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The January transfer window is a notoriously tricky time to wheel and deal and though the market opens just twice a year, clubs generally prefer to wait until the summer before they loosen the purse strings.
Motivations sliding somewhere between desperation and opportunity usually drives January transfer business in the Premier League and numerous clubs have attempted to improve their fortunes with a mid-season signing down through the years.
While plenty of risks are attached to any Premier League transfer, January deals tend to land on opposite ends of the success spectrum, with some moves proving master strokes and others complete disasters.
With the 2022 January transfer window wide open and allowing the winds of change to hurtle through, we thought it would be an ideal juncture to take a look back at some of the biggest hits and misses from the New Year market in the Premier League.
Worst January signings in Premier League history
Fernando Torres – Liverpool to Chelsea – £50m – 2011
When Chelsea prised firm fan-favourite Fernando Torres from the clutches of Liverpool for a then British record fee of £50m, most observers considered their capture to be something of a coup.
The Spanish striker had earned cult status at Anfield for his dynamic displays in the final third, scoring 81 times in 142 appearances for the Reds and though his form had started to tail off a little, it was believed that a switch to London would be key to a reinvigoration.
However, the downward trend of Torres’ performances was ultimately more permanent than temporary and after a slow start at Stamford Bridge, the downtrodden number nine never rediscovered his old spark.
Torres toiled in the capital for four years and though he did manage to pick up some silverware, most notably the Champions League in 2012, the forward only ever played a bit-part in Chelsea’s success and he left on a free transfer, fittingly, in January 2015.
Andy Carroll – Newcastle to Liverpool – £35m – 2011
Liverpool went into panic mode following the loss of one of their star players to a Premier League rival and in their wild attempts to fill the gap, the Reds constructed a whopping £35m deal for Newcastle United’s towing striker Andy Carroll.
The old-fashioned target man has started the 2010/11 campaign like a house on fire, though the broad-shouldered centre-forward looked completely at odds and underserviced in his new surroundings on Merseyside.
To their credit (kind of), Liverpool realised pretty quickly that Carroll was achingly below the level required to wear the famous red shirt and Geordie was jettisoned just 18 months later to West Ham.
Carroll scored just six goals in 44 Premier League appearances for Liverpool and the 33-year-old is currently plying his trade with Reading in the Championship.
Guido Carrillo – Monaco to Southampton – £19million – 2018
Just a few years ago, Southampton’s recruitment department and strategy were the envy of many, unearthing a string of gems that included Sadio Mane, Virgil van Dijk and Dusan Tadic among others, though the Saints dropped a major clanger in January 2018 when they chased and secured Guido Carillo’s signature.
The Argentine striker moved to St. Mary’s Stadium from French club Monaco for a cool £19m – a fee that still ranks as Southampton’s fourth-highest incoming transfer ever.
Carillo has impressed during his spell in Ligue 1, though he found the step up to the Premier League too big to breach and he made just seven appearances without scoring a single goal before being carted off to Spain and Leganes for two seasons on loan.
In 2020, Carillo moved to Elche in La Liga on a free transfer, though he hasn’t pulled up any trees and the 30-year-old is currently considered a fringe squad member.
Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal to Manchester United – swap deal – 2018
Alexis Sanchez moved north to Manchester United from Arsenal in January 2018 in a deal that involved a direct swap with Armenian schemer Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and while the transfer cost next to nothing in terms of direct outlay, it will still go down as one of the worst winter moves in Premier League history.
Sanchez tickled the ivories on his arrival in a now heavily-memed announcement video where the Chilean played the piano, though his musical introduction was the high point of his brief United career.
The winger looked more like a pub player than a prime Premier League performer at Old Trafford and supporters were left baffled as the diminutive attacker mis-controlled every pass, fumbled over every touch and miscued every shot – all the while pocketing an eye-watering £450,000 per week.
Desperate to get him off the books, United sanctioned a loan move to Inter for Sanchez in August the following year, though the Red Devils were left to pick up the tab, reportedly paying a huge chunk of the player’s salary until they finally managed to push him out permanently in the summer of 2020 – at the cost of around £9m in an expensive severance package.
Best January signings in Premier League history
Seamus Coleman – Sligo Rovers to Everton – £60,000 – 2009
These days, Premier League clubs would struggle to sign a half-decent squad player for as little as £60,000 per week, yet Everton managed to sign current captain and long-serving stalwart Seamus Coleman for the same amount back in 2009.
To this day, the crowd at Goodison Park chant “Sixty grand, sixty grand, Seamus Coleman” in tribute to their fullback and the incredible value the Toffees have managed to extract from the Republic of Ireland international during his Everton career.
Coleman took a little while to find his feet following his move to Merseyside from League of Ireland outfit Sligo Rovers, but once he found his rhythm, there was no holding him back.
The marauding defender has made over 300 appearances for Everton since and his commitment to the club in the face of interest from a host of top European sides down the years has earned him legendary status in the blue half of the city.
Virgil van Dijk – Southampton to Liverpool – £75 million- 2018
Liverpool took a bit of a kicking in the previous section, so it’s only fair that we bring some balance to proceedings by talking about their January capture of Virgil van Dijk.
It’s fair to say the Reds pushed the boat out when they wrangled Dutch centre-half van Dijk from Southampton in 2018, and the then world-record fee for a defender they shelled out even drew criticism from some quarters for the scale of the deal.
However, van Dijk’s performances quickly shut the naysayers up and his arrival had a transformative effect on Liverpool, helping to turn them from flaky underperformers into the genuine article – and eventually Premier League and Champions League winners under Jurgen Klopp.
Van Dijk’s worth was never more evident than in the 2020/21 season when defending English champions Liverpool collapsed in his absence and they look a far more formidable outfit with the Dutchman back at the heart of their backline this term.
Nemanja Vidic – Spartak Moscow to Manchester United – £7 million – 2006
Nemanja Vidic was virtually a complete unknown when he joined Manchester United from Spartak Moscow in 2006 for a modest £7m fee, though the deal – which was officially announced on December 25th – turned out to be an incredible Christmas present.
In his eight years in Manchester, Vidic became one of football’s most respected and feared defenders, regularly sticking his head where most wouldn’t send their boot.
Forming a rock-solid partnership with Rio Ferdinand, Vidic eventually went on to captain the club, and his list of honours includes an incredible five Premier League titles, three League Cups, and a Champions League victory.
Vidic eventually left United a year after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2014 and the Red Devils’ downward trajectory has been alarmingly steady since.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Borussia Dortmund to Arsenal – £56m – 2018
While things have undoubtedly turned sour for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Arsenal more recently, the Gabonese forward’s January switch from Borussia Dortmund to the Gunners in 2018 deserves its place in our rundown.
Aubameyang had been a prolific goalscorer in the Bundesliga and his golden touch in the final third followed him to England where he notched ten times in just 13 Premier League appearances in his first half-season in London.
The rapid attacker went on to hit 22 league goals in his next two campaigns for Arsenal, winning a Golden Boot award and an FA Cup with the club along the way.
In total, Aubameyang has rattled the net 92 times in 163 runouts for the Gunners and though his last few months at Arsenal have been caustic enough to ensure a loveless exit, his early impact shouldn’t be forgotten.