What will and won’t happen during the January transfer window
Your indispensable guide to the winter wheelings and dealings.
It’s nearly January, and the transfer window is about to slam open. But what’s going to happen? Well, we’re glad you asked. Here’s the official SB Nation January 2015 Transfer Window Yearboook, your indispensable guide to the impending month of madness. Make sure all three of your mobile phones are on — you may even want to plug in your old fax machine — then dive in …
Club most likely to sell their best player
In the interests of democracy, we polled Twitter (well, a small subsection of Twitter) to find out which club was most likely to sell their best player in January. And the responses were as follows:
PRETTY MUCH EVERYBODY
Seriously, it would be padding of an almost embarrassing degree to list them all. But we’re willing to list a few favourites. Raheem Sterling is leaving Liverpool. David de Gea will be departing Manchester United, provoking Hugo Lloris to jump ship from Tottenham. Morgan Schneiderlin’s Southampton career will be ending, as is Winston Reid’s time at West Ham and Moussa Sissoko’s with Newcastle.
In Europe, meanwhile, Anderlecht and Partizan will be flogging off their brightest and best, as will Roma, though our Roma pessimist failed to specify which of their good players would be moving on. Presumably all of the talented ones, meaning Ashley Cole will stick around.
In short, everybody’s very worried. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Manager most likely to pursue an emotional reunion with one of his
agent’s favourite charges
“Jermain’s a wonderful player, a top, top professional, and I’m delighted to be working with him again. He’s a proven Premier League goalscorer, and I firmly expect him to be back in the England squad before too long. The only downside with buying him this January is that come the summer, I’ll have to move clubs in order to buy him again, and I had been thinking about retirement. But needs must.”
– Harry Redknapp, every few months from now until the end of time, probably. Though in this case, at least, he’ll have a reason …
Club most likely to sell their top scorer
… because Charlie Austin only has 18 months left on his contract at Queens Park Rangers, and that kind of thing tends to focus the mind and open the wallet. Austin, who has scored 12 goals in his first Premier League season, has been literally the only good thing about Loftus Road this campaign, and has set himself up perfectly for a move to somewhere slightly less likely to go down. QPR will get relegated without him, while Austin will get an England cap and lose his form completely. It’s a cruel, cruel world.
Club least likely to buy any defenders despite (a) desperately needing a couple and (b) being under threat of an impending transfer ban
Barcelona. Thomas Vermaelen will be fit soon, guys!
Executive vice-chairman most likely to end up in the papers
Ed Woodward, the man in charge of the chequebooks at Manchester United, quite likes the transfer market. He particularly likes to be involved in big deals for big players, and even more than that likes to be seen to be involved in big deals for big players. So while United could usefully do with a centre half and a right back, expect to see rumour after rumour about the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Edinson Cavani, and so on and so forth. Hell, if things get a bit quiet, he might start going door-to-door. “Good morning, madam. I can confirm Manchester United have an awful lot of money to spend. Do you have any world-class wingers in the house that you no longer need?”
(Obviously, United could usefully do with Gareth Bale too, since literally every side in the world would be improved by Gareth Bale. But that’s beside the point.)
Club most likely to end up at war with itself
There is, on the face of it, nothing wrong with a ‘transfer committee’. Transfers are about more than just ‘I want that one and that one and that one’ — at least, they are for those clubs unfortunate enough not to be Real Madrid — and so having input from three or four talking heads, each in theory knowledgeable about a different aspect of football and football business, is perfectly sensible.
Thing is, though, Liverpool’s title challenge last season was built on being, more or less, completely stupid. Good stupid; the stupid that does everything wrong yet makes it work, that abandons all accepted notions of ‘sensible’ and plays football like children in the throes of a sugar rush. The stupid where it doesn’t matter that Cardiff City had scored three because Liverpool had scored six. Trying to graft sensible on to that is like, well, a parent sitting that Haribo-hopped child down and asking them to do their homework. Somebody’s going to end up with a pencil in their nose.
Sensible buys a centre-half coming off a decent season, a couple of promising full-backs, a prospect in central midfield and another on the wing, a backup striker. Sensible looks at the price for Mario Balotelli and thinks, well, there’s probably some value there. Sensible broadens the depth of the squad and looks for consolidation. Sensible does all the right things to the best of its ability.
What does stupid do? Maybe stupid buys nothing but goals (as set out in greater detail over on the Anfield Wrap). Maybe stupid would have blown all the Suárez money on the best goalkeeper around, and said to everybody else ‘You’ll be fine, lads’. Maybe stupid would have made a list of the fifty best attacking players in the world then gone through them one by one, offering a £100m fee and £300k in wages until they found one that stuck. Messi? No, not interested. Ronaldo? No, not interested. Sánchez? Three hundred thousand pounds buys a lot of train tickets to London …
Might not have worked, of course, but would at least have been in keeping with Liverpool’s best chance of winning the title in years. But then, stupid isn’t what committees do. Stupid is exactly what they’re there to prevent.
Club most likely to overpay hilariously for somebody English
There are bad kinds of stupid as well, of course, and Saido Berahino to Liverpool for £23m looks very much like that kind of stupid. But then, it’s a rumour from the Daily Express …
Newspaper most likely to lose the run of itself and link a club with a player they already own
When it comes to the transfer rumour mill, there are varying degrees of noise and nonsense. Most rumours are born, live, and then die without ever coming to fruition: negotiations collapse; circumstances change; other players move or pick up injuries; the whole thing turns out to have been a plant by an agent. In other words, while most things don’t end up happening, not everything that doesn’t happen couldn’t have happened.
