injury and Andre Santos the butt of many fan jokes after failing to impress.
Elsewhere in England, fellow strugglers Aston Villa took a vastly different path to big spending QPR as they pressed ahead with their reliance on youth despite lying second from bottom.
Villa have been on an awful run yet signed only 22-year-old French second division midfielder Yacouba Sylla from Clermont Foot and little-known Tottenham Hotspur reserve Simon Dawkins despite supporter unrest at the U.S. owner over a lack of buys.
Another big relegation-threatened English side, Newcastle United, swelled their French-speaking ranks by signing Swiss teenager Kevin Mbabu from Servette while Norwich City drafted in Leeds United's Argentine striker Luciano Becchio.
Mid-table Sunderland pounced for Swansea City forward Danny Graham for five million pounds, Fulham took Urby Emanuelson, Eyong Enoh and Bulgarian Stanislav Manolev while Wigan Athletic re-signed Paul Scharner.
(Additional reporting by Martyn Herman, Iain Rogers, Brian Homewood, Gregory Blachier, Theo Ruizenaarand Angel Krasimirov; Editing by John Mehaffey)