What to expect in this January football transfer season
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The trees are coming down, the lights are coming off, and turkeys can roam freely again. But that does not mean festivities have quite ended for many football fans. That is because—drum roll—the January transfer window is upon us. As teams all over Europe careen into the second half of the season, the January window offers that desperate chance at one final roll of the money-dice to shore up teams, strengthen benches or rescue flagging morale.
In particular, things can hot up at the top and bottom of the league table. At the top, teams in the reckoning for the league title or a place in lucrative continental competitions often shell out absurd sums of money for that booster shot of talent that could push them over the finish line in first place. At the bottom, where things are a matter of life and relegation, sense deviates from spending with even greater alacrity.
So what can you look forward to in the next few weeks of hectic deal-making? These are the seven common types of transfers you are most likely to see across Europe.
Swan seeks song
A player who once struck fear in the hearts of opponents now seeks to rage against the dying light. The January transfer window, which often takes place in an environment of sheer panic, can be uncommonly kind to footballing veterans who are in the market for a final half-season’s worth of hurrah. On paper this is a good move. Elder statesman can often bring maturity, stability and, of course, talent to a dressing room. But often, like Emmanuel Adebayor at Crystal Palace, they don’t.
Benelux boom/Benelux bust
Surely this is cliché now? Surely by now managers know better than to peg all their hopes on that guy who is setting the pitch on fire in the Netherlands or Belgium. He may be scoring them by the bucketloads for Anderlecht. But can he cut it, as they say, on a cold, windy day in Stoke? Usually—Afonso Alves—they can’t. But then sometimes—Luis Suárez—they can. But mostly they don’t.
Chelsea Chowk to China
If it looks like a scam and it quacks like a scam, then surely it is the Chinese domestic football league? Teams from Asia’s booming-est league are paying eye-watering sums of money for players who range from the great to the meh. In the last few weeks, both Carlos Tevez and Oscar may have overtaken Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to become the best-paid footballers in the world thanks to Chinese Super League largesse. Given the sums of money involved, there are going to be a lot of stars flying to China this winter as teams and players seek to cash in.
A hero will save us
Time is running out and your team is parked firmly at the bottom of the table. What do you do? Place your bets and pray. Steve Bruce did that with Christophe Dugarry in 2003. The Frenchman scored five in his last six matches to keep Birmingham up. Things didn’t go quite like that for Fulham. On 31 January 2014, the floundering club coughed up an estimated £12 million (around Rs100 crore now), a club record, for Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou. Mitroglou only ever played thrice for the club. Fulham were relegated. Mitroglou, meanwhile, is at Benfica, thumping them in again.
More of the same
A decent player does decently for a decent club when suddenly the decent club is approached by another club with an indecent amount of money to purchase above-mentioned decent player. Such as when Swansea sold Wilfried Bony to Manchester City. These are the kind of deals that make the pundits on TV really sweat. Why? Because it makes no sense but they still have to justify it to their viewers. Bony is now on loan at Stoke.
Every once in a while—so rare as to almost always be an accident, though managers and coaches like to act otherwise—a team will bring in an unknown talent in the January window who then blooms. And blooms. And blooms. Think Riyad Mahrez, who joined Leicester from Le Havre for the price of a used cupcake. As far as teams are concerned, this is their dream January deal. A bargain buy that not only succeeds on the pitch but ripens into a multimillion sale come end of the season. Very. Very. Rare.
Then there is the transfer that belies definition and belief. The transfer that bamboozles fans, pundits and, sometimes, even the teams themselves. In January 2014, Arsenal looked in desperate need of a striker to shore up an ultimately abortive title bid. Instead, the team loaned ageing Swedish midfielder Kim Källström from Spartak Moscow. Shortly afterwards, they discovered the Swede had a back injury. Källström, a nice chap by all indications, ultimately played four times for the Gunners before leaving on very amicable terms. However, three years later, many Arsenal fans still don’t understand the point of it all. Källström? Shrug.