The January transfer window has closed, because it’s February. Funny that.
It was a particularly active window this winter, and we’ve decided to let you know what we thought were the five most interesting moves made. Agree, disagree, let us know in the comments or on Twitter. Let’s get started.
1. Ademola Lookman – Everton to RB Leipzig (loan)
Ademola Lookman, 20, showed such promise for Charlton that Everton paid 11m for his services in January 2017. With speed of legs and thought, the forward has shown flashes of brilliance on Merseyside when given the opportunity, but those chances have been few and far between.
According to his manager Sam Allardyce, plenty of clubs wanted to take him on loan for the second half of the season both at home and abroad, but Lookman was insistent on Leipzig, a club with the reputation of developing promising youngsters.
The move is indicative of a very positive recent trend of young English players moving to foreign clubs for playing time and superior coaching. Chris Willock and Marcus McGuane left Arsenal for Benfica and Barcelona respectively. Reece Oxford is on loan at Borussia Mönchengladbach, and though it didn’t quite work out for him, West Brom forward Oliver Burke had a season with Leipzig. It will be fascinating to watch how these players develop in foreign leagues, and Lookman made a dream start, by doing this on his debut.
2. Gregory Van der Wiel – Cagliari to Toronto FC
Wheely Greg has had an interesting career. From promising Ajax youngster to a World Cup finalist with Holland, fighting Zlatan (and losing) at PSG and then only 16 appearances for Fenerbahçe and Cagliari between 2016 and 2018, there have clearly been ups and downs.
He is, however, a player of undoubted quality. Toronto FC needed a premium right-back/right wing-back after the departure of Iranian international Steven Beitashour, and someone who would help the team compete in the CONCACAF Champions League against top level Mexican opposition. In Van der Wiel, they’ve killed two birds with one neck tattoo.
This is a move that no bookmaker would have predicted, but one that will excite TFC fans and add another layer of prestige to ever-developing MLS.
3. Lucas Moura – PSG to Tottenham Hotspur
When a precocious talent arrives in Europe from Brazil, everyone gets very excited. Often too excited, too quickly. Expectations tend to be high, patience tends to be low. Moura cost PSG approximately 45m Euros, and chose them over Alex Ferguson’s United. He’s since made 153 appearances scoring 34 goals, but by all accounts his development has been stunted by the incredible level of competition for places (Di Maria, Draxler, Neymar, Mbappe – no problem…) and a lack of game time.
Now 25 and still with many areas of his game to improve upon, Lucas’ new manager Mauricio Pochettino will have to work his coaching magic to get the best out of this speedy, tricky forward whose close control and decision making have deserted him too often in the past. If the Argentine can get more out of the Brazilian, he will have a terrific addition on his hands. If he cannot, he will have an expensive bench-warmer. Sorry, Sissoko. A second expensive bench-warmer.
4. Olivier Giroud – Arsenal to Chelsea
In his earlier years at Arsenal, the gorgeous Frenchman was much maligned for having no pace. In his later years and once he was no longer first choice striker, Giroud was heralded as a wonderful option off the bench, and a loyal servant. Whatever one thinks of him, 105 goals in 253 games for an often-dysfunctional Arsenal team is a very respectable tally.
For better or worse, Giroud has been synonymous with the Gunners for a long time and it surreal to see him in a Chelsea kit. One also has to wonder whether this was a signing Conte wanted, or whether the club did this over his head. Regardless, Conte probably won’t be around much longer, so we’ll have to wait until next season to see if Giroud has a longer term future as a Chelsea striker.
In theory, his ability to hold the ball up and his clever link play should make him a very effective foil for Hazard, Willian and Pedro, as well as a great target for the crossing abilities of Alonso and Azpilicueta. The set-up should suit Giroud, and it will be so interesting to see if it works in practise.
5. Yerry Mina – Palmeiras to Barcelona
From Copa Sudamericana champion with Santa Fe to first choice at Palmeiras, Yerry Mina has joined Barcelona at 23 – slightly older than many South American imports make it to Europe. However, as was the case with Neymar, that extra development time may be beneficial, as long as he can quickly get used to defending higher up the pitch than is traditionally the case in Brazil.
Watching a new central defensive signing is always interesting at Barcelona, as most fail. Remember Dmytro Chygrynskiy? Alex Song? Jeremy Mathieu? Thomas Vermaelen (somehow having a slight resurgence)? Until Umtiti, the centre-back Barcelona had signed in years was Jaiver Mascherano, who joined the club as a defensive midfielder.
While Umtiti and Pique are around, Mina will have some time to grow into the role. We’ll be watching to see if he can make the spot his own in the long run.
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