The January transfer window has slammed shut, and plenty of damage has been done.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Philippe Coutinho, Alexis Sanchez, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Olivier Giroud, Michy Batshuayi, Ross Barkley, Theo Walcott, Virgil van Dijk, Aymeric Laporte and Lucas Moura were among the high-profile names changing addresses this winter, altering the perspective courses for their new teams both for the remainder of this season and beyond.
The transfer boosts don't always equate to immediate success, of course. Arsenal fell 3-1 to last-place Swansea on the day Mkhitaryan made his debut and in the hours before Aubameyang's signing became official. Liverpool has had its ups (beating Man City) and downs (losing to Swansea) since conducting its business. Chelsea got housed at home by Bournemouth on the day it offloaded Batshuayi and brought in Giroud. But the moves are made with an eye on the longer view, and in that regard we were dealt some clear winners. Here's what stood out the most from the transfer window:
Shout out to American-style trades
First things first: We had a straight player swap and a de-facto three-team deal! Instead of the usual massive-fee-for-star-player transactions, some truly logical maneuvering took place to send players on their way, and it was reminiscent of trades you'd see in the NBA or MLB.
The Manchester United-Arsenal trade featuring Alexis and Mkhitaryan made sense for both parties. Alexis was out of contract and would have been lost for nothing in the summer or sold at a discounted fee. It was clear Mkhitaryan had no future at Manchester United, and while it remains to be seen how he'll fit at Arsenal, it's at the very least a fresh start–and Arsenal didn't have to pay the kind of fee it normally would have for a player of his stature.
The deadline-day carousel that wound up with Aubameyang joining Arsenal required Chelsea to get involved for it to be completed. These kinds of moves aren't unheard of in the European game, but they're certainly more rare than the straight money dumps, and, from an entertainment and imagination perspective, it'd be way more fun to see more of these down the line.
Bayern Munich does it again
Bayern Munich managed to land one of the Bundesliga's most sought-after rising stars without spending a single euro on a transfer fee. By signing a pre-contract with Leon Goretzka prior to his deal with Schalke running out, Bayern will add the German international to its stable of talent, all while weakening a league foe. It also poached Sandro Wagner from Hoffenheim for a paltry reported sum (€12 million), compared to the figures being spent elsewhere. Its domestic dominance isn't going to end anytime soon.
Arsenal has an intriguing future
Arsenal's transfer business won't help much in the league at this point, a transition period will be required and only one of its two big signings–Mkhitaryan–is eligible to play in the Europa League due to Aubameyang's ex-team, Dortmund dropping into the competition's knockout stage while he was still with the club. But Arsenal could have been in a position in which it lost Alexis Sanchez for nothing and didn't have the clout to convince Mesut Ozil that staying was the right move. Instead, it got a good return for a player that clearly wanted out and was going to be leaving in six months anyway and has some genuine star power to build around. It's a departure from how Arsenal has done business in the past, but it shows the club is willing to spend big to get better. Such is life in the Premier League's top six.
Barcelona spends its Neymar windfall well
Buying Ousmane Dembele hasn't really made a dent for Barcelona just yet, but adding Coutinho and Yerry Mina should help fortify the club for the stretch run and the future. Coutinho is cup-tied to Liverpool and can't play in the Champions League for Barcelona, but he can help spell some of Barcelona's attacking players in league play, especially as the season winds down and assuming Barcelona maintains its comfortable cushion, allowing some of the club's veterans to be fresher as they vie for the European title.
Mina, meanwhile, can become the anchor of that back line for years to come, and he was purchased at such a reported bargain fee (€12 million) that will look like an absolute steal once he has cemented his place.
Mexico duo gets new life in Spain
Hector Moreno and Miguel Layun could be starters for Mexico in the World Cup, but they hadn't been doing much starting on the club level for Roma and Porto, respectively, recently. Fortunately for them, they both have new opportunities in La Liga with Real Sociedad and Sevilla, respectively, which should pave the way for a much smoother road to Russia and an easier call for Juan Carlos Osorio come decision time.
The Ayew brothers, together again
Reunited and it feels so good...
Big bucks for defenders on Pep Guardiola's wish list
I mean ...
Delayed gratification pays off
Alexis, Van Dijk, Coutinho and Barkley all wanted out in the summer. All stayed with their respective clubs, were forced to say the right things and act the right way while clearly still wanting to depart. A few months later, they've all got their wish. Alexis is getting paid outside of the Emirates; Van Dijk became the priciest defender ever and went to a Champions League-level squad; Coutinho got his dream move to Barcelona; Barkley was freed from Everton and should have his chances at Chelsea with a potential World Cup roster spot on the line.
It didn't work out for every unhappy player, of course. Leicester has another Riyad Mahrez crisis to manage, but if this window has shown us anything, it's that the Algerian should look forward to a summer full of courtship–and an eventual departure.