Monday December 29th, 2014

The winter transfer window officially opens on January 3, which means players out of contract in the summer can sign contracts with foreign clubs from that day on. It also means that the transfer rumor-mill will go into overdrive for the next four weeks, until a last-minute trolley dash – usually spearheaded by Harry Redknapp – concludes in deals completed on February 2, the day the window closes.

For teams chasing a title, or trying to avoid the drop, one January signing can make all the difference. Get it wrong, and it could be a catastrophe.

Here are some players whom we will be hearing a lot more about over the next few weeks:

Mats Hummels, Borussia Dortmund

Interested clubs: Arsenal, Manchester United

Valuation: €25 million

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2014 has been a year of highs and lows for the German defender, who was part of the World Cup-winning side but also been blighted by injury (only nine starts so far), and seen his Borussia Dortmund side slump – it is currently 17th in the Bundesliga - this season.

But when Hummels spoke of his frustration at this season’s problems, the English media reported it as him wanting out, which is not necessarily the case.

Arsenal and Manchester United both need center backs, but is this Hummels as solid as the pre-injury, pre-World Cup Hummels? It will cost someone quite a lot to find out.

Chances of moving: 20 percent

Petr Cech, Chelsea

Interested clubs: Monaco, Liverpool, Juventus

Valuation: €15 million

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​Cech has made no secret of his displeasure at playing second fiddle to Thibaut Courtois in the Chelsea lineup this season, but it remains to be seen what move he makes in January. Jose Mourinho will want to keep him – he will remember that No. 2 Mark Schwarzer ended up playing the Champions League semifinal last season against Atletico Madrid – but could face a losing battle. Cech is only 32, and when he has played has looked in typically solid form. With Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet out of form, Cech would be a dream signing for the Reds.

Chances of moving: 65 percent

Moussa Sissoko, Newcastle United

Interested clubs: Arsenal, Manchester City

Valuation: €20 million

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​Sissoko has been the archetypal Newcastle signing; excellent in Ligue 1 for Toulouse and a consistent performer in an inconsistent side under Alan Pardew.

The worry for fans is that owner Mike Ashley repeats the error of last January, when selling Yohan Cabaye – and not signing a replacement – derailed its season.

At least Pardew has Siem de Jong to return from injury, but even that will not be enough to appease Toon fans if Sissoko is sold on for a tidy profit. (Note: it’s worth pointing out that Newcastle does not always get it right with signings from France, as the struggles of Emmanuel Rivière from Monaco prove).

Chances of moving: 50 percent

Winston Reid, West Ham

Interested clubs: Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton, Manchester United

Valuation: €15 million

Top clubs need central defenders, and there are not too many quality ones on the market at the moment. Newcastle’s Fabrizio Coloccini could be one, and Reid, currently helping the Hammers to its lofty sixth-place position, another. Arsenal or Manchester United could both bid for him if unsuccessful in trying to lure Hummels, and while Sam Allardyce might insist Reid is going nowhere, chances are he will be up against it if he wants to keep the New Zealand international against the player's will.

Chances of moving: 70 percent

Paul-Georges Ntep, Rennes

Interested clubs: Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, Stoke, Newcastle, Everton, Tottenham

Valuation: €15 million

The revelation of the Ligue 1 season so far, the Rennes winger has already been the subject of a €10 million offer from Premier League side Stoke City. He only moved to Rennes last January, for €4 million from Auxerre, and has insisted that his future remains in Britanny.

But given his occasional short fuse, the right offer could encourage Rennes to sell soon – even more so if Paris Saint-Germain sell Ezequiel Lavezzi to a Serie A club, so releasing €9 million of wages to comply with Financial Fair Play. Ntep has been compared to Antoine Griezmann and is more likely to move in the summer.

Chances of moving: 35 percent

Yohan Cabaye/Edinson Cavani, Paris Saint-Germain

Interested clubs: Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United, Juventus

Valuations: €15 million/€40 million

Eyebrows were raised when Cabaye moved to PSG 12 months ago, especially after president Nasser El-Khelaifi said that the reasons for signing him included the fact that he was a French, and “a good bloke.” Turns out that’s not quite enough to establish yourself in a side with genuine Champions League ambition, and Cabaye has been frustrated to find himself stuck behind Marco Verratti in Laurent Blanc’s preferred midfield three.

If PSG wants to cut costs this month, it could even release Edinson Cavani, who creates tension in the PSG dressing-room as he is not part of the ‘Zlatan clan’ (with the likes of Thiago Silva, Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti, Lucas and Maxwell). Even though he cost €64 million, PSG would accept €40 million as he comes with an €11 million annual salary.

Chances of moving: Cabaye 60 percent/Cavani 40 percent

Jermain Defoe, Toronto FC

Interested clubs: QPR, Leicester, Crystal Palace

Valuation€7 million

If you’re a club fighting against relegation from the Premier League, chances are you will be interested in Defoe, a proven goalscorer at that level. Unless your name is Harry Redknapp, chances are you won’t get him.

Redknapp coached Defoe at West Ham and then signed him to Portsmouth and Spurs and tried to buy him from MLS last summer as well. Instead, it looks likely that Defoe will take some scoring burden off Charlie Austin for the second half of the season. With 11 goals in 19 MLS games for Toronto, Defoe has not lost his touch. Will he be the man to get Harry out of his latest jam though?

Chances of moving: 90 percent

Kevin de Bruyne, Wolfsburg

Interested clubs: Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain

Valuation: €40 million

The Belgian midfielder is enjoying a great season at Champions League-chasing Wolfsburg, who would be loathe to lose its €25 million star in January. De Bruyne has 10 assists and three goals in 17 games this season, and Belgium captain Vincent Kompany is said to have personally recommended him to City sports director Txiki Begiristain. But Wolfsburg is one of Germany’s wealthiest clubs and has no need to sell him. It can afford to play hardball in negotiations and won’t sell the player for less than €40 million – if it sells at all.

Chances of moving: 20 percent

Lukas Podolski, Arsenal

Interested clubs: Newcastle, Stoke, Everton, Inter Milan, Roma, FC Cologne, QPR

Valuation: €10 million

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The non-playing World Cup winner scored a typical Podolski cracker on a rare start for Arsenal against Galatasaray earlier this month and has asked Arsene Wenger for a run of games to show what he can do. That has not happened, and it would be in everyone’s best interests if Podolski was allowed to leave in January. Where would he go? Lots of clubs need a goalscoring winger, and Podolski could be just the character to provide a midseason spark.

Chances of moving: 75 percent

Adnan Januzaj, Manchester United

Interested clubs: Everton, PSG, Inter, Newcastle

Valuation€15 million

Even when Manchester United coach Louis van Gaal declared before Christmas that the young Belgian winger was not going anywhere, it did not seem convincing. Januzaj needs games to develop and Everton, which has had successful loan spells with the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu, would make sense.

Chances of moving: 50 percent

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