Now that the January transfer window has slammed shut, it’s time to assess the damage. Here, theScore gives its verdict on the movers and shakers from the last 31 days.
Winner: Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund may have won the entire window.
By acting quickly to sign Erling Haaland – the Norwegian prodigy who rose to stardom with Red Bull Salzburg earlier this season – Dortmund reinforced their status as Europe’s top talent incubator. Haaland chose Dortmund over a host of other clubs, including Manchester United, because he felt the German side could provide the necessary playing time to continue his development.
Dortmund did what they had to do to get the deal over the line, reportedly satisfying the player’s €20-million release clause while paying an additional €15 million to agent Mino Raiola and another €10 million to Haaland’s father. Other teams would’ve balked at those figures, but Dortmund are already reaping the rewards of their investment. Haaland scored a hat-trick off the bench during his debut on Jan. 18 and produced a brace in another cameo appearance one week later; he already has five goals in a scarcely believable 56 minutes of play.
BVB also managed to offload two players who had become surplus to requirements. Julian Weigl’s stock fell dramatically in recent seasons – remember the links with Manchester City? – but Dortmund still secured €20 million for his services in a deal with Benfica. They also flipped Paco Alcacer for a reported €23 million.
Loser: Olivier Giroud
Olivier Giroud reportedly held talks with Inter, Tottenham, and, at the very end, Lazio. But Chelsea weren’t ready to let the Frenchman go. If they had, manager Frank Lampard would’ve lost one of just three recognized strikers in his squad. (Not that Giroud has played all that much.)
Giroud will obviously feel like a prisoner in all of this. With playing time at a premium and the European Championship just a few months away, the 32-year-old could risk losing his place in the French national team. France manager Didier Deschamps continued to select Giroud during the qualifying phase, but Deschamps publicly challenged the striker to find another club in January and build a case for a crucial call-up. Giroud’s chances of playing at the Euros may have depended on it.
Spurs would’ve been ideal. They needed a Premier League veteran to take Harry Kane’s place while he recovers from injury. Apart from the obvious grudges Arsenal fans may have held, moving from one part of London to another would’ve been an easy transition for the former Gunner. If only.
Winner: Christian Eriksen
All Christian Eriksen wanted was a new challenge. But Tottenham wouldn’t let him leave so easily. Despite his shrinking contract and its deflating value, Spurs reportedly demanded a whopping £130 million for the Danish playmaker in June, hoping Real Madrid or a club of similar stature would bite. The summer came and went, and Eriksen entered the final season of his contract an unhappy man.
Jose Mourinho hoped he could change Eriksen’s mind, but the 27-year-old felt his time at Spurs was over.
Inter Milan have now given Eriksen the opportunity he sought. And if he wanted a challenge, he’ll certainly get one. Antonio Conte will demand everything from Eriksen. In Conte, Eriksen will find a manager similar to his previous superior, Mauricio Pochettino, who asked Eriksen to do more than make plays. Conte will count on Eriksen’s stamina to establish a foothold in midfield. And after so many years of close calls and near-finishes, Eriksen will have a shot at winning a title. Here’s to new beginnings.
Loser: Manchester City
Even before the transfer window opened, Pep Guardiola was under no illusions that City would do any business at all. The club told him he’d have to make do with the players he had.
But unlike in previous seasons – when City seemed happy to spend heaps of money on superfluous signings – there were clear deficiencies to address. City’s defensive shortcomings were laid bare when Aymeric Laporte went down with a long-term knee injury. No one stepped up. Worse yet, confidence in John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi dropped even further. City didn’t adequately replace Vincent Kompany in the summer, and now, six months later, they’ve still done nothing to ease the burden at the back.
Even if City’s Premier League title defense is hanging by a thread, there are other trophies to win. Guardiola himself has a duty to make a deep run in the Champions League, a competition he hasn’t won since 2011. But doubts remain. Without a major trophy, the season will go down as a failure.
Atalanta are the envy of a lot of clubs right now. They’ve built a competitive outfit on a limited budget, and now they’re gaming the loan system.
Without doing much work at all, Atalanta sold Dejan Kulusevski to Juventus for €35 million, scoring a massive profit on a player they initially signed for €100,000. Kulusevski appeared just three times for Atalanta before joining Parma in the summer on loan, and it was his explosive start to the 2019-20 season that secured Juventus’ interest.
Atalanta’s scouts have done an incredible job identifying talent at low prices, but the 19-year-old didn’t even have time to make the first team. They plucked Kulusevski out of a small club in Stockholm and dropped him into the youth system. Parma eventually gave the Swede a chance to show his skills, and the rest is money.
Barcelona may well survive without Luis Suarez – after all, they still have Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi up front – but the January window offered a healthy choice of replacements. Edinson Cavani was itching to leave Paris Saint-Germain, and Dries Mertens’ love affair with Napoli appears to have reached its end.
Valencia striker Rodrigo and former Villarreal frontman Cedric Bakambu were also linked with Barcelona, but neither move materialized. Perhaps the club wanted to avoid another short-term signing like last season’s bet on Kevin-Prince Boateng.
Regardless, Barcelona continued to neglect one of their most prominent positions of need. They’ve needed a fix for quite some time and ignored all the warning signs. And now that they’re back to possession-based football, they’ll need someone to finish it all off. The moment is ripe for Griezmann, who has no choice but to fill in the gaps, but the problem still lacks a permanent solution. At some point, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu must act.