The football transfer market is recovering from the effects of Covid-19.
Whether that’s a positive or negative is very much open to debate but what’s clear is that clubs hit hard by the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic are starting to buy big again, at least in England.
Indeed, the second-highest spending January transfer window in Premier League history has just closed, with Liverpool pulling off the biggest deal of all in England by landing Luis Diaz from Porto for £50 million ($67m).
However, there was some very significant business done elsewhere in Europe.
Juventus announced their return as major market movers with a €75m (£62m/$84m) deal for Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic, while Barcelona appear to be on the road to recovery thanks to some very clever wheeling and dealing from their new sporting director.
So, who are the big winners and losers of the January transfer window? GOAL takes an in-depth look at the market below…
On Monday, the Gazzetta dello Sport anointed the Old Lady as the ‘Queen of the winter window’.
Few neutrals would disagree. Juve’s January moves were as impressive as they were surprising.
As former Bianconeri boss Alberto Zaccheroni told the Gazzetta: “I don’t think anybody could have predicted Juve making such moves.
“We expected them to make only a few, low-level deals, waiting instead to do some big deals in the summer.”
Instead, Juve stunned Europe by signing the most sought-after striker on the market in Dusan Vlahovic, as well as moving early and decisively to snap up Denis Zakaria, who was of interest to several clubs because his Borussia Monchengladbach contract was set to expire at the end of the season.
With a pair of perfectly executed moves, the Bianconeri have potentially solved their two biggest problems: a lack of goals up front and a dearth of quality in midfield.
They’ve also taken a significant step towards rejuvenating the centre of defence with the addition of Federico Gatti from Frosinone.
And, to top it all off, Juve have also pulled off something they’ve struggled horribly with in recent years: offloading players deemed surplus to requirements.
Ironically, former sporting director Fabio Paratici played a pivotal role.
The man responsible for landing the club with a number of expensive flops has now alleviated the pressure on the Old Lady’s resources by taking both Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski to Tottenham for potentially €70m (£58.5m/$79m) in total.
Then, there’s the fact that Juve have finally managed to find a club for Aaron Ramsey, with the incessantly injured Welshman joining Rangers on loan.
Even accounting for the recent cash injection from majority owners EXOR, Juve fans could never have imagined that their winter window could go so well.
A set of supporters that previously feared missing out on next season’s Champions League are now talking optimistically about making a deep run in this year’s competition.
Mikel Arteta said last month: “The market is difficult and complicated.”
It certainly was for Arsenal, who failed to make a single signing during the winter window.
The Gunners recruited cleverly during the summer, which helps explain why an exciting side full of promising young players is launching a surprising bid for a top-four finish in the Premier League.
Unfortunately, though, Arsenal’s hopes of securing a return to the Champions League must now be considered in real jeopardy.
Arteta has never hidden the fact that he feels his squad is over-stretched and the club’s objective was to bring in a quality midfielder and a reliable goalscorer in January.
However, even though Arthur was willing to move to north London, and Juventus were ready to let him go, the Brazilian ended up staying in Turin.
The failure to sign a striker is even more concerning.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s legacy at Arsenal 🙌
6️⃣8️⃣ Premier League goals.
1️⃣6️⃣ Premier League assists. pic.twitter.com/vWD4AYTX1e
Offloading Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made perfect sense, of course.
He wasn’t justifying his enormous pay packet with impressive performances on the field and had become a disruptive influence off it, with his latest disciplinary breach resulting in him being stripped of the captaincy in December.
However, what’s inexplicable is that Arsenal didn’t acquire a replacement, meaning Arteta will have to navigate a tricky top-four race with just two orthodox centre forwards, Alexandre Lacazzette and Eddie Nketiah, neither of whom have been prolific in the Premier League this season.
The worry has to be that the Gunners will end up paying a heavy price at the end of the season for failing to splash the cash in January.
