The January transfer window isn't when the transfer bombshells usually drop, but that doesn't mean circumstances won't dictate a few big moves this winter.

By Avi Creditor
December 17, 2018

The January transfer window isn't when the transfer bombshells usually drop, but that doesn't mean circumstances won't dictate a few big moves this winter.

Normally the time when clubs go shopping for roster reinforcements as opposed to big-ticket game-changers, this January could yet feature a blockbuster or two. The perfect storm of club discontent, manager friction and poor form could wind up resulting in a change of scenery for very talented stars, while the fact that players are no longer cup-tied if they played in the Champions League group stage for one team makes certain stars more appealing than before that rule was altered. Meanwhile, for players across the Atlantic Ocean, the time to depart, during their current clubs' offseasons, is now.

There's also the element of star players who are out of contract at season's end negotiating their arrangements now for a summer transfer. Players are permitted to do so with clubs six months ahead of their contract expiration, and as we've seen in past seasons (Leon Goretzka to Bayern Munich, Emre Can to Juventus most recently), talent can be found without having to fork over tens of millions in pounds or euros.

Here are some of the biggest names to watch ahead of what should be an intriguing January transfer window:

Paul Pogba, Manchester United

Pogba's situation has changed entirely two weeks ago. Even after his influential role in helping France win the World Cup, Pogba had clashed repeatedly with now-former manager Jose Mourinho, but it was the coach that was cut loose instead of the player. Regardless of Mourinho's apparent crusade against the player, Pogba's inconsistent performances have left much to be desired, and there's no guarantee that Mourinho's exit suddenly turns Pogba into Superman (although players Mourinho has given up on before have certainly proven that is a possibility).

Following Mourinho's departure, the likelihood of a sale has decreased considerably, but you'd think Pogba would still have suitors lining up. It's not often a 25-year-old midfield star in the prime of his career is made available, and if all that was making it the case prior to Mourinho's ouster was the presence of the manager, then Man United has some serious foundational rebuilding to do. The questions are which club can afford to take him on, and to which club Man United would sell. The Red Devils drawing PSG in the Champions League round of 16 would surely eliminate the Ligue 1 power from contention, leaving a select few in the queue.

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Isco, Real Madrid

Isco is far from one of manager Santiago Solari's favorites, and the Spain and Real Madrid attacking star could quickly find himself staring at the Bernabeu exit. It would be a puzzling development for the 26-year-old, especially given his rise in status at the club over the last couple of seasons and the opening in the attack with Cristiano Ronaldo's departure. While clearly not a like-for-like replacement, those minutes figured to be soaked up by some combination of Isco, Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio and Mariano Diaz, yet it's Isco that finds himself on the outside looking in despite scoring 20 goals in all competitions over the last two years and enjoying a prominent role with the Spanish national team.

If any suitor lands Isco and is able to unlock his talent, it'd make for quite the extraordinary midseason addition, though you can be sure Real Madrid won't be selling on the cheap.

Adrien Rabiot, PSG

Out of contract at the end of the season, Rabiot fits the bill of a player who is sold for something before being lost for nothing. Unless PSG is convinced he'll re-sign between now and the summer–and based on comments made by the club's sporting director, that's not going to happen–Rabiot would make for a nice on-field addition to many contenders across the continent.

Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images

Exequiel Palacios, River Plate

It's long been expected that Palacios will join Real Madrid after helping River Plate win the Copa Libertadores at Real Madrid's home stadium following the unrest and chaos in Argentina. Whether that happens in January or the summer appears to be the only question surrounding the 20-year-old midfield talent.

Cristian Pavon, Boca Juniors

Like with Palacios, it's been reported that Pavon's Argentine club would sanction a sale following the Copa Libertadores, and Arsenal has been most heavily linked with the 22-year-old Argentine forward.

Cengiz Under, AS Roma

Roma certainly doesn't have to sell its 21-year-old Turkish winger, but his value is high, the suitors are swirling and he's reportedly open to a move to the Premier League, hence transfer rumors and links. Arsenal and Tottenham are among the sides reportedly interested in a transfer.

Miguel Almiron, Atlanta United

It's long been expected that Almiron will depart for England, but Atlanta president Darren Eales isn't letting go easily. He's demanding what he feels is fair value for the Paraguayan playmaker, and he wants Premier League sides to ante up. Newcastle appears to be the leader, but it would need to shatter its club record to purchase the MLS star. River Plate's Pity Martinez is expected to take Almiron's spot in Atlanta's star-laden lineup for next season's MLS Cup title defense.

Hector Vivas/Getty Images

Diego Lainez, Club America

The 18-year-old Mexican star is reportedly headed to Europe, with Ajax said to be the front-runner for his services and Lyon also reportedly interested. Ajax, in particular, would be a perfect place for Lainez to continue his development after he helped Club America capture the Liga MX Apertura title. Not that all player situations are the same, but playing in the Eredivisie has been a fruitful endeavor for a number of Mexican players over the years, including Andres Guardado and Hirving Lozano.

Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund

Dortmund maintains it won't sell Pulisic this season, and Pulisic himself has said he'd assess everything after this season is over, making a summer sale is more likely. But what if Dortmund is blown away by an offer, or at the very least agrees in January to a sale in July? Pulisic demand is high now and won't shrink much, but if the U.S. international continues to get overshadowed by the other talent at Dortmund or doesn't feature as much as a starter between now and June, his valuation may not remain quite as high. Chelsea and Bayern Munich have been reported as chief suitors for Pulisic, while Liverpool and Tottenham have also been mentioned in the conversation.

WATCH: Berhalter Outlines His USMNT Plans for Pulisic

Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal

Arsenal has already made it clear it won't be re-signing Ramsey to a new contract when his current one expires this summer. That allows Ramsey to pre-negotiate his free summer transfer or for Arsenal to try and receive something in return before losing the asset for nothing. Perhaps a Champions League contender will see a chance to add valuable depth and spring into action for a relatively discounted deal?

Mario Balotelli, Nice

Like Ramsey, Super Mario is out of contract at the end of this season. He has hardly done anything under Patrick Vieira at Nice, failing to score in 10 league appearances, and comes with the career baggage that has been widely circulated. But he's still 28, scored 33 goals combined in his last two seasons in Ligue 1 and has talent capable of being harnessed. Marseille was reportedly close to signing Balotelli over the summer.

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