What difference does a year make? In the midst of the COWID-19 pandemic, football clubs have taken drastic measures to limit their spending during the January transfer window, resulting in the invisibility of the big moves that generate interest in the game at this time of year. At the time of writing, there are fewer than 15 agreements in the five major European leagues that provide for transfer fees. January is traditionally a quieter time than the summer period, but the impact of the global economic crisis due to the pandemic makes the numbers difficult to read.
Jumping: Links to American players | Free agents | Expiring contracts | Premier League clubs | European clubs
In January 2020, Premier League clubs spent just over 242 million euros on 88 signings, according to transfer website Transfermarkt, compared to just 47 million euros for 32 signings in January 2021. In Europe, it is comparable to the German Bundesliga (€196m in 2020 vs €41m in 2021), the Spanish Liga (€152m vs €31.2m), the Italian Serie A (€215m vs €17m) and the French Ligue 1 (€124m vs €18.3m), which all do the same.
There may be a few surprises in the transfer window – after all, Odion Ighalo moved to Man United on the deadline date in January 2020 – so there may be a few things that stand out. This month, however, it could just be loans, exchanges or free transfers. So if you’re waiting for news of $100 million contracts for Borussia Dortmund duos Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho, Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly or Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, you may be disappointed. Even Barcelona legend Lionel Messi is delaying a decision on his future until the summer. However, many top teams have major needs before the most exhausting part of the season.
The loan is a priority and some agreements have already been reached, but what is needed to set a deadline? Which players can make a deal and what should the big European clubs do? * All costs via Transfermarkt *
The deadline is 1. February: Bundesliga (12 p.m. ET) Serie A (2 p.m. ET) Premier League (6 p.m. ET) La Liga (6 p.m. ET) Ligue 1 (6 p.m. ET)
Mark Ogden is evaluating where Dyot Upamekano will end up this summer when he leaves RB Leipzig.
Which player can make a move before the deadline?
Dayot Upamekano: The RB Leipzig defender is expected to stay in place this month after a €42m buy-back clause came into force this summer. However, all the big European clubs are hot on his heels and maybe one of them (Chelsea or Liverpool?) will try to steal the limelight from his rival with one stroke.
Dele Alli: After becoming a central player at Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino, Alli’s star failed under Jose Mourinho. The midfielder is now just a substitute and PSG want to reunite him with Pochettino on loan.
Christian Eriksen: After leaving Tottenham Hotspur for Inter Milan just over a year ago, the 28-year-old midfielder was told he could leave the club, but could now stay. His free kick in injury time to beat his Milan rival in Tuesday’s Coppa Italia quarter-final could be construed as a celebration. Arsenal were keen in November before signing Martin Odegaard, but now Eriksen’s return to Spurs is possible if they go for Alli and negotiate a deal.
Edin Dzeko: The 34-year-old was linked with a return to Manchester City and rival United, but it looks like he could swap Roma for Inter Milan as Roma striker Alexis Sanchez is also on loan.
Joshua Zirkzi: The young Bayern Munich striker doesn’t have much playing time, which is difficult when Robert Lewandowski is ahead of you in the pecking order. Sky Germany are reporting a loan to Everton or Parma, with Parma the most likely.
Yves Bissouma: The Brighton midfielder is being closely watched by Liverpool, ESPN’s Julien Loren reports. Director Jurgen Klopp sees in him a possible replacement for Georginio Wijnaldum, whose contract expires in the summer. If Wijnaldum moves before the close of the window, they could bring in Bissouma for £30m, although Arsenal, Man United, Chelsea and Real Madrid have also been linked.
Julien Lawrence thinks USMNT candidate Brian Reynolds will do better at Roma than at Juventus.
Are there any US players connected in Europe?
Brian Reynolds: Roma are in the race to sign the FC Dallas right-back for €8 million, sources told ESPN’s Tom Hamilton. Juventus have shown interest in the 19-year-old and the Bruges club, but Roma are now in pole position and sources say they are optimistic that this move will be confirmed.
Aaron Long: A few days ago, the New York Red Bulls and USMNT center back was linked with a move, but sources told ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle that he is now on Liverpool’s radar. Long, 28, was named MLS Defender of the Year in 2018 and could be a cheap option for Klopp.
