Best, worst transfers of January window; Summer names to watch
Manchester City may have won Europe’s transfer deadline day by announcing its deal to appoint Pep Guardiola as its manager for the next three seasons, but there was still lots of player movement during a typically busy and free-spending month.
Despite the lack of major names changing addresses–which was to be expected so close to a pair of major tournaments in Euro 2016 and Copa America Centenario–here are some of the deals that caught our eye, for better or worse, in the January window, some of the moves that should have happened and some moves to keep an eye out for come this summer's window:
Five most impactful transfers of the window
From: QPR to Southampton
Fee: £4 million
Think of all the Premier League teams at the moment that needed a striker this month: Manchester United, Chelsea, Spurs, Leicester, West Ham, Crystal Palace… It’s a long list and somewhat surprising that Austin, a proven scorer in the Premier League, ended up at St. Mary’s. Perhaps it was the fact that Hammers owner David Sullivan once claimed Austin had no ligaments in his right knee that put off buyers: either way, Austin made an immediate impact with the winning goal on his debut at Manchester United.
From: Chelsea to Jiangsu Suning
Fee: £25 million
The most expensive move of this month was also one of the most surprising. Jiangsu finished ninth in the 16-team Chinese Super League last season and went big on the 28-year-old Brazilian who had become a squad player at Stamford Bridge. For Chelsea, it allows it to balance books in accordance with FFP; for players of a certain age all over the world, it will make them think about whether they should follow the gravy train eastwards as well.
From: Galatasaray to Stuttgart
The German had a shocker in Turkey, moving to Galatasaray but not playing because of botched paperwork. He also flew back to Germany every weekend, incurring the wrath of national team coach Jogi Low. Now the Dortmund fan favorite is back in the Bundesliga, trying to add some steel to a Stuttgart backline that needs it. Grosskreutz is just the type of personality that can help Stuttgart escape the drop. Whether he can force his way back into Low’s plans is another matter.
From: Fiorentina to Levante
A move to the bottom side in La Liga may not seem a step up for the U.S.-born Italian forward, but Levante has given itself a great chance of survival with a canny winter window, which saw Rossi join fellow newcomers Joan Verdu (also from Fiorentina), Newcastle target Lucas Orban and record signing Mauricio Cuero. Rossi scored on his debut at Sevilla last weekend and things are looking up for Levante: nine goals in its last four games is more than it managed in the previous 13.
Stephan El Shaarawy
From: Monaco to Roma
The Italian forward’s career had stalled at AC Milan and a loan spell at Monaco was not working. So El Shaarawy returned to Italy last week as a nominal replacement for Gervinho at Roma, whose new coach Luciano Spalletti is a big fan. El Shaarawy scored a superb back-heel volley on his debut over the weekend and has targeted a call-up to Italy’s Euro 2016 squad. A decent six months from the 23-year-old could see that happen. Roma has an option to make his deal permanent for £10 million. If he can push the club up to third place, expect it to be activated.
Why did these moves happen?
From: Norwich to Bournemouth
Fee: £7.5 million
Not many clubs have done smarter selling than Norwich this month: it sold misfiring Grabban back to Bournemouth, which sold him to the Canaries 18 months prior for £3 million. His price has more than doubled, but no one is sure why: he scored 12 goals last season but did not make a single appearance for Norwich this one. He marked his Cherries debut with a miss against Sunderland; meanwhile Norwich brought in Steven Naismith, for £8.5 million and Patrick Bamford on loan. Bournemouth also signed Benik Afobe and Juan Manuel Iturbe.
From: Newcastle to Marseille
Some raised eyebrows when Newcastle bought Thauvin from Marseille for £12 million last summer. It felt like a lot and the Frenchman’s most memorable input was wearing a smart tuxedo before his debut as his coach told him to wear a suit. Marseille has taken him back, but hardly with open arms: “He is not a player I wanted,” said coach Michel.
From: QPR to Swansea
You can imagine the boardroom conversation: “We need someone who understands what a relegation battle is all about.”
“Yeah, maybe someone who has played in the Premier League already so he gets what we need.”
“I know just the guy. International player, great technique, World Cup experience, can score important goals.”
“Perfect: who is it?”
“What, Leroy Fer who was relegated with Norwich in 2014 and with QPR in 2015?”
“He’s the one. That run ends here. At least, I hope it does.”
From: Liaoning Whowin to Tianjin Quangjian
Fee: £6 million
Lu Who? This was an important deal because it sets the tone for the biggest emerging market in the game. Lu, 28, is a goalkeeper with two China international appearances to his name; he was captain of Liaoning and wanted to be closer to his hometown. The big surprise in this deal, which shattered the domestic transfer record in China, is that his new club is not even in the Super League. Quangjian finished ninth in League One (the second division) last season. Experts have said the quota on acquiring foreign talent (four per team) has left clubs spending more on homegrown players.
