Top 10 signings of January transfer window

Stefan Bienkowski
Stefan Bienkowski Updated: 19 May 2021 15:43 BST 9 min read
Top 10 signings of January transfer window

The 2021 January transfer window may not have been the biggest or most dramatic in the history of the sport, but it certainly had more than enough deals to excite fans around the continent. 

Across Europe’s biggest leagues, football clubs still wheeled and dealed in whatever way they could to improve their team or cut some fat around their squads. 

As such, we’ve put together a list of some of the best loans, transfers and free signings that took place over the course of January. 

Martin Odegaard

When it became clear that Real Madrid were willing to let Martin Odegaard leave on loan in January, Arsenal moved fairly quickly to acquire his services until the end of the season.

The Norwegian excelled on loan at Real Sociedad last season, emerging as one of the campaign’s best players in La Liga.

His performances led to Real Madrid recalling him from his loan early in order to join the Blancos’ senior side for the 2020/21 campaign. But, after starting the first two matches of the season, he fell out of favour with Zinedine Zidane and has started just one game since.

There are no doubts that Odegaard has the quality to succeed in the Premier League, but the signing cast doubts over the development of Emile Smith Rowe, who is currently enjoying a marvellous run of form with the Gunners.

Both players prefer to be deployed in the number 10 role, so unless Mikel Arteta picks one on the wing, then one of them will be left disappointed on the bench more often than not.

The Gunners are believed to be interested in making the move permanent should Odegaard’s loan prove a success.

Top 10 signings of January transfer window

Top 10 signings of January transfer window

Luka Jovic

When Luka Jovic began to wonder where he could go on loan in January it must have been clear that only one club offered a genuine option. 

Prior to his rather abysmal spell at Real Madrid, the Serbian forward spent two seasons at Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt, amassing an incredible 28 goals and seven assists in just 58 games. 

This, naturally, is what got Jovic his move to Madrid in the first place and is what the 23-year-old will be hoping can reignite his career once again. And so far it seems as though he’s off to a good restart. 

In just four substitute appearances off the bench for Adi Hutter’s side, Jovic has already scored three goals and helped the Eagles claim three wins and a draw in that time. 

Frankfurt now look set to make a late push for one of Germany’s top four spots and an all-important qualification place in next season’s Champions League. And Jovic will undoubtedly play a large part in that. 

Amad Diallo

Though the transfer of Amad Diallo from Atalanta to Man Utd for a reported initial fee of £19 million [€21m] was agreed back in the summer, the player only actually joined the Old Trafford side this January.

Atalanta have mulled over the idea of taking Diallo back on loan for the remainder of the 2020/21 campaign, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was keen to bring the young forward in to get him up to speed in English football.

Though this is definitely seen as a signing for the future, Solskjaer has already said that he plans to give Diallo his debut for the Man Utd first team within a few weeks of him starting to play reserve team matches.

He has already become a darling of the Old Trafford faithful, as in his first game in a Man Utd shirt he helped their U23 side to a 6-3 victory over arch rivals Liverpool by scoring a couple of goals – and even a panenka penalty.

It seems a matter of time before this tricky young wonderkid is unleashed on the English game.

Top 10 signings of January transfer window

Top 10 signings of January transfer window

Dominik Szoboszlai

Prior to the January transfer window one striker that seemed to be on the lips of every major club in Europe was RB Salzburg star Dominik Szoboszlai. Linked with moves to Arsenal and Manchester United, the Hungarian talent then ended up making the move to sister club RB Leipzig in mid-December for a fee believed to be around £20 million. 

It’s easy to see why so many of Europe’s top clubs wanted to sign Szoboszlai in January. This season alone, the 20-year-old amassed nine goals and 11 assists in just 22 games before leaving Austria. A total that undoubtedly suggested he was on course to surpass his final numbers from the previous campaign of 12 goals and 18 assists. 

As much as the Hungarian talent will be relishing the step up in quality that he’ll likely face in the Bundesliga, his new club will also be desperate to get him back from an adductor injury and straight into a side that are in desperate need of a genuine talisman up front. 

While Julian Nagelsmann’s side remain second in the Bundesliga, they have dropped needless points and looked a little lost at times this season without former striker Timo Werner leading the line. The RB Leipzig head coach has a number of options up front but none have truly cemented the No.9 spot for themselves just yet. Perhaps Szoboszlai’s arrival may finally offer a long-term answer to that particular problem. 

Morgan Sanson

Hardly any money was actually spent in the January transfer window, with most of the deals being completed either on loan or free transfers.

