The general consensus when it comes to transfer activity is that January is never the best time to do your business, and while for the most part the long-term planning that the summer offers is clearly preferable, mid-season signings can often have a fantastic impact at the club, sometimes better than they are given credit for meaning the winter window shouldn’t be feared as much as it often is, with plenty of bargains to be had.
Doing the lions’ share of your transfer business in the summer is without a shadow the best approach to take; it allows the new player time to settle in to fresh surroundings, among new players, a new manager and potentially completely different style of play, but it also allows them the opportunity to build up their fitness and come to terms with the culture of their new club.
When it comes to the January transfer window, when a club moves for a new player, it can often be seen as a panic buy or a chance to compensate for a flaw in the squad which was previously assumed to be an area of strength and not weakness; managers up and down the country will be looking to do the odd piece of business, but it’s not the time for wholesale changes, despite the inherent tinkering nature of the window.
However, this feeling that the winter window now no longer offers you value for money is certainly a false one by and large and while there may be plenty of banana skins to avoid, with the right scouting, there are treasures to be found which have made positive changes both long and short-term to the team’s that they represent and there’s no real reason for this great taboo to exist anymore.
Take Manchester United for example, who have benefited hugely from their transfer dealings in the past midway through the campaign. They brought vice-captain Patrice Evra to the club back in 2006 from Monaco for a fee in the region of £5.5m and while he may have needed to have been subbed at half-time during his debut against Manchester City, he has proved to be a fantastic servant to them during an eight-year stay so far.
During the very same window, Sir Alex Ferguson also purchased club captain Nemanja Vidic from Russian outfit Spartak Moscow for £7m and while Fernando Torres, then of Liverpool, may have given him a torrid time on a number of occasions, the Serbian international has been one of the best, most consistent defenders in the entire top flight since moving to Old Trafford and he was absolutely instrumental in helping the side to four league titles and two Champions League finals.
Newcastle also reaped the dividends of their good scouting work after they bought Papiss Cisse from Bundesliga side SC Freiburg for a fee in the region of £8m and he helped to spearhead the club to an unlikely but hugely deserved fifth-placed finish in the league last season, with his 13 goals in 14 games from January onwards more than making up for the goal drought of team-mate Demba Ba. With Lille right-back Mathieu Debuchy set to move to the club this time around, and with Danny Simpson out of contract in the summer, Magpies fans can be pleased with the business that they’ve done so far, even if more is surely required to stop the rot and make up for their lack of movement before the start of the campaign.
Everton also stand out as a club which have made the most of other clubs wariness of doing deals in January and after selling Diniyar Bilyaletdinov back to Russia to Spartak Moscow, with the £5.5m picked up from the sale they were able to bring in Nikica Jelavic and Darron Gibson on permanent deals and Steven Pienaar back on loan from Tottenham, which more than prepped the ground for a full-time switch in the summer. It completely transformed their season and this term they look a more organised and creative side truly capable of cracking the top four again. Phil Neville, Louis Saha and Tim Howard were all picked up at the same period in the past too, proving that manager David Moyes has an enviable transfer record in January compared to most.
Throw into the mix that Blackburn managed to bring in Christopher Samba from Hertha Berlin back in 2007 for just £450k, Fulham pinched Brede Hangeland from FC Copenhagen for just £2.5m, Matthew Etherington moved to Stoke for £2m from West Ham, not to mention Luis Suarez and Martin Skrtel switching to Liverpool and Gary Cahill to Chelsea and there are quite a few examples of fantastic deals being struck at this time of year.
It will always be tricky to get more bang for your buck when it comes to the notoriously difficult January window, but these deals prove that there are loads of players out there available at a decent price that can come in and leave a lasting impression on the starting eleven. For every Andy Carroll there’s a Luis Suarez and for every Fernando Torres there’s a Nikica Jelavic, but the same certainly applies to the summer transfer window and to completely write off a time to do some potentially superb deals based on the worst excesses of the past is the wrong viewpoint and approach to adopt.
With many top clubs still competing in Europe at this time of year, there’s an obvious reluctance from most to part with their best players while they still stand a chance of winning something, therefore inflating their value to coincide with their true worth to their current club, but dig a little deeper and explore a little more off the beaten track and the cultural backwaters of Europe have so much to offer. It takes more imagination, creativity and bravery to take the plunge in January, but for those that do, even though there’s more risk, the rewards if it is done right can be huge.