New Year’s Day is a two pronged celebration for football fans worldwide. Not only is it the new year, it is the opening of the January transfer window. While the majority of big transfer business is done in the summer, the January transfer window allows teams to address pressing needs as well as solidifying their squad for cup competitions. Several teams have already gotten a head start on the proceedings. Barcelona, fresh off their transfer ban, will have Arda Turan and Alex Vidal available for their Copa Del Rey tie on January 6th. Many other transfers have had fees agreed, and just need the window to open to be finalized. With all windows in all sports, there will be rampant speculation as to who is going where. Consider this some added kindling to that fire as we put on our managerial caps and try to better some of Europe’s top teams with some January business.
BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE (ENGLAND)
Leicester City: Aleksandar Dragovic, D (Dynamo Kiev)
The Foxes are joint top with Arsenal heading into 2016. Though he came in with a “Tinkerman” reputation, Claudio Ranieri’s lack of lineup shuffling has bred continuity. They should not mess with that as it is one of the things that has made them successful. Leicester has also dodged injuries for the most part too this season. As the months wind on, they are going to need depth and roster rotation. They’ll need it most in defense. While their big backs have played valiantly in front of Kasper Schmeichel, they’ve still let in 25 goals. That is the worst figure among the EPL’s top ten teams. They will certainly have to break their transfer record to get Austrian international Alexsandar Dragovic, but he would be worth every penny. The 24 year old has been huge in Dynamo’s advancement in the Champions League, keeping four clean sheets in the Group Stage. Dragovic even scored in their loss to Chelsea. In addition to his UCL exploits, he would pair well with international teammate Christian Fuchs who plays left back for the club. With the influx of cash due to enter English football next year, Leicester has to strike while the iron is hot and keep themselves in contention.
Manchester United: Felipe Anderson, M (Lazio)
The pressure is mounting on Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal. If the Dutchman wants to make it through the year, he needs to inject some new blood into the Red Devils in January. The name that is most bantered about, in a reasonable way at least, is Lazio’s Felipe Anderson. United lack a certain creativity in midfield at the moment, which leaves their big purchase last window, Anthony Martial, fairly impotent in attack. The 22 year old Brazilian has been heavily linked to Man U and it is easy to see why. He has the combination of pace, vision, and workrate that would blend perfectly with Juan Mata. Having those two on either side of Van Gaal’s 4-2-3-1 would be venomous towards opposing club’s fullbacks. Hell, their service may even reanimate the corpse of Wayne Rooney that Van Gaal stubbornly sticks up front every weekend. According to the papers, Anderson’s price tag would be in the £35m to £40m range to pry him away from his mid-table Serie A side. They’ve spent a lot more on players with exponentially more question marks during the Van Gaal era. He needs a hit in January and Felipe Anderson would be that and then some.
Arsenal: Lorenzo Insigne, F (Napoli)
The Gunners already have FC Basel midfielder Mohamed El Nenny on his way, but still need reinforcements. With City having slipped along with United and Chelsea struggling mightily, this may truly be Arsenal’s “year.” Olivier Giroud has been a man on an island up front for Arsenal. While the Frenchman has been in fine form, Theo Walcott and a damaged Danny Welbeck can’t be your fall back options if Giroud is slumping or hurt. Dynamo Moscow’s Aleksandr Kokorin and Bayer Leverkusen’s Javier Hernandez are the most discussed names heading to London, but Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne would be the best buy of them all. At 24, Insigne has begun to fulfill the potential that was highly bantered about during his time in Napoli’s youth system. The Italian has paired with Gonzalo Higuain to make Napoli one of the best attacking sides in Europe. He could do the same with Giroud, either as a man to give him a break or in the lineup simultaneously. Arsenal have a huge reserve of money, £200m reportedly, to work with in January, so Insigne’s £32m to £35m price tag shouldn’t scare Arsene Wenger off. With a date with Barcelona in the Champions League and a title push, Arsenal are going to need goals. Insigne would relish the challenge.