Chris Gloucester: The PSV Eindhoven left-back and USMNT youth international is in the running for Newcastle United, a source told ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle. However, a move to the Premier League club would be contingent on him obtaining a work permit in the UK, which seems unlikely. Instead, he could join Danish club SonderskE (which has American owners) or stay at PSV.
DeAndre Yedlin: Galatasaray have made a bid for the right-back from the USMNT and Newcastle United, sources told ESPN’s Tom Hamilton. The Super League offered Yedlin a three-and-a-half-year contract and lobbied for a response from the 27-year-old defender. Yedlin’s contract at Newcastle expires in June and he has already expressed his desire to extend his stay in the Premier League. However, sources have said that he is considering an offer from Galatasaray.
Paul Arriola: Swansea are keen to add the Washington United loaned winger to their squad, sources told ESPN. The championship contender has already brought in Jordan Morris, on loan from the Seattle Sounders, and is in talks with another American star. According to some sources, there is a 50/50 chance of a deal being reached before Monday’s deadline, with Swansea and D.C. United in talks.
Cayden Clark: The New York Red Bulls midfielder will join RB Leipzig in January 2022, although he played less than 400 minutes in the first team. As The Athletic reports, the 17-year-old will transfer for around $3 million, but will remain in New York for a year on loan.
What about freelancers?
Diego Costa: It is incredible that the former Chelsea striker has been linked to Manchester City after his contract at Atletico Madrid expired. With Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero in the fray to get fit, Costa would certainly have got the job done, but according to Sid Lowe, the 32-year-old would face a €15m fine if he moved to a La Liga or Champions League team.
Stefan El Shaarawy: The Italian international was due to return to AS Roma but has tested positive for COVID-19 and his treatment has been delayed, according to Sky Sport Italia. The striker, who is only 28 years old, will leave Roma for Shanghai Shenhua in 2019.
Samir Nasri: The former playmaker of Arsenal and Manchester City is without a club since his departure at Anderlecht last summer. At 33, he has yet to prove himself, as AC Milan are said to have their eye on him.
Cousins Suboti? Following the termination of his contract with Denizlispor, Suboti? is available at a time when a number of top clubs are looking for a new defender. At 32 years old, he still has a few years left on his mind despite some injuries and could be of interest to many managers, including his former boss at Borussia Dortmund, Klopp.
ESPN FC’s Mark Ogden assesses what the best choice would be for Manchester City defender Erik Garcia.
Some players have expiring contracts, will they move?
Eric Garcia: Manchester City won’t let him go for free next summer, but Barcelona don’t have the money to hire the 20-year-old defender. So he may have to wait until PSG or Arsenal are behind, or the Catalans come to an agreement. The player himself is willing to play for free, but will City let him go?
Giorginio Wijnaldum: Wijnaldum too, if he does not sign a new contract at Liverpool, is likely to leave for Barca this summer. However, he is unlikely to move as Liverpool need a midfield replacement and Barca have no money unless he is creative.
Memphis Depay: Barcelona and Juventus are the two clubs closest to the Lyon winger, but they will need €20m in transfer fees to buy him this month.
Florian Tauvin: His future at Marseille looks bleak and the 28-year-old midfielder is reportedly interested in Tottenham, Leicester, Napoli, Milan, Rome and Sevilla. It looks like he may leave this month.
King Joshua: Around this time last year, Manchester United showed great interest in King, but Manchester United’s interest increased dramatically and the Bournemouth striker was broken up at the end of the season. Now Burnley, West Ham and West Brom are offering him a way out.
Only in the summer.
David Alaba: The one player everyone wants. Unable or unwilling to sign a new contract at Bayern, the 28-year-old defender feels attracted to Europe’s elite clubs. He will be transferred for free, most likely to Real Madrid, although it could take a few more turns before a decision is made.
Sergio Ramos: Manchester City are keeping a close eye on Ramos’ situation at Real Madrid in a bid to sign him as a free agent, sources told ESPN’s Rodrigo Fayes, while PSG have also reportedly made him an offer. Ramos turned 35 in March, but he’s still on top and it looks like he’ll stay that way.
Lionel Messi: This summer, the world will be watching and waiting for Messi’s decision. He will not move until then and may even sign a new contract depending on the winner of the presidential election in March, but Man City, PSG, several MLS teams including New York City Soccer, and Old Boys Newell if he wants to leave.
