The summer transfer window is always an exciting anticipated time for football fans. Who will your team buy? What will your team look like at the start of the season? It’s a period of club website checking, transfer target rumours and a thrill for supporters once the football season has come to an end, but can the same be said for the January transfer window?
Midway through the season is an odd time for trying to tie up a transfer deal; players are under or have renewed a contract with their current club at the beginning of the season, they may have had 5 fantastic months with their present club and are reluctant to risk moving, or clubs simply don’t want to lose players half way through the season which would reduce team numbers. Cup-tied rules also play a big factor in deals; if a player has already played in the Champions League, they won’t be eligible to participate with a new club, something that would put a possible signing in doubt and is more likely to be pushed back as a possible summer transfer, hence the question, is the winter window a pointless non-event?
The January window was first introduced during the 2002/03 season. During the last 13 years we have seen a mixture of successful and ineffective signings over the winter period, the latter mainly due to panic buying if a team have had a difficult start to the season or an unexpected relegation battle has taken hold. However, it’s an opportunity to lift fans and players, a tough time for a team can temporarily be heartened with a couple of good signings. For example, a £37.1 million signing of Juan Mata boosted a wavering David Moyes and his Manchester United team during the 2013/14 season. It was a brief yet effective lift, Moyes wanting to prove he could attract the best players to a top side, and the supporters had something to cheer about in a bleak season. Albeit now under new management, this winter transfer has worked out well in the long run, but others have not been so lucky…
If ever proof was needed of how January signings can go from one extreme to the other in terms of success, look no further than the 2010/11 window involving Chelsea and Liverpool; Chelsea bought Fernando Torres from Liverpool for a British record fee at the time of £50million, and you don’t need me to remind you of how that signing worked out – Torres managing only 20 goals in the league during his disastrous 4 season spell with the Blues. During the same transfer window, Liverpool bought Luis Suarez for £23million and, rather remarkably, for £12million more, Andy Carrol. Suarez went onto be one of the club’s best players with 82 goals in 3 and a half seasons, while Carroll scored just 11 goals then was loaned out to West Ham after just 2 seasons with the Merseyside club.
Some may think it’s a good time to strengthen a squad who are looking for a push for the title or a top four finish. Tottenham could be one of those teams, they are one of the biggest spenders during the winter window, but maybe not the most successful. Wilson Palacios, Younes Kaboul, Steven Pienaar and Lewis Holtby were unproductive January signings for Spurs. A £27million combined amount for the strike partnership of Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe during two separate winter windows was more effective for the club, they scored over 120 goals between them, however, neither player is still playing for Tottenham.
Other futile transfers during January include Chelsea signings Kevin De Bruyne (although he is now a great player for Man City) and Demba Ba. They were both excellent for their pervious clubs, which also begs the question whether moving half way through a season is more disruptive for a player than transferring during the summer – more time to bed in before the new season, a chance to train and get to know your new team mates, pre-season friendlies to accustom you to the club’s style of play – all of which a player never has when transferring during January. Instead you’re plunged straight into playing for your new team without so much as a winter break.
However, the success stories can’t be discounted. Nemanja Vidi? and Patrice Evra were signed by Manchester United during the winter window and both went onto have excellent periods with the club, as have Gary Cahill and Nemanja Matic who are still playing for Chelsea after successful moves during the January window.
In conclusion, I think most fans would agree the January transfer window is a rather unconventional drawn out time which doesn’t bring half of the excitement the summer transfer window does. However, for some clubs, it could prove to be a critical month in their season. If they do get it right and manage to pull off a positive signing which boosts the team midway through a difficult or flagging season, it could mean the difference between relegation or finishing 17th, or it could win or lose you the title. Either way, by the 1st of February we should have a better idea of which teams look the strongest for a top 4 finish, and which clubs look certain to go down. Whatever the January transfer window brings, it could shape the rest of the 2016/17 season.