Anthony Martial, Manchester United, January transfer window
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January transfer window: Players in the running for New Year moves

| 21.11.2021

Which moves could happen in the January transfer window?

As football clubs’ finances continue to recover from last season’s COVID disruption, fans and neutrals alike will be hoping to see them splashing the cash in January. Newly-rich Newcastle United will surely be aiming to spend their way out of relegation danger, which could trigger a wave of transfer activity across the continent, but there are plenty of other clubs and players who could make waves this winter. We’ve sifted through the data from recent seasons to work out what we can expect.

How many players will move in the January transfer window?

Let us start by taking a look at how many transfers we expect to happen in January and between which clubs. We’ve analysed every match played in the last 10 seasons across the ‘big five’ European leagues to identify players who featured in a league match for one team before the end of the calendar year and another afterwards.

January transfer window 1

On average we can expect around 90 first-team players to move between teams in these five leagues during the winter window, with the most action happening in Serie A. The Italian top flight is by far the busiest, typically accounting for around 34 of these transfers – twice as many as in the Premier League – including 27 between domestic clubs. As we’ll see later on, there are plenty of Italian-based players who look primed for a big move this winter.

While the other big leagues tend to be less chaotic than Serie A, we should still expect to see seven or eight moves between clubs in each, along with almost as many foreign deals on top. Below we’ve looked at a range of criteria to predict who could be on the move in January.

Whose contracts are running out in the summer?

There is an unusually large number of talented players whose contracts are set to expire this summer, so their clubs could be pushed into accepting an offer now rather than risk losing them for nothing. We’ve been able to create a starting XI of players whose current deals are up in June 2022 that is worth over half a billion pounds, according to Transfermarkt.com.

January transfer window 2

While Kylian Mbappe’s next move is likely to steal the headlines, with Real Madrid sure to face competition for his signature from Premier League clubs, there are plenty of other game-changing moves possible. Paul Pogba could leave Manchester United on a free transfer for the second time in his career and his former club Juventus could similarly lose Paulo Dybala’s services for nothing. Both players are fast approaching the age at which securing a lucrative long-term contract begins to get more difficult, so their agents should already be busy.

Chelsea will need to make Antonio Rudiger a compelling offer to avoid losing a key component of their well-drilled defence, with Bayern Munich rumoured to be interested in luring him back to Germany. Meanwhile, Napoli may not be able to keep hold of their captain Lorenzo Insigne who, at 30 years old, would surely be tempted by the chance to negotiate a bumper contract before his powers begin to wane.

Who could be due for a big move in January?

Players often cite the lure of European football as a reason for moving, so we’ve identified the three most valuable players in each major league – again according to Transfermarkt.com – whose clubs didn’t qualify for a continental competition this season.

In the Premier League, Crystal Palace’s star player Wilfried Zaha is linked with a big move in every transfer window and – having just turned 29 – is running out of time to secure a contract with a more prestigious side. Everton also need to make progress under Rafael Benitez if they are to retain the services of forwards Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Ja nuary transfer window 3

Like Zaha, Torino striker Andrea Belotti has long been linked with bigger teams and once again finds his own club in mid-table. With the Italian’s contract running down, it is surely time for him to find more lucrative employment elsewhere. In La Liga. Valencia left-back Jose Gaya finds himself in a similar situation and could well be tempted by a move to one of La Liga’s giants rather than extending his stay at the Mestalla.

In the Bundesliga, recent setbacks for Gladbach could see their squad picked apart by more successful clubs. The German club was able to attract an array of young talent with regular European football but are on course to miss out on continental competition for the second successive season. Coveted central defender Matthias Ginter – whose contract is running down with little progress on extension talks – could be one of the first to leave.

What types of players are signed in January?

To work out what playing positions are most coveted by managers in mid-season, we’ve looked at the 20 most expensive January signings in each of the last five years, giving us a nice, neat total of 100 players. If clubs recruited evenly across their team when spending large sums of money then you’d expect to see at least 30 defenders in this list, but that’s far from the case.

Our sample of 100 expensive winter transfers contains just 10 defenders and not a single goalkeeper. Meanwhile, there are 28 strikers, making it the most popular playing position, a further 25 wingers – split roughly evenly between the two flanks – and the remaining 37 signings operating somewhere in central midfield.

January transfer window 4

We’ll consider some attacking options shortly, but first let’s take a look at defensive players. Spending big on a full-back during January is almost as rare as doing so on a goalkeeper, so any big defensive signings are likely to be central defenders. Rarely a transfer window goes by without the highly-regarded Kalidou Koulibaly being linked with a move away from Napoli, but could this be the year it finally happens?

Interestingly, there have been almost as many defensive midfielders changing hands as attacking ones, suggesting that winter spending isn’t solely focused on improving a team’s goal threat. With Inter’s Marcelo Brozovic out of contract this summer, rumours abound that he will be targeted by several Premier League clubs looking to add steel in the middle of the park. Manchester United have a glaring gap at the base of their midfield, but Liverpool and Newcastle could also make good use of his talents.

Which goalscorers have yet to grace the Champions League?

Seeing as forwards are so popular in January, it’s worth spending a bit more time on them. Belotti also holds the distinction of having scored more goals in one of Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues than any other player under the age of 30 yet to appear in the Champions League. Serie A is a hotbed of under-promoted attackers, with three other Italian-based players in the top five.

January transfer window 5

Domenico Berardi of Sassuolo, Cagliari’s Joao Pedro and October’s player of the month Giovanni Simeone – son of Atletico Madrid manager Diego – have all netted more than 50 league goals but never featured in a Champions League match during their careers to date. Therefore a big club finding themselves short of a striker going into the business end of the season could do a lot worse than sending their scouts to Italy over Christmas.

Which out-of-favour players could move on this January?

While in-form players tend to steal the headlines, there are a host of other top-quality players who have lost their first-team place and could be open to a move. The 2022 World Cup is only a year away and those who aren’t getting regular minutes at club level run the risk of missing the cut for their international teams. We can build an impressive starting line-up out of players who have been consistently named in matchday squads – suggesting that they aren’t injured – but have spent far more time on the bench than the pitch lately.

January transfer window 6

There could be winter exits at Manchester United, with Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard both out of favour and surely keen to remain in their international managers’ thoughts. The club may need to raise funds for a defensive midfielder and the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo has pushed both players even further towards the fringes at Old Trafford.

La Liga’s top teams could see a few departures too, with out-of-favour centre-back Clement Lenglet potentially part of the next fire sale at cash-strapped Barcelona. Fellow giants Real Madrid are rumoured to be keen on offloading their misfiring striker Luka Jovic, who has struggled to justify his price tag at the Bernabeu and is already attracting the interest of Arsenal among others.

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Author

Warren Barner