Some things that don’t happen, however, were never going to happen; they were what we might euphemistically call “clickbait” and uneuphemistically call some words that it would be unwise to publish. Two of England’s newspapers lead the way in this regard, the Star and the Express. But where the Star is comfortable in its role as England’s National Enquirer — this is the paper that recently brought us news of CRABZILLA, a 50ft wide crustacean that has so far failed to consume any of England’s south coast towns — the Express plays a far more pernicious role in the mill.
Here (with thanks to Football365′s endlessly patient Mediawatch) are the players that the Express have recently claimed will/may/could/mostly definitely won’t be moving to Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool this January:
Manchester United: Mats Hummels, Gareth Bale, Fabio Coentrao, Victor Valdes, Sergio Busquets, Kevin Strootman, Marco Reus, Gabriel Barbosa, Malcom Silva, Diego Godin, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Enzo Perez, Nicolas Gaitan, Lucas Silva and Paul Pogba.
Arsenal: Moussa Sissoko, Nabil Fekir, Fabio Coentrao, Nemanja Vidic, Sergio Busquets, Lucas Silva, Marco Reus, Stephan El Shaarawy, Matt Targett, Sebastian Giovinco, Nikola Vlasic, Krystian Bielik, Marcelo Brozovic, Virgil van Dijk, Gabriel Barbosa and Malcolm Silva.
Liverpool: Gonzalo Higuain, Fabio Coentrao, Marco Reus, Stephan El Shaarawy, Matt Targett, Sebastian Giovinco, Victor Valdes, Divock Origi, Guillermo Ochoa, Xherdan Shaqiri, Christian Eriksen, Martin Montoya.
Now, perhaps the Express have a range and a quality of sources that defies even Heinz. Perhaps the above all contain some grain of a semblance of a shade of a resemblance to reality, or at least to the fevered exercise in unreality that is the transfer market. But … well, it doesn’t look like it. And with the world the way it is now, these stories acquire a life of their own beyond one day’s back page. Yesterday’s chip paper in England is today’s chip paper in Spain, which in turn becomes tomorrow’s in England again, this time with a shiny new source in Spain, which lends it a new air of legitimacy. Except that source turns out to have been one in England.
In essence, what used to be one stupid rumour on one stupid day now multiplies across several days, mutating all the while. An English newspaper story makes its way through a Spanish website, a French radio station, an Italian television show, then arrives back onto the pages of another English newspaper, and all of a sudden the rumour’s back, like some hideous shambling zombie.
“Mats … Hummels …” *shotgun blam* “Manchester … United …” *shotgun blam* “Brains … BRAINS …” *bloody tearing sounds* *screaming* *wet thuds* *silence*
That’s the Express. Patient Zero of the zombie invasion. Check your ammo. Board up your windows. Make peace with your gods.
Club most likely to do nothing, ominously
For a club that often seems to judge success by counting the zeroes, Real Madrid don’t often do much actual business in the January transfer window. And this season, with the world’s most ferocious attacking machine purring along nicely, there’s nothing much to be done. But that’s not to suggest that they’re not going to be worth keeping an eye on: since there’s no World Cup this summer, the next big signing — and there has to be one, since sharks need to keep swimming — is going to be identified and courted over the second half of this season.
Watch the papers. Watch the leaks. Has Karim Benzema been chit-chatting with Paul Pogba at French training sessions? Is Cristiano Ronaldo a big fan of Marco Reus’ haircut? Does Florentino Perez think David de Gea looks good in a hat? The next galactico is out there, somewhere, and the process of making him galactic is just getting started.
Club least likely to shake things up
Arsène Wenger, by all accounts, places a very high priority on the personalities in his squad meshing together. Good, obviously, in that a holistic sense of understanding can only serve to reinforce the collective mission, or something along those lines. It’s nice when people get on.
But he does seem to have ended up with a despicably polite group of individuals, all of whom seem to like and respect one another to a dangerous degree. A squad that, when things go wrong, expresses itself in reproachful glances and shrugged shoulders. It is nearly impossible to imagine any Arsenal player turning to any other and enquiring “What the expletive deleted was that, you expletive deleted expletive deleted?” Mathieu Flamini? That’s just going to sound hollow. Jack Wilshere? That’s going to sound even worse.
Basically, while Arsène Wenger definitely does need to buy a centre half and a few defensive midfielders, he also needs to import some healthy professional contempt. Somebody who thinks Arsenal’s players have spent far too long playing like Arsenal players, and isn’t afraid to tell them so. The rumours suggest that he might be buying Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho, which will presumably be fine. We can call him Bill, and that’ll be nice. But he really needs to buy John Terry.
Club most likely to buy their closest rivals’ best players just because they can, not because they need to, as a warning to the rest of the league
Bayern Munich. But you knew that already. Just like you know that, whoever he is, Pep Guardiola will end up playing him in midfield.
Club most likely to do something, sentimentally
A bit of a cheat this one, since it’s already happened, but if there’s any reasoning behind Fernando Torres returning to Atletico Madrid that isn’t ‘wouldn’t it be nice if Fernando Torres returned to Atletico Madrid?’ then we have no idea what it is. Perhaps the thinking is that he’ll be revitalised by homecoming, or galvanised by Diego Simeone. Though since he’s spent most of the last few seasons looking actively afraid of the ball, we think it’s a long shot.
Club most likely to do something else, a few days later, unsentimentally
“It is with great regret that Atletico Madrid can confirm that the loan of Fernando Torres from AC Milan has been terminated …”