“Clearly their prices have gone far beyond their true values while bubbles and false prosperity prevail in Chinese football,” reported Shanghai Daily.
From: Corinthians to Chelsea
Chelsea has not had much luck with strikers this season but few hold out much hope that Pato will reverse that trend. The 26-year-old has not played for Brazil since 2013, was dumped by Corinthians–who allowed him to move to rivals Sao Paulo on loan–and has been hawking himself around Premier League clubs for the last three windows. Any chance that Chelsea fans had of seeing local English talent Bamford wear its shirt promptly dissolved; Bamford moved to Norwich on loan. It will be interesting to see which of the two scores more goals.
Five rumored transfers that didn’t happen but would’ve made sense
From: West Brom to Newcastle
No one can accuse West Brom chairman Jeremy Peace of NOT making his point. He rejected bids from Spurs last August on deadline day for the English forward and did the same from Newcastle, whose offer went up to £21 million, this week. Berahino has barely played for the club this season, and can expect another six months warming the bench.
From: Chelsea to Valencia/Atletico Madrid
Falcao was in Spain on Monday hoping that his agent, Jorge Mendes, could secure a return to La Liga, where the Colombian enjoyed the best period of his career. But it was not to be: no loan period to Valencia or deal with Atletico. So Falcao has another six months waiting on the sidelines at Chelsea, and then in the summer is likely to move to MLS, the Middle East or China.
From: Stoke to Marseille
He can laugh about it now, but Odemwingie made the 2013 January deadline day highly memorable when he was filmed arriving in his car at QPR’s Loftus Road stadium, only to be refused entry into the ground. The deal never happened. So when it was reported Monday that Marseille was interested in the Nigerian, the jokes were shared across the Channel. As it turned out, Marseille did not get Odemwingie, but in signing Thauvin (and Sunderland’s Steven Fletcher, which could work out) managed to give some fans a chuckle.
From: Fulham to Sampdoria
The Greek forward is on loan at Benfica and in good form at the moment: Benfica has won its last 10 games and Mitroglou has scored six goals. According to the Portuguese press, his parent club, Fulham, accepted offers from Sampdoria and Swansea to sell him, but Benfica, despite being offered compensation for losing him, refused to cut his loan short.
From: Arsenal to Manchester United
The United defense is a mess and the French fullback is desperate for game time ahead of Euro 2016. On paper this deal should have worked: but Arsene Wenger did not want to help out United and instead, Debuchy went on loan to Bordeaux. He gets his guaranteed match time while United’s patched-up backline soldiers on without any new faces.
Five transfers we should expect to see this summer
From: Chelsea to Real Madrid/PSG
Whoever Chelsea’s new coach is, his first job may be to convince Hazard to stay at Stamford Bridge. He will not be short of offers, especially now Real Madrid’s transfer ban has been tentatively lifted for the summer, and he only joined Chelsea in 2012 when it was apparent it would be in the Champions League. His future could be one of the sagas of the summer.
From: Juventus to Manchester City/Barcelona/Real Madrid
The French midfielder is likely to leave Juventus this summer, and, with some help from agent Mino Raiola, could usurp Gareth Bale as the world’s most expensive player. Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane wants him, and Zizou is hard for a Frenchman to turn down. Manchester City could offer him more money, and the opportunity to play under Pep Guardiola. Decisions, decisions…
From: Atletico Madrid to Chelsea/Manchester City
The path from the Vicente Calderon to Stamford Bridge is a well-trodden one in recent years, even if the likes of Diego Costa and Filipe Luis have not always been overwhelming successes. Griezmann is the latest superstar that has thrived at Atletico, and it’s recruitment is to sell at his peak, which will be after the Euros. Griezmann brings tactical intelligence and goals, but Chelsea’s problem might be a lack of European football. Who will take the chance on it then?
From: Marseille to Liverpool/Spurs/West Ham
The 22-year-old Belgian forward was the subject of bid from Stoke and Newcastle during the window, but player and club have agreed to wait until the summer to discuss a move. He could aim higher then: both West Ham and Spurs have also been interested, and Marseille is looking to make big money on a player it signed two years ago from Standard Liege.
From: Everton to Manchester City/Barcelona/Chelsea
Everton rejected Chelsea’s £40 million bid for the English center back last summer, and despite a recent run of below-par form, his price is set to be even higher this summer. Chelsea will come back in for him now that John Terry is leaving, but Stones could have other offers: City and Barcelona have been reportedly interested this season.