Top January Transfer Window Successes

On the 2nd January 2003, I can almost guarantee that the first thing I did was check page 338 on Ceefax (RIP).

I’d been addicted to the Transfer Gossip page for years, and still am albeit online, and the new-fangled January Transfer Window had just been introduced so it was a bumper crop of rumours with more pathetic hearsay than that era’s Popstars show.

Spurs misfit Sergei Rebrov was linked with a move to Fenerbahce, Leeds United’s Jonathan Woodgate to Newcastle and, tucked away down the bottom, World Cup winner Christophe Dugarry with a loan move to Birmingham.

“Ludicrous”, I no doubt thought to myself before checking the TV Guide on page 606. But the latter deal became the first ever move in the English January Transfer Window. Here’s a look how it panned out and some other, rare, examples of successful January transfers.

Christophe Dugarry (Bordeaux to Birmingham on loan) 2003

Birmingham City shocked the football world, and me, on that second day of 2003 when they secured the loan signing of the former AC Milan, Barcelona and Marseille striker.

Dugarry had an immediate impact in the Midlands, notching five goals in five matches to all but single-handedly save Blues from relegation. It seemed that the Frenchman’s survival instincts played a part in his initial success – he signed a permanent deal that summer but his second season at St Andrews was a comparative failure.

He left the following March as his family failed to settle in England but made such an impact in his short time at City that he has since been inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame.

Patrice Evra (Monaco to Manchester United) & Nemanja Vidic (Spartak Moscow to Manchester United) – both 2006

It is rather uncommon for a January window signing to be an unmitigated success, particularly long-term. Many post-Christmas captures are an act of desperation, with most top sides unwilling to sell their most prized assets mid-season.

For every Christophe Dugarry there are dozens of flops like Michael Ricketts or Afonso Alves. It looked like Manchester United’s two new defensive signings in 2006 belonged in the latter camp after the duo made a slow start to their respective Old Trafford careers.

Evra was hauled off at half-time on his debut – a humiliating 4-1 derby defeat to Manchester City, while Vidic’s first match in defence with Evra led to an error-strewn 4-3 defeat to Blackburn. They became mainstays at United and are rare examples of Sir Alex Ferguson successfully dipping into the January transfer market.

Javier Mascherano (West Ham to Liverpool) 2007

The only thing more bewildering about Mascherano’s move, along with Carlos Tevez, to West Ham is the fact he then spent most of his time kept out of the side by the likes of Hayden Mullins. It was rumoured that the Hammers incurred heavy financial clauses whenever the Argentinian made a first-team appearance so it was felt a loan move would be advantageous for both parties.

Mascherano signed for Liverpool in January 2007 but red tape delayed his move North. FIFA rules stated that no player could play for more than two clubs between 1 July and 30 June the following year and Mascherano had already played for both Corinthians and West Ham during this time.

Finally, he received clearance in late February and made his debut in a 4-0 win over Sheffield United. The Argentine cemented his place in the first-team, appearing in the Champions League final defeat to Milan, and signed a permanent contract at Anfield at year later for £18.6 million.

He enjoyed a successful spell at the club but his image among Reds fans is tarnished somewhat by his acrimonious move to Barcelona in 2010.

Gary Cahill (Aston Villa to Bolton Wanderers) 2008 & (Bolton Wanderers to Chelsea) 2012

£160 million was spent during 2008’s January transfer window, but the £5 million that Bolton Wanderers gambled on Villa’s Gary Cahill was the bargain of the month where Manchester City splashed the same amount on Felipe Caciedo and Middlesborough blew £12 million on the aforementioned misfiring Afonso Alves.

Cahill helped Wanderers to avoid relegation and won England honours whilst at the Reebok Stadium before moving to Chelsea in January 2012. The move suited both sides with Bolton making £2 million profit on a player who had made 130 appearances for the club but had just six months remaining on his contract.

Chelsea, meanwhile, acquired an accomplished defender who helped the London side to an unlikely Champions League triumph and who went on to form a brutally effective partnership with John Terry at the heart of Chelsea’s defence.

Asmir Begovic (Portsmouth to Stoke City) 2010

Arguably one the Premier League’s most underrated keepers before joining Chelsea three summers ago, Begovic failed to make the grade at Portsmouth and spent most of his time at Fratton Park on loan at the likes of Macclesfield Town, Bournemouth and Yeovil Town.

Therefore, his move from Pompey to Stoke City in January 2010 was overshadowed by the likes of Sol Campbell’s return to Arsenal and Patrick Vieira’s arrival at Manchester City.

However, the Bosnian keeper has proved to be the shrewdest piece of business of that Winter’s window, quickly usurping Tomas Sorensen as Stoke’s number one and making over 100 appearances for The Potters before his move to Stamford Bridge.

Christopher Samba (Hertha Berlin to Blackburn Rovers) 2007

An unmitigated disaster in January 2013’s transfer window, as Samba’s £12.75 million move to QPR from Anzhi Makhachkala failed to save Harry Redknapp’s doomed side from relegation. The R’s did recoup £12 million for the Congolese defender from Anzhi six months, and ten disappointing appearances, later.

However, six years earlier Samba was arguably the most successful transfer of that season’s January window. He signed for Blackburn Rovers from Hertha Berlin for the relatively minor fee of £450,000 and quickly cemented his place as a colossus in Rovers’ defence.

He went on to become skipper at Ewood Park and made over 160 appearances for the club before they made an almost 3000% profit on the giant centre-half.

Luis Suarez (Ajax Amsterdam to Liverpool) 2011

In January 2011 Harry Redknapp was mugged in Madrid whilst scouting a striker. The same month Kenny Dalglish was mugged in Newcastle whilst signing a striker – infamously splashing out a preposterous £35 million for Andy Carroll.

The unfortunate legacy of Dalglish’s second spell in charge at Anfield is his poor transfer record but he did sign at least one gem amongst the Downings, Adams and Coates’. While most of the focus that month was on the last-day Carroll/Torres saga, their last-minute capture of another striker from Ajax went slightly under the radar.

Luis Suarez arrived in England with a burgeoning reputation, having scored 49 goals in 48 games the previous season in the Eredivisie. However, many strikers such as the aforementioned Alves and Mateja Kezman had failed to replicate their record-breaking form in Holland in the Premier League.

Suarez’s initial performances for Liverpool showcased his undoubted talent but he was often criticised for his poor finishing. How those critics were to eat their words, with the Uruguayan in scintillating form in recent years and now bracketed by many not far behind Ronaldo and Messi in any discussion of the world’s top footballers.

Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea to Liverpool) 2013

Liverpool’s January transfer record has clearly improved since the early days of the window when captures such as Scott Carson, Fernando Morientes and current Southampton boss Mauricio Pellegrino didn’t have the required mid-season effect.

They were at it again in January 2013, splashing a total of around £20 million on Chelsea misfit Daniel Sturridge and a certain former Brazilian wonderkid called Philippe Coutinho from Inter Milan. Sturridge hit the ground running with 19 goals in his first 26 games, while his presence at the start of the 2013/14 season minimised the impact of Suarez’s ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic (incidentally, another great January transfer window buy, moving to Chelsea from Lokomotiv Moscow in January 2008).