Transfer deadline day: 10 moves that can make big differences
The January transfer window slammed shut across most of Europe’s top leagues Tuesday evening, with teams around the continent trying frantically to close complicated deals and fortify their squads for the second half of the season.
Here are 10 of the most notable moves this month, including several that didn’t get finalized until late on another busy Deadline Day:
Enzo Fernández, Benfica to Chelsea
It still hadn’t been formally announced when the clock struck 11 p.m. local in England (6 p.m. ET), but the Blues did just barely manage to get their agreement for World Cup-winning midfielder Fernández over the line before time ran out, according to multiple reports.
If they’re true, it was worth the wait: the $130-plus million paid for the Argentina star set a new British record, topping the $122 million Manchester City sent Aston Villa for Jack Grealish in 2021.
João Cancelo, Manchester City to Bayern Munich
The most surprising transfer this month. As one of City’s top players, Sky Blues manager Pep Guardiola had no intention of selling Cancelo when 2023 began. The Portuguese fullback had been a regular under Guardiola, making almost 100 Premier League appearances since arriving from Juve in 2019.
But when Cancelo wasn’t a first choice after returning from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, he made his displeasure known. That essentially forced City to deal him now or risk being stuck with an unhappy camper until the summer. It wasn’t a gamble the English champion was willing to take — even without a ready replacement for the 28-year-old. Instead, Cancelo was offloaded to Bayern Munich on loan until June.
Jorginho, Chelsea to Arsenal
In another Deadline Day pact, Italian national team midfielder Jorginho swapped one London power for another.
The Arsenal-Chelsea rivalry isn’t the only reason many long-suffering Gunners supporters don’t like the signing. Brighton destroyer Moises Caicedo was Arsenal’s top target, the athletic 21-year-old viewed as a better fit for a squad manager Mikel Arteta rebuilt mostly with dynamic youngsters. But an $86 million bid for Caicedo was turned down.
Jorginho, 31, arrives for the cut rate price of $15 million. It could be a steal for a proven winner who claimed both the Champions League and European Championship titles in 2021. On a team hoping to finish atop the Prem for the first time in almost two decades, Jorginho, who’ll back up starting defensive midfielder Thomas Partey, offers top-level depth and experience.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United to Al Nassr
The biggest name switching clubs this winter did so before 2023 had even begun. A free agent after United agreed to terminate his contract in November, Al Nassr announced the acquisition of the Portuguese superstar, who turns 38 next week, on Dec. 30.
More than a month later, it still seems like a strange destination for CR7 — especially after he forced his way out of Old Trafford ostensibly for one final turn in the UEFA Champions League.
Weston McKennie, Juventus to Leeds United
McKennie’s move to the English Premier League was confirmed Monday by Leeds, were the U.S. men’s national team linchpin will join fellow Americans Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams and manager Jesse Marsch.
Going from an elite European team to one mired in a relegation dogfight seems like an odd choice by McKennie, 24, but the timing makes sense. Juventus sits 13th in Italy following a 15-point deduction for inflating transfer fees, all but ensuring that it won’t qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season.
McKennie now gets to test himself in the world’s top domestic circuit, where potential future employers like Liverpool and Prem-leading Arsenal — which were both reportedly interested in the rangy Texan before Leeds swooped in — will get to see him regularly up close.
João Félix, Atlético Madrid to Chelsea
The Blues snared forward João Félix Jan. 11 on a six-month deal worth around $10 million. Félix made an immediate impact on his Chelsea debut against Fulham the following day; he was easily injury plagued Chelsea’s most dangerous attacking player until being sent off for a reckless tackle less than an hour into his maiden contest.
After he returns from his three-game red card suspension Feb. 11 against West Ham, the 23-year-old is expected to be a key player for the Blues, who spent an astonishing $300 million this month on transfers.
Despite that investment, Chelsea, the 2021 Champions League winner, remains in danger of not qualifying for Europe’s top club competition next season. Graham Potter’s team is 10th in the Prem, 10 points behind Manchester United for the fourth and final Champions League spot.
Cody Gakpo, PSV Eindhoven to Liverpool
The towering striker used the World Cup spotlight to seal one of the biggest deals this month. Gakpo’s five goals in the group stage at Qatar 2022 impressed potential suitors, and the Reds inked the Dutch forward as soon as the market opened, paying PSV a club record fee north of $50 million.
Gakpo is still looking for his first goal five games into his Liverpool career. But it’s probably just a matter of time for the 23-year-old, who scored 12 times in 19 Eredivisie and Europa League appearances during the first half of 2022-23.
Mykhaylo Mudryk, Shakhtar Donetsk to Chelsea
Acquired on Jan. 15, the fee for Ukrainian winger Mudryk wasn’t far behind Fernández’s; he’s Chelsea’s third most expensive recruit ever at more than $100 million.
Like Félix’s, Mudryk’s start at Stamford Bridge has been mixed. His lone appearance was a 35-minute cameo off the bench Jan. 21 in a scoreless draw with Liverpool. This week, Mudryk issued a public apology after the emergence of a July 2022 video in which he used a racial slur. The matter is now being investigated by England’s FA, which has suspended other players for similar behavior.
Leandro Trossard, Brighton to Arsenal
Arsenal didn’t land Caicedo, but getting his former Brighton teammate Trossard was a coup.
The Belgian winger impressed in his first start for the Gunners last week despite a loss to Manchester City that eliminated Arteta’s side from the FA Cup. And at $33 million, the price for the 28-year-old wasn’t too steep. Trossard made more than 100 Premier League appearances for the Seagulls – he’s s exactly the sort of low risk, high reward addition than could help Arsenal maintain their lead until season’s end.
Jhon Durán, Chicago Fire to Aston Villa
While Durán’s isn’t the best-known name on this list, his $22 million move matters because of what it represents: the 19-year-old Colombian became the second most expensive teenager ever sold by an MLS team, just behind Bayern Munich’s 2018 outlay on then Vancouver Whitecaps prospect Alphonso Davies.
Davies was developed by Vancouver’s academy; Durán, who cost Chicago just $2 million in 2021, spent one season in MLS before the club cashed in. It’s the first time the American/Canadian top flight had sent a player that young directly to the Premier League for anywhere approaching that amount. Given the gaudy return, other MLS teams will try to follow.
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