LA LIGA (SPAIN)
Barcelona: Nolito, F (Celta Vigo)
As stated in the opening, Barcelona has several key figures coming already in January. Arda Turan and Alex Vidal are solid additions, but when you are the best team on the planet, you don’t sit on your hands in a window. Barca should be busy in January, their first true purchasing window in 18 or so months. While Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar comprise the most menacing triumvirate of attackers in football history, Luis Enrique knows he can’t burn out his gaggle of golden geese. The Spanish giants have one of the most condensed and rigorous schedules, making roster rotation a must. That makes Celta Vigo’s Nolito a shrewd buy for the Blaugrana. Originally a La Masia product, Barcelona would know what they are getting with the Celta hitman. At 29, the champions of Europe are not going to have to pay out of their noses to get him either. He is a natural goal scorer and has been working wonders with the likes of Iago Aspas and Fabian Orellana for one of La Liga’s surprise sides. Imagine what he could do with Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic providing him sublime service. And how much greater could MSN be with La Liga’s second leading helper?
Atletico Madrid: Wahbi Khazri, F (Bordeaux)
Atletico Madrid has been great at disrupting the hierarchy in La Liga. Real’s neighbors have once again poked their nose into the title race. They are tied on points with Barcelona on New Year’s Day, although Barca has a game in hand. Their man focus in January should be finding a way to score with their two main rivals. Diego Simeone’s system stresses defense, and he’s already went and bought Celta Vigo’s Augusto Fernandez to fortify La Liga’s best back line. But this past summer they splurged on attacking options, most notably Porto’s Jackson Martinez, yet neglected to sign anybody who could get their stable of strikers the ball. Wahbi Khazri would fit like a glove into Atleti’s formation. Whether sitting just behind the front three or on one of the wings in Simeone’s 4-3-3, Khazri is capable of finding teammates in the tightest of spaces. The Tunisian international has been the main source of offense this season at Bordeaux, assisting or scoring nearly half of his club’s goals (5 goals, 6 assists, 23 total goals). Since Atletico doesn’t have the endless bank roll that Real Madrid and Barcelona have, Khazri would not only be a good fit but a good value as well. €12-15m is a fair price to pay.
Borussia Dortmund: Raphael Varane, D (Real Madrid)
Dortmund have built a reputation over the past several years as an unofficial feeder team for bigger clubs. Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze, and many more have come through the ranks and been sold on for huge profits. But still they continue to remain one of the premier sides in not only the Bundesliga, but in Europe altogether. With former manager Jurgen Klopp now at Liverpool, rumors of another Dortmund raid have begun again. That may happen in the summer, but for now Der BVB need to find a way to make up ground on leaders Bayern Munich. One place to start would be on defense. Mats Hummels has long been rumored to be making an exit from Dortmund. So why not give him somebody to work with now so that departure won’t be as big a blow to the spine of the club. That person could very well be Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane. Varane is one of the best defensive prospects in Europe. For some reason though he can’t seem to gain the confidence of Real Madrid manager Rafa Benitez. Even if it was a loan move with an option to buy (€35m wouldn’t be unreasonable), getting Varane to the Bundesliga would be a lateral move at worst. His pace and calmness on the ball would allow him to seamlessly handle the waves of attacks that come from the German elite. If he ends up back at Madrid afterwards, he would have invaluable experience in a top league instead of rotting on Benitez’s bench.
SERIE A (ITALY)
Juventus: Breel Embolo, F (FC Basel)
The Old Lady has risen from the dead in Serie A. The losses of Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, and Fernando Llorente left the defending Italian champions sluggish early on. Since that uncharacteristic start, Juve has been on fire. They are now just three points off top of the table and are completely healthy heading into the new year. But the bad news looming is there may be another assault on their roster in January by some desperate European powerhouses. To avoid another dip in form, Juventus needs to be proactive in January and fill in any potential gaps before the holes get gaping entering both Champions League play and a brutal Serie A stretch run. One man that could help both now and in the future is Basel forward Breel Embolo. The Cameroon-born Swiss international already has 7 caps to his name at just 18 years old. He’s scored 16 times in 47 career games for the Swiss Super League champions. Many a Premier League side are looking to get him, including Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United, but Juventus is the more sensible option to progress the teenager’s career. Max Allegri is a terrific man manager and would utilize the brutish Embolo optimally. He works best as a true center forward, but Embolo has the strength and dribbling ability to work in tandem with Paulo Dybala and send flop Mario Mandzukic onward.
Who do you think the club you support should go buy in January? Do you see any of these fine players going somewhere else? Let us know in the comments or let us know what you think on Facebook, Twitter @sportsftb. You can also give me a shout on Twitter @TREVORutley. May the January transfer gods get your club a late Christmas present. Enjoy the new year!