Sergio Agüero: With Barcelona a possible replacement for Messi, Man City’s top scorer could be a long way from Etihad. He will have several clubs to choose from, but at the age of 32, he is still a little too young to be thinking of retiring at his former club Independiente.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu: Gab Marcotti wrote about the trio earlier this month, and Milan will need all of these players if it wants to stay in contention for the Serie A title this season.
Gab Marcotti explains why a Paul Pogba stay at Man United would be a major coup for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
What else do great teams need?
THE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALISATION SERVICE: Amad Diallo (£19m, Atalanta)
OUT : Ethan Laird (on loan, MK Dons), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (£1.75m, Bayer Leverkusen), Jesse Lingard (on loan, West Ham).
After the arrival of 18-year-old Amad Diallo, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes he is missing two or three more players, but the newcomers – most likely a central defender and a striker – will have to wait until the summer. Marcos Rojo and Sergio Romero have been given permission to talk to other teams and could leave before the deadline. There is also interest in a loan for Facundo Pellistri, who has only been able to play under-23 games since signing in the summer and is in contact with the Bruges club. Jesse Lingard was loaned out to West Ham, but the club rejected Donny van de Beek’s requests. Sources told ESPN that Manchester United are willing to wait for West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, while Borussia Dortmund striker Jadon Sancho remains a target. — Rob Dawson
THE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALISATION SERVICE: No: Liam Millar (on loan, Charlton), Adam Lewis (on loan, Plymouth).
The whole length in the middle of the window was sunk, Alaba and Upamekano were involved in the conversation, and an injured Joel Matip could see someone coming if he managed it. Lille centre-back Sven Bothman is on the radar of several clubs in England, including Liverpool, sources told ESPN, while Ajax’s Perr Schuurs is also under investigation. But Klopp will have to get creative with his lack of money, and he could turn to the New York Red Bulls and USMNT defender Aaron Long. Brighton midfielder Bissouma is being closely watched by Liverpool, sources told ESPN, with manager Klopp tracking him as a potential replacement for Wijnaldum, whose contract expires this summer. Derby’s The Miracle Kid Kaid Gordon, 16, is also in first place. — Mark Ogden
THE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALISATION SERVICE: Filip Stevanovic (GBP 7 million, Partizan Belgrade)
OFF : Morgan Rogers (loaned, Lincoln), Mix Diskerud (unnamed, Denizlispor), Daniel Arzani (loaned, AGF).
Manchester City have resigned themselves to losing Barcelona Garcia either before the €3 million deadline or in the summer for nothing. Pep Guardiola has done his best to persuade the 20-year-old to sign a new contract at the Etihad Stadium, but Garcia has made it clear that he wants to return to Spain and will eventually do so. Guardiola says he does not expect any new acquisitions this month, but the focus will be on the arrival of an established centre-back – regardless of what happens to Sergio Agüero’s contract, which expires in 2021 – in the summer. — Rob Dawson
THE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALISATION SERVICE: No: Jubril Okedina (on loan, Cambridge United), Jack Clarke (on loan, Stoke)
Jose Mourinho said on Wednesday that he expected Tottenham Hotspur to start work only on Monday. Sources told ESPN that Dele Alli would like to join Paris Saint-Germain, but president Daniel Levy does not agree with the departure of the player who had so much influence at the club. Levy is playing his hand late in the window, so nothing can be definitively ruled out, but Mourinho is happy with his squad and the club’s long-term goals – including a central defender and a new right-back – are likely to drag on into the summer. Harry Winks has been linked with a move to Valencia, although the English midfielder is expected to stay in North London. Mourinho’s sparing use of Gareth Bale, on loan from Real Madrid, has also surprised some Tottenham Hotspur players, sources told ESPN. -James Ollie
Gab Marcotti explains why Chelsea contracted Kai Havertz instead of Declan Rice to keep Lampard in his position.
