The very best of transfers during this quiet winter from Serie A, Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga and Ligue 1.
Its been a relatively quiet winter across Europe, as the recession finally hits the football industry. More likely for big clubs, its the impact of UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) which have come into play from this season. Some of the big moves that were expected this January like Tevez, Neymar, or Pato have fizzled out. So which have been the most exciting transfers in Europe this January?
Before we go there, allow me to ramble on for a bit on the methodology - how do you judge a transfer before watching the impact of the player for his new team? Well, its not an exact science, and will always vary wiith opinion of the writer. I have based my Top 10 loosely on the following criteria:
1. Potential Impact: How key is this player likely to be for his new team in the near (and long term) future? This takes into account the quality of the player, his future potential, and his fit into the new team.
2. Financial deal: In short, is this player worth the money the club is paying for him? Not just in terms of the quality he brings to his new team, but also in terms of future sale potential.
To keep the analysis sharp, I am only focussing on transfers into the top 5 leagues, that is the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1, in roughly the politically correct order! So here are my selection for Top 10:
10. José Antonio Reyes, Sevilla
From: Atletico Madrid
Transfer fee: €3.5m
This has probably been the quietest "Mercado de Invierno" that I can remember, characterised by the relative lack of transfer activity by the two big clubs, Barcelona and Real Madrid. However, this transfer of Reyes did catch my eye, mainly because of the transfer fee involved. Reyes's talent needs no introduction, nor does his lack of consistency, however at 28 he still represents great value at €3.5m. The reason for this bargain deal, I suspect, is probably the fall out with coach Manzano, and the lack of buyers who could afford him in this quiet Winter. He would add quality to Sevilla's wing in the attacking third, an area they have been struggling in, scoring just 21 goals from the first 20 matchdays.
9. David Pizzaro, Manchester City
Transfer fee: Loan
One of the most underrated midfielders of our generation, Pizzaro will not only provide reinforcement to the City midfield, but also give Mancini something he has lacked so far... a proper regista. Pizzaro may be lazy and injury prone, but there are few better midfield passers out there. And Mancini knows all about that during the time they spent together at Inter. Pizzaro has been key to Spalletti's and Ranieri's Roma, the engine that fuels the team, the deep playmaker behind every attack. Yet another case of a fall out with new coach Enrique resulting in a bargain deal. I would have rated this transfer much higher, but for Pizzaro's age and his lack of workrate/fitness which might hinder him in the fast paced Premier League. However, its just a short loan deal, which suits Mancini perfectly.
8. Gary Cahill, Chelsea
From: Bolton Wanderers
Transfer fee: €8m
Ever since Carvalho left for Real, Chelsea have needed a transfer like this. Now with Alex also leaving for PSG, Chelsea moved quickly to close out this transfer for someone who looks like the new partner for Terry in the heart of the defence. While I do not think €8m is bargain for Cahill, it probably reflects closer to the true market value of the 26 year old. Which in itself is an achievement for Chelsea, who are used to buying at inflated prices due to their buying power and propensity in the Abramovic era. But the fit is what makes this transfer special - Chelsea have bought a decent CB who is most likely entering into the prime of his career. Just what they needed at this point.
7. Fredy Guarin, Inter
Transfer fee: €1m Loan with €11m option to buy
One of the relatively unsung hero's of Porto's treble winning campaign, Guarin is a good transfer for Inter considering the circumstances. Motta's need for fresh challenges gave Inter little time to react too find a replacement. In reality, Guarin probably represents more of a like to like replacement for the aging Stankovic, than a replacement for Motta (strangely enough, Motta was supposed to be Inter's replacement for Stankovic in the first place!). Guarin is more of a box-to-box midfielder than a regista, who can also play on the wing and possesses a mean shot. If you have any doubts, check this out! While Inter have not necessarily become stronger with Guarin in place of Motta, definately not in the short run, they do get a younger player of high potential for a injury prone champion. Financially, Inter will save a few million on wages from this "swap", without taking much of a risk in this "soft bet", as this is a loan with an option to buy in the summer. All in all, a decent transfer for the winter.
6. Emiliano Viviano, Palermo
Transfer fee: €5m for 50% ownership (Genoa's stake)
Wily as a Zamparini. Its probably not true when it comes to coaches, but in the transfer market, Zamparini is a God. Viviano is one of the finest goal keepers in the peninsula, the only thing that kept him from making the prestigious No 1 shirt of the Azzurri his own is a legend called Buffon (and perhaps the long term injury he has just recovered from). This is an usual clever piece of business from Zamparini. He has got a fantastic young keeper for the time being, and he will probably sell his 50% stake to Inter for double that amount in a couple of years, when Cesar's performances start becoming shaky.
