Sam Mills picks a team of the best Premier League signings during the January transfer window.
Birmingham City >> Stoke City, Fee: £3.3 million
The Bristolian youngster was virtually unheard of before the European Championships last year, but Hodgson’s shock inclusion of Butland in the reserves of the 23 man squad, and then the injury of one of the goalkeepers already in the squad, resulting in a trip to Poland and Ukraine for teenager, meant nationwide intrigue for the ‘keeper. He made a debut for his national team before he had made a debut for his club, Championship strugglers Birmingham City, and impressed. Now, due to the club’s financial crisis, Stoke have bought him for under 3 and a half million pounds: great value for a keeper with bags of potential, tipped to be a future number 1 for England.
Lille >> Newcastle United, Fee: £5.5 million
In one word? Consistent. The fullback who began his career as a deep lying playmaker plays with all the grace of a ‘regista’, with wonderful technical ability, and the intelligence to read the game exceptionally; allowing him to see passes before the passer has even thought about it. The defender will become a valuable first team player for Newcastle, one who will provide as many assists as goal saving tackles for the Magpies.
Anzhi Makhachkala >> QPR, Fee: £12.5 million
Tall, strong and dominant in the air, we all know about Samba, the 6 foot 4 inch Congolese stopper played in the Premier league for 5 years with Lancashire club Blackburn Rovers before heading to the riches of Russia. He will bring precious leadership and quality to a defence distinctly lacking in those qualities, and could just be the signing that keeps the R’s up this term, could.
Montpellier >> Newcastle United, Fee: £7 million
A member of ‘the core’ that led Montpellier to the Ligue 1 title last season, and, like ‘the core’, he has left the French side in search of more trophies and excitement. Newcastle was the club of his choice, after a lot of interest from other clubs, and he, along with his fellow Frenchmen recently acquired by the club, could turn their season around with his pace, composure and bravery.
Malaga >> Arsenal, Fee: £6 million
Allow me to set the scene; Kieran Gibbs is injured during a fixture at home to Stoke. Who can Arsene turn to, none other than the notorious Mr. Santos. Often referred to as the worst player to play in the premier league, or ‘the fella with his feet on backwards’, Santos is simply not a viable option to play until Gibbs returns, considering the club’s aspirations of securing a fiercely contested fourth spot. Hence the purchase of 26 year old Spaniard Ignacio Monreal; a reliable, attack-minded defender at the peak of his career. He is clearly a smart signing for the Gooners, certainly better than Santos.
Liverpool >> West Ham United, Fee: Free
The local lad returns: 10 years since his departure. Cole’s homecoming has boosted morale at the Boleyn Ground; the player the fans fell in love with as a teen has arrived at the Hammers after years of obscurity playing for Liverpool and Lille. The fans hope the move back to West Ham will reignite his creative flair that Cole once possessed, splitting defences with his incisive passing and technical brilliance. Practically, everyone is hoping Cole can deliver for West Ham, apparently “The most skilful Englishman since Gazza”.
Schalke >> Tottenham Hotspur, Fee: £1.5 million
The hole Modric left when he fled to Spain from Spurs in the summer has been a gaping one for the majority of the season, with players like Sigurdsson and Dempsey failing to fill the void. Until now, as the purchase of German Lewis Holtby could be Tottenham’s source of creativity post-Modric. Lewis Harry Holtby plays internationally for Germany, despite an English Father, hence the middle name. He has been lauded by pundits and managers alike this season and last, credited for his commitment and vision. Holtby has plenty of ability, and after years of positional indecision from various managers (he has been played in a defensive midfield role, an attacking midfield role, the wing and even up front), Holtby has found his role: the playmaker. No, not the type that waits for the ball to be passed to him before sparking into life, Holtby’s work rate means, even if there appears to be nothing on, he wins the ball and starts an attack. He will be an integral part of the Spurs set up this season, and for many to come.
Toulouse >> Newcastle United, Fee: £1.8 million
He grabbed the headlines last week, orchestrating a turnaround of epic proportions against European champions Chelsea; the game that beautifully summarised his talent. A ‘Box-to-box’ midfielder, he can play anywhere in the midfield, providing pace, power, determination and quality on the ball, echoes of Patrick Viera at his prime. At a mere £1.8 million, the explosive midfielder appears to be an utter steal; but beware ‘Toon’ fans, the young Frenchman has been known to grow inconsistent and become un-influential. Nevertheless, a great signing.
AC Milan >> Fulham, Fee: Loan
The Dutchman may not have been the first thing people imagined when they heard that a thrilling new playmaker has joined Fulham from Italian giants AC Milan, but the 26 year old is certainly an exciting prospect for the Craven Cottage faithful. An Ajax academy product with dynamism, energy and a wicked left foot, the versatile playmaker can play across midfield and even at left back, albeit reluctantly. An inspired signing for Jol’s side.
Newcastle United >> Chelsea, Fee: £7.5 million
After activating a release clause in Ba’s contract at Newcastle, Chelsea confirmed the signing of the forward, much to the delight of the Chelsea fans, who have endured a struggling Torres desperately attempting to recreate the form that led him to being the world’s best striker many years ago. Ba should come as a welcome relief for the Pensioner’s as they battle for Champions League spots, a natural goal scorer like Demba Ba will definitely benefit Chelsea, especially the trio of playmakers providing the opportunities.
Marseille >> QPR, Fee: £8 million
QPR have been desperate for a striker all season, after finding themselves at the bottom of the league for the bulk of it, with the likes of Cisse and Zamora either underperforming or injured, the goals have been few and far between. The struggle continued as Taarabt and Mackie tried taking on the mantle of frontman, with little success. The January transfer window was an opportunity for Redknapp to buy a new striker, and he took it. The attainment of Loic Remy from Ligue 1 outfit Marseille dramatically changed the situation at Loftus Road; the hitman has lifted the burden from midfielders like Adel Taarabt and Junior Hoilett to score goals, and now provides an outlet for a QPR team bursting with creativity, namely former Madrid playmaker Granero and Cameroonian Stephane M’Bia. He already has a goal to his name in the hoops of QPR, scored as he utilised his pace and finishing ability: he is a defenders worst nightmare. An ideal forward for a side that have ambitions to survive this season.