THE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALISATION SERVICE: No: Charlie Brown (unknown, MK Dons), Lucas Piazon (free, Braga), Danny Drinkwater (on loan, Kasimpasa), Fikayo Tomori (on loan, AC Milan)
New manager Thomas Tuchel will have his own plans, and Chelsea were keen to contract Rice before the dismissal of Frank Lampard. However, according to sources, the 42-year-old was at the helm of the Blues job of English international while club officials demanded a high price – the Hammers asked £80million last summer – for the former academy graduate. Chelsea have also been monitoring the progress of Monaco midfielder Aurélien Chouameny, sources told ESPN’s Julien Laurent, while the club want to keep veteran striker Olivier Giroud until the end of the season, despite interest from Inter and Juventus. Young midfielder Billy Gilmore could be out for a while, as he wants to get more playing time. — Mark Ogden
THE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALISATION SERVICE: Matt Ryan (on loan, Brighton), Martin Odegaard (on loan, Real Madrid)
OUT : William Saliba (on loan, Nice), Sad Kolasinac (on loan, Schalke), Matt Macey (free, Hibernian), Sokratis (free), Mesut Özil (free, Fenerbahce).
Arsenal are hoping to sign a left-back before Monday. They have yet to make contact with Southampton over Ryan Bertrand and have minimal funds; Marseille defender Jordan Amavi is under consideration, but again no formal bid has been received. Ainsley Maitland-Niles can be loaned out, but only if another fullback comes in.
Most things have been done: Martin Odegaard and Matt Ryan were loaned out, while Mesut Özil, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Ced Kolasinak left the Gunners in an attempt to reduce the payroll. Director Mikel Arteta will continue to revamp the team in the summer. After the departures of Shkodran Mustafi and Calum Chambers, a central defender is one of his priorities, while they should try to contract Brentford goalkeeper David Rae, who failed in his attempt last summer.
Hussem Aouard’s long-term pursuit has been hampered by the fact that the Lyon midfielder wants to await interest from Real Madrid and Barcelona this summer before deciding on a new start. Emile Smith Rowe has made a big impression after joining Arsenal’s first team, but it is premature to talk about a new contract, sources told ESPN. -James Ollie
Archie Rind-Tutt and Steve Cerundolo discuss Erling Haaland’s future if Dortmund fail to qualify for the Champions League.
THE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALISATION SERVICE: No: Alena Karls (on loan, Getafe)
Since there is no money for relocation, the association must appeal to young people. There is a vague possibility that they will spend 3 million euros on Man City defender Garcia if they can get it, but no decision can be made without a chairman or board of directors. A source at the club told ESPN that they were hoping for Neto and Junior Firpo, the latter of whom is in interest from AC Milan and West Ham United, and that they would take into account reasonable offers from Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann. But no club has the money to sign the duet. The arrival of Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay or even an unlikely purchase of Agüero will have to wait until the summer, as will the future of Messi. But a lot will change in five months. — Sam Marsden.
THE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALISATION SERVICE: No: Takefusa Kubo (loan, Getafe), Luka Jovic (loan, Eintracht Frankfurt), Martin Odegaard (loan, Arsenal)
With no money to spend at the Bernabeu, there will be no new acquisitions, although Karim Benzema and Mariano Diaz are the team’s only two strikers. In the long term, according to sources revealed to ESPN, the club wants to bring in Kylian Mbappe and Eduardo Camavanga, but they will be very expensive and Madrid have bigger problems at the moment. A free transfer for Bayern star David Alaba seems likely this summer, but the future of captain and legend Sergio Ramos is yet to be decided as PSG and Man City are also interested in getting him for free. Luka Modrić will sign a new contract, but it looks like Lucas Vazquez will not, while central defender Eder Militao was linked with a move, but will stay this month. Sources told ESPN that Odegaard felt disappointed by Madrid for not giving him the chance to play in the first team before he was loaned out to Arsenal. — Alex Kirkland
THE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALISATION SERVICE: Moussa Dembele (Ready, Lyon)
OUT : Manu Sanchez (on loan, Osasuna), Ivan Saponjic (on loan, Cadiz), Diego Costa (released)
After Atletico won the transfer window last weekend with the loaned transfer of Luis Suarez from Barcelona, they needed a replacement for Diego Costa and did so with the loan of Moussa Dembele from Lyon. Vitolo could leave, while Lucas Torreira has been a fringe player since his loan from Arsenal last summer and Monaco have shown interest. The club want to extend the contract of coach Diego Simeone until 2024. — Alex Kirkland
