Jack Holmes revisits the January transfer and looks at two teams who got their recruitment spot on, and two who failed to deliver.
The summer transfer window is the best opportunity for teams to make a big play and properly evaluate their squads. They have enough time to work on deals and bring in new talent, without being rushed.
However, the January window can throw up some interesting stories of its own, partly due to its rapid, frenzied nature. This winter was rather barren on the signings front, but there were still some intriguing narratives throughout the month.
Let’s have a look at two clubs that got it right in January, and two clubs that might regret their decisions come May.
When the opportunity to sign a player with the potential of Erling Braut Haaland comes along, you simply cannot let it pass. Borussia Dortmund signed the Norwegian wonderkid for a measly £18m from RB Salzburg, an absolute steal for the Germans. Five matches into his BVB career, he’s already proven he’s worth far more than the fee they paid.
A frankly staggering tally of eight goals and one assist is all the evidence one needs to see that this was the right purchase to make. The other incoming for the Black and Yellow is that of loan signing Emre Can, who has joined from Juventus until the end of the campaign. While not as exciting as Haaland, this acquisition is a smart one.
With Thomas Delaney side-lined by various ligament injuries, Dortmund needed a central midfielder with quality defensive capabilities. Landing a player of Can’s calibre is shrewd business, indeed. Given champions Bayern Munich are only three points ahead at the top of the table, it wouldn’t be a surprised if Dortmund make a late push for the title, aided by their new Norwegian talisman.
With this year’s Serie A being a three-horse race between Inter Milan, Juventus and Lazio, the January transfer window could prove decisive with regard to who crosses the finish line first.
Inter have used the window to excellent effect and could reap the benefits come May. Christian Eriksen was their star signing this window, and at around only £17m, he was a steal. The team has struggled for creativity from the middle of the park, with Marcelo Brozovic – a defensive midfielder – often handed the role of playmaker. Simply put, it’s a job that shouldn’t be left to him.
At his best, Eriksen was an elite creator for Tottenham Hotspur. In the far slower Serie A, and with two elite strikers in Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez ahead of him, the Dane should continue to flourish. If he stays in Italy, we’ll see Eriksen age gracefully as he enters the latter years of his career.
Along with the 27-year-old, Antonio Conte’s Inter have brought in both Ashley Young and Victor Moses. At first it might appear as if Conte is just going for the bargain bin of Premier League players. But, when he played under the Italian at Chelsea, Moses excelled as an attacking wingback. The manager is employing a similar style at the San Siro, demonstrating the forethought that went into these two signings.
Conte clearly thinks he can get the very best out of Young and Moses by playing to their skill-set. They are ideal candidate for roles in his system. With these three arrivals, the Nerazzurri have added real quality, as well as some much-needed squad depth. Those are both essential qualities for a team aiming to win its first league title in a decade, and it should see them pip Juve and Lazio.
Barcelona – a club as successful as it is woefully run.
The Catalan giants went into January with one very clear and obvious issue; they needed a goal-scoring centre forward to replace the injured Luis Suarez. And yet, we find ourselves in February, and they haven’t signed a single player, let alone a striker. This complete and utter failure from the board is made worse by the list of targets that they produced during the window.
There was a bizarre attempt to nab Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on loan, despite the fact Arsenal would never let their captain leave in January, let alone without a fee. Couple this with a failed move for Paris Saint-Germain forward Edison Cavani, and it paints a picture of desperation. These two botched deals further highlight the disjointed thinking at the Camp Nou – replacing an aging Suarez with two forwards coming to the end of their respective careers.
Next up, Barça seemed overly keen to lure Rodrigo Moreno away from Valencia, a forward who – to put it kindly – has been underwhelming at beast this season. This, too, was a deal that fell apart due to the Catalans’ inability to successfully negotiate a transfer.
Ultimately, the board could have made something happen in the window, and you only have to look at Haaland’s budget move to Dortmund to realise Barcelona had options. This window was yet another embarrassing performance in front of the footballing world, the ineptitude of those in charge clear for all to see.
This might be a controversial choice. The signing of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon for an estimated £60m is an okay transfer, but that’s nothing more. It was very, very okay.
The red side of Manchester had one gaping hole in their squad that needed to be addressed in January – a centre forward. With Marcus Rashford unavailable due to a back issue, United’s attack looks threadbare. If the club hierarchy genuinely believed they had a shot of finishing in the top four, then a striker was of paramount importance.
So, who did they turn to? Ex-Watford striker Odion Ighalo, a man who had been plying his trade in China. Ighalo might have been great in 2015/16 for the Hornets – a season in which he hit 17 Premier League goals – but his final campaign in England was littered with sub-par displays, and the Nigerian hasn’t exactly lit up China either.
According to reports, the Red Devils had the opportunity to sign Haaland, but refused after his representatives insisted his Dortmund contract included a £60m buy-out clause, becoming active in 18 months’ time.
This decision smacks of misplaced arrogance. Even if Haaland was to leave in the summer of 2021, United would have saved themselves £43m profit. And that’s just financial gains –Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side would also be reaping the rewards out on the field of play.
If United fail to make the top four due to the loss of Rashford and their own recruitment blunders, the decisions of Ed Woodward and the board will come under serious scrutiny.