5. Papiss Cisse, Newcastle
Transfer fee: €12m
"The Demba Ba of Bundesliga, enuf said!" That is how my German (and now probably cockney) friend described the impact Cisse is having on the Bundesliga in the last couple of seasons. I had to come back to this quote, as now we have the lethally exciting prospect of seeing both these players playing together. Cisse scored 22 goals last season, and he has already notched up 9 in the league this season. Newcastle have been doing fantastic business in the transfer market recently, and this is another example of their excellent work. A quality 25 year old striker, who is scoring goals for fun in the Bundesliga for €12m will always represent good value.
4. Alex, PSG
Transfer fee: €5m
Alex was one of the very few experienced, quality Centre Backs in the market, and had many clubs after his signature. Call it Leo's samba magic or coach Ancelotti's Chelsea connection, it is credit to both of them to have clinched this deal at a relatively low price. PSG are slowly building a team to not only become the Champions of France, but also a team which could challenge for glory in Europe. And for that you need a mix of talent and quality experien ce. Alex slots well in the latter category. He will add a lot of confidence to the PSG backline when they take on the powerhouses of Europe next season. A brilliant signing for what PSG are trying to build, at a decent price.
3. Franco Vazquez, Palermo
Transfer fee: €4.5m
Another coup by the wily Zamparini, Vazquez has been bought to fill the void left by Pastore's move to PSG last summer. When you compare his transfer fee with the one Palermo received for Pastore (~€40m), you begin to understand how Zamparini's mind works. Wait, how much did Zamparini buy Pastore for, you might ask. €4.7m, about the same they paid for Vazquez a few weeks ago. However, this 22 year old former No 10 from Belgrano is no Pastore. If anything, his playing style is more like a Riquelme. Nicknamed 'El Mudo' (The Mute) for his reluctance to speak publically, Vazquez has the rare gift of slowing down the game around him, before unleashing his skillful magic. An artist on the field, he is going to the right club to grow and get ready for a big money move to a top club. And Zamparini will smile his way to the bank once again.
2. Thiago Motta, PSG
Transfer fee: €10m
As far as "fit into new club" goes, this deal as good as it gets - Ancelotti has found his regista, his new Pirlo. Its funny how successful coach often try to recreate the same team at a new club, when Leo called Ancelotti to join him, I just knew what is going to happen. They are rebuilding their Milan, and have no added their regista, Motta (Pirlo) to their trequartista, Pastore (Kaka). What next, anyone heard of a Shevchenko (perhaps somewhere near Manchester)? Jokes apart, Motta is quality. He is a treble winner with Inter, so brings that mush needed experience of Champions to PSG. To understand how key Motta was to Inter's success, lets look at some stats. In the last 3 seasons, Inter's win percentage when Motta is playing is 75%, without him its just 43%. This season, its even more stark. With Motta, Inter have won 90% of their games, without him, they have only won 22%. Sometimes stats do tell the complete story...
Motta's passing ability in the middle of the park will be critical for Ancelotti to make his strategy work in Paris. The only reason why this transfer is not top is because Motta is notoriously injury prone. But if he remains fit, watch out for PSG in the Champions League next season.
1. Eduardo Vargas, Napoli
From: Universidad de Chile
Transfer fee: €13m
The buy of the winter. This choice will probably come as a surprise to many, but from what I have seen of Vargas, he is more than worth every penny. Napoli have, in one move, not only added quality depth to their squad to compete at all fronts, but also addressed the main gap in their team - the overdependence on Lavezzi. On top of that, they may also have acquired one of the brightest young talents in Europe. Vargas at 22 is the 'Chilean Footballer of the Year' over Alexis Sanchez, finished 2nd behind Neymar for the "South American Footballer of the Year", was the top scorer, best player and scored both goals in the final of the Copa Sudamericana (South America's equivalent of Europa League). His first start in an Azzurri shirt may have stank a bit (he was literally thrown into the deep end in his first week at Naples), he will soon make the likes of Inter regret not trying harder for his signature.
So what do you think of this top 10. Did I miss any big one out? Who else would make your top 10? I would love to hear comments, as always...