Nothing will happen in January, but Alaba will leave the club in the summer after failing to secure a new contract. A replacement could be Upamecano of RB Leipzig, and they are also looking for Florian Neuhaus of Gladbach to replace Xavi Martinez, who will also leave at the end of his contract. A new contract for young star Jamal Musial is on the horizon, while Bayern remain interested in contracting Frenkie de Jong, but sources have told ESPN that the Dutch midfielder’s chances of leaving Barcelona are minimal, despite the Catalan club’s financial problems. -Stephen Wersfeld
THE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALISATION SERVICE: No: No
The priority was to retain key stars such as Sancho, Haaland and Gio Reina and this has been achieved. They have been linked with Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli and Borussia Monchengladbach’s Florian Neuhaus, although the latter’s €40m transfer clause is now too expensive for Dortmund. Mo Dahoud could leave if he receives a suitable offer, while sources have told ESPN that 16-year-old Julian Ridgehoff will sign for Ajax and be with the U17s. -Stephen Wersfeld
THE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALISATION SERVICE: No: Jesus! (Sobbing)
New coach Mauricio Pochettino wants to borrow Alli from Tottenham and is also linked with another former Eriksen player, but PSG’s priority is signing new contracts for Kylian Mbappe and Neymar. The club’s sporting director Leonardo said he was interested in signing as his contract at Barcelona expires this summer. Sources told ESPN that they have approached Bayern Alaba and would be interested in Real Madrid player Sergio Ramos – both of whom are on transfer targets. Winger Julian Draxler and Angel Di Maria will stay until the summer despite their foreign ties, as Di Maria has opened negotiations on a new contract. — Julien Lawrence
THE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALISATION SERVICE: Marlies Ache (‘8 million, Marseille), Nicolo Rovella (’18 million, Genoa)
UOC : Stefano Gori (loan, AC Pisa), Franco Tonya (€8m, Marseille), Manolo Portanova (€10m, Genoa), Elia Petrelli (€8m, Genoa), Nicolo Rovella (loan, Genoa).
Juventus is focusing on attracting players for the future. Sassuolo striker Gianluca Scamacca could come in for around €25m, while highly-rated midfielder Nicolo Rovella has joined the club from Genoa but will return on loan. Juve’s main objective is to lower the age of the team: Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Cristiano Ronaldo will eventually have to be replaced. Paulo Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi were among the players proposed for Manchester United, while Juventus wanted a deal for Paul Pogba from the start, sources told ESPN’s Rob Dawson. However, it now seems certain that Pogba will stay until the summer. — Andrew Cesare Richardson
THE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALISATION SERVICE: No: Radha Nainggolan (loan, Cagliari), Sebastiano Esposito (loan, Venice), Giacomo Pozzer (loan, Lucches), Axel Bakayoko (loan, Red Star)
Inter should remain quiet in their quest for their first Serie A title since their hat-trick in 2009/10, but a loan deal for Edin Jacko and Alexis Sanchez could be awarded to Roma. Eriksen was considered a potential outsider, with director Beppe Marotta confirming him on the transfer list in December, but Tuesday’s recent win in the Coppa Italia could give him respite, with director Antonio Conte saying after Tuesday’s game that the club were working on a new position for the Danish international. Inter’s priority remains to get striker Lautaro Martinez, who has already met his business manager, to sign a new contract. — Andrew Cesare Richardson
THE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALISATION SERVICE: Mario Mandzukic (free), Fikayo Tomori (loan, Chelsea), Sualijo Meite (loan, Torino)
OUT : Andrea Conti (on loan, Parma), Leo Duarte (on loan, Istanbul Basaksehir), Lorenzo Colombo (on loan, Cremonese), Mateo Musacchio (unnamed, Lazio)
AC Milan were busy in January, bringing in three players. They probably would have contracted Strasbourg’s Mohamed Simakan for around €15 million if he wasn’t injured, but instead they borrowed Tomori from Chelsea. Defender Mateo Musacchio has joined Lazio and Milan have made a bid for Junior Firpo’s left winger, Moises Llorens told ESPN. New contracts (see above) for the main trio are also on the agenda. — Andrew Cesare Richardson
frequently asked questions
Can clubs hire freelancers?
Clubs can still contract free agents during the year if they were not with the club at the start of the season, and there are still many interesting prospects.
When can clubs hire freelancers?
Free agents can be contracted by the club at any time during the season if they have been released by the previous club before the end of the transfer period. A club can ask for a player to be signed in case of emergency, for example when several goalkeepers are injured at the same time.
How does a free transfer work in football?
A transfer is free when a player moves from one club to another without paying a transfer fee. … Players are free to negotiate with other clubs and their former club will not receive a transfer fee if their contract has six months left to run.
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