A Tiresome Transfer Period
Despite the January transfer window being more than halfway done, clubs across the top leagues in Europe have done very minimal business, if they’ve done any at all. Joe Bell takes a look at the biggest transfer news from England, Scotland and the wider reaches of Europe’s top leagues.
As the 2020/21 season reaches the half-way mark, we have already been treated to a host of surprises – Liverpool’s Anfield fortress has collapsed at the hands of Burnley, Arsenal have been facing a battle in the bottom half of the table and Manchester United sit atop the Premier League. All of this coupled with consistent COVID-19 call-offs and controversy, fans have already dubbed this as a season for the history books, but as we approach the end of the January transfer window, supporters are still eagerly waiting for the notorious last-minute scramble for any emergency signings. Across Europe’s top five leagues, only £104.6m has been spent on signings which, in comparison to previous years, suggests a very lacklustre turn of events.
- Perhaps the highest-profile move of the window so far comes in the form of Mesut Özil, who joined Fenerbahçe on a free transfer after mutually terminating his contract at Arsenal. The 34-year-old spent over seven years in North London, but changes in personnel has seen the playmaker phased out of contention, being left out of Arsenal’s Premier League and Europa League squads entirely this season. Arsenal have been crying out for a playmaker ever since Özil was alienated and their wishes may well come true, with Real Madrid’s Martin Ødegaard almost certainly coming in on loan. Centre back Sokratis Papastathopolous has also mutually terminated his contract with the club and has moved to his native Greece, signing with Olympiakos, while young defender William Saliba has also departed, joining Nice on loan for the remainder of the season.
- Elsewhere in England, Manchester City has had a slight dash of controversy, as Pep Guardiola was keen to secure the services of on-loan goalkeeper Scott Carson permanently – however, the veteran’s parent club Derby could not afford to part ways with Carson on a permanent basis, as the monthly payments that City make are helping the Championship club to fund their players’ wages.
- Across the city, Manchester United have finally brought 19-year-old Nigerian winger Amad Diallo to the club from Atalanta, after concluding a deal worth £19 million in the summer. Diallo fills a gap that United have had for some time, with the youngster being the only natural right winger at the club. Having only made four senior appearances in Italy, Diallo has still to fully develop, but it seems highly likely that United will put in the time and effort to see him thrive.
- While Frank Lampard’s departure (coupled with Thomas Tuchel’s arrival) may be the biggest bit of news coming from Chelsea this January, there have also been a couple of menial deals completed by the West London club. Midfielder Danny Drinkwater secured a loan move to Turkish side Kasimpassa in an effort to secure first team football, while Chelsea’s longest-serving player Lucas Piazon left the club on a permanent basis after nine years, seven loan spells and only three appearances. The biggest departure comes in the form of Fikayo Tomori, who joined title-chasing AC Milan for the rest of the season on loan – however, the Italian club do have an option to secure Tomori’s services permanently for a fee of £25 million in the summer.
- As they were in the summer, Hibernian have been one of the most active clubs in the country this winter. With Ofir Marciano injured for a prolonged period of time, Arsenal’s Matt Macey was brought to the club on a deal that keeps him in Edinburgh until the end of the season. Jack Ross also bolstered his midfield by bringing Jackson Irvine back to Scotland, following spells at Burton Albion and Hull City. The club also brought one-time Scotland international Chris Cadden to Easter Road off the back of a season with Columbus Crew that saw the Ohio franchise lift the MLS Cup.
- With all of Celtic’s presence in the media this month, it’s surprising that very little has been about transfer deals. That looks to be changing as the month draws to a close, however, with right-back Jeremie Frimpong on the verge of completing a move to Bayer Leverkusen of the Bundesliga, for a fee in excess of £10 million. Various names have been identified as potential targets for the current champions, with Charlton’s Alfie Doughty, Preston’s Ben Davies and Leicester’s Sidnei Tavares all signposted as players that have piqued Neil Lennon’s interest this month.
- With Rangers storming the league this season, the club haven’t made too much noise this month as to not upset the apple cart, but are already building for next season by agreeing a pre-contract deal with Aberdeen winger Scott Wright, who will join the champions-elect for the 2021/22 season.
- With PSG bringing former Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino to the club this month, the Argentine has been able to consider how to spend the French giants’ millions straight away, with Dele Alli of his former club and Manchester City pair Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia identified as potential incomings at the Parc des Princes.
- Marseille have been one of the most active clubs in Ligue 1 this transfer window. Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik has arrived on loan from Italian club Napoli, shocking fans of the club where he’s spent many years. In terms of departures, Marseille have thinned out their midfield options with Kevin Strootman joining Genoa on loan and Morgan Sansone departing for Birmingham, joining Aston Villa on a permanent deal.
- Olympique Lyon have made one significant change to their squad, with the club sending Moussa Dembele to title-chasing Atletico Madrid on loan, while bringing in Leicester’s Islam Slimani as a like-for-like replacement for the French striker.
- Bayer Leverkusen have made it their mission to shore up their backline this January – as well as the aforementioned Frimpong, the club have also signed Manchester United’s Timothy Fosu-Mensah for an undisclosed fee.
- RB Leipzig were finally able to bring the highly-rated Hungarian playmaker, Dominik Szoboszlai to the club, having signed him from FC Salzburg in December. However, Leipzig are currently under threat of losing centre back Dayot Upamecano, as the Frenchman is refusing to sign a new contract. Countless teams have now identified him as a target, with Chelsea, Manchester City, Barcelona and PSG arguably leading the race.
- Eintracht Frankfurt have brought Serbian striker Luka Jovic back to the club on loan after 18 months in Spain – the Real Madrid frontman has struggled to adapt to life in Spain, with a move back to his former club being seen as a way for him to regain some form and with three goals from three substitute appearances so far, the plan seems to be working perfectly.
Overall, transfer action in 2021 so far has been few and far between, with many of the big clubs restricting their spending habits and perhaps saving their millions for the summer period. While it hasn’t been as exciting of a window as the ones we’ve seen before, it’s good to see managers sticking with the team they have, rather than bid for more. As the title races heat up around the continent, who knows what’s in store for fans in the coming months. One thing’s for sure – the rest of the season will be as thrilling as ever.