There’s no hiding the fact that Barcelona remain in a difficult financial position. They’re still counting the cost of the recklessness of the previous administration.
However, that only makes the work done by Mateu Alemany in this latest transfer window all the more extraordinary.
Nobody can deny that they have taken a couple of risks.
There have long been concerns over Adama Traore’s end product, while we do not yet know if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a player in decline or simply experiencing a poor run of form.
However, Ferran Torres already has the look of a fantastic signing for Barca, one that hints at a brighter future, the way in which Alemany made it happen deserves enormous credit.
🔵🔴👍 #FCBarcelona pic.twitter.com/wyCzhshaJE
Remember, just registering players is a struggle for Barca right now and yet Barca’s sporting director has somehow managed to completely revamp the club’s forward line in one window by restructuring Samuel Umtiti’s contract and sending Philippe Coutinho on loan to Aston Villa.
The Ousmane Dembele situation still needs to be resolved – but Xavi is now in a position where he no longer needs to rely on the Frenchman.
An air of positivity has returned to Barca after the doom and gloom of 2021.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta is fond of hyperbole, so it would be wrong to read too much into his comments about signing Erling Haaland this summer.
However, when he says that “everything is possible”, it’s becoming difficult to disagree, given the Blaugrana now have a mini-miracle worker like Alemany controlling the comings and goings at Camp Nou.
Anthony Martial made it clear that he wanted to leave Manchester United, so the French forward was eventually allowed to join Sevilla.
Donny van de Beek wasn’t getting anything like enough game time at Old Trafford, so he will spend the second half of the season on loan at Everton.
Jesse Lingard desperately wanted to find a new club as we move into a World Cup year, yet the England hopeful remains in Manchester.
It’s easy to understand why the attacking midfielder might be feeling bitterly frustrated right now.
According to GOAL sources, Lingard spoke with interim manager Ralf Rangnick on deadline day and the German said he was free to leave.
The 29-year-old wasn’t short on suitors either, with West Ham, Tottenham and Newcastle all registering an interest in his services.
However, after failing to agree a deal with the latter over a contractual clause related to avoiding relegation, United blocked Lingard’s exit.
The club believe that the player still has an important role to play within a squad that is still in three competitions.
However, the fact remains that Lingard is not where he wants to be right now. After a sensational, six-month loan spell at West Ham last season, he only stayed at Old Trafford because Ole Gunnar Solskjaer promised him more game time.
The Norwegian has since been replaced at the helm by Rangnick and while his minutes may increase because of other exits, his chances of starting regularly between now and the end of the season remain slim.
Brentford boss Thomas Frank last coached Christian Eriksen when he was in charge of Denmark’s Under-17s.
The 48-year-old told the London club’s official website this week: “A lot has happened since then.”
And that’s putting it mildly.
Since their time working together at underage level, Eriksen established himself as one of Europe’s most exciting playmakers at Ajax, became a Premier League star at Tottenham and then won a Serie A title with Inter.
✍ Welcome to Brentford, @ChrisEriksen8 👊#BrentfordFC 🐝 #EriksenJoins pic.twitter.com/O8h5WbdUZ2
However, last summer, Eriksen collapsed on the pitch during Denmark’s Euro 2020 clash with Finland in Copenhagen.
His heart stopped and he “died for five minutes”.
In the agonising days, weeks and months that followed, all anyone cared about was Eriksen’s health. His career was considered of secondary importance.
However, as he began his recovery, it quickly became clear that he would be unable to ever again play for Inter because it is not possible for someone with a defibrillator to appear in competitive fixtures in Italy.
Eriksen started training again with Ajax and made it clear last month that he would like to return to the game.
As the winter transfer window began to close, though, Eriksen was still without a club.
However, a move to Brentford was announced on deadline day.
It may not have been the biggest transfer of the winter window but you won’t find a more popular one anywhere in the world.
Once again, the entire footballing community is rooting for Christian Eriksen.
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