In the entire Premier League, £70 million was spent, and £14.2m [€16m] of this was parted by Aston Villa to land Marseille midfielder Morgan Sanson.

After narrowly avoiding the drop last season, Villa are enjoying an excellent campaign in 2020/21 and are currently in ninth, with Sanson joining during an exciting period for the club.

Manager Dean Smith said the deal represented value for money that the club couldn’t turn down.

“Morgan was one who we earmarked and thought it was a really good value-for-money acquisition. Good quality player and we did that early, the Villa boss explained.

Sanson will come in to provide competition in midfield for the likes of John McGinn and Douglas Luiz.

Top 10 signings of January transfer window

Top 10 signings of January transfer window

Kouadio Kone

Perhaps the only way to take full advantage of bigger clubs looking to sign your players is by making sure you sign their replacements well in advance. That’s exactly what Borussia Moenchengladbach have done with Kouadio Kone in January. 

Signed from Toulouse for around £8 million and then sent straight back to the Ligue 2 side, Kone is widely expected to slot straight into Gladbach’s team next season when the Bundesliga outfit sell Denis Zakaria

The transfer fee may seem like a lot for a second-tier side, but Kone will most likely prove to be a steal for Gladbach when the likes of Manchester United or Juventus come calling for Zakaria in just a few months time. And for that reason alone, the box-to-box midfielder’s signing looks like some impressive foresight from the Foals. 

Papu Gomez

After becoming the darling and captain of Atalanta during his period with the club, Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gomez eventually left the club in January of 2021 in fairly acrimonious circumstances.

Things turned sour for Gomez at Atalanta as he fell out with head coach Gian Piero Gasperini after allegedly refusing to follow tactical instructions in a Champions League fixture against Midtjylland.

The pair had a heated exchange at half-time during that game, and Gomez was substituted for the second half.

Papu and Gasperini never managed to repair their relationship, leaving the Argentina international no choice but to find a new club in January.

A move to Inter and other Serie A clubs were mooted, but after those failed to materialise, Sevilla swooped in and signed the maverick Argentine for just €6 million.

The transfer was a bit of a coup for the Andalusian side, who have acquired one of Serie A’s best players from the past five years.

Top 10 signings of January transfer window

Top 10 signings of January transfer window

Arkadiusz Milik

Once upon a time Arkadiusz Milik was a fantastic striker for Napoli. In 122 games for the Serie A side, the Polish international scored 48 goals and bagged a further five assists over the course of four seasons. Then things fell apart in the summer of 2020. 

Milik refused a new contract – as well as a number of transfer moves – and as a result the player was excluded from Gennaro Gattuso’s Serie A and Champions League squad. Until January that is, when Marseille came along and finally offered Milik a move away from his unfortunate situation in southern Italy. 

Milik has moved to a club that are in desperate need of an old-fashioned No.9. While they may now be looking for a new head coach as well, Milik should be able to offer a much-needed focal point up front for whoever now takes over from Andre Villas-Boas.  

Moussa Dembele

Moussa Dembele, it seems, has been on the cusp of becoming a prolific striker in Europe for a while now. After starring with Celtic in the Scottish Premiership, he earned a £19.7 million [€22m] move back to his homeland of France with Lyon.

There was the general feeling that this would simply be the next stepping stone in his career, though, as he was constantly linked with a move away, with the likes of Man Utd, Chelsea, and Tottenham having been mentioned as potential suitors.

With Ligue 1 currently in a terrible state financially, Lyon accepted a loan move from Atletico Madrid with the option to buy in the summer, as it was a way of getting Dembele’s wages off the balance sheet while also putting themselves in the position for a future windfall.

Atletico had been on the lookout for a new centre-forward after the mutual termination of Diego Costa’s contract, and moved to quickly replace him with the recruitment of Dembele, who would compete for minutes alongside Luis Suarez and Joao Felix.

Krepin Diatta

Monaco sit just six points off PSG at the top of the Ligue 1 table and so January offered the club a unique opportunity to invest in their squad to make a real push for the French title in the second half of the season. 

The club seem to have done that with the exciting capture of Club Brugge winger Krepin Diatta for a fee rumored to be around £18 million. And while the player may be offered time to settle into his new surroundings, Diatta is undoubtedly a match-winner and a potentially huge signing for Monaco. 

So far this season, prior to his move to Monaco, Diatta had scored 10 goals and bagged a further two assists in just 19 games in the Belgian top-flight. A notable increase on last season’s tally and further proof that the 21-year-old talent is coming on leaps and bounds in his development as an exciting winger. 

It just remains to be seen what he can offer Monaco and how far Niko Kovac’s side can go between now and the end of the season. 

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