Players tend to be settled at their clubs and are generally reluctant to jump ship when they are usually familiar with the workings at the club they are currently at.
Acclimatizing to new surrounds, with new management, team mates and set-up can be particularly difficult at this time of year. This is of course made all the more difficult if one is moving to a new country. This is doubly (or perhaps triply?!) difficult by not having a pre season to acclimatize to your new environs but having games immediately every three/four days.
Within football though, like most workplaces, there is generally a considerable element of politics however. Players fall out with their manager/general hierarchy (but usually the manager) just like an office employee will fall out with their employer from time to time. Also, if players aren’t playing, there is a desire to get the player off the wage bill – and generally a desire from the player to move somewhere he might play.
For this and a myriad of other reasons, the January transfer window exists.
Here are some of the most likely transfers to take place when chairmen get their wallets over the next few weeks.
DEMBA BA (Newcastle United): The powerful Senagalese striker has been courted by some of the English Premier League’s leading clubs over recent months/seasons.
Ba left German club Hoffenheim in disputed and controversial circumstances exactly two years. After a £7million move to Stoke City fell through due to ”complications with the medical,” Ba moved to the English capital to join West Ham United on a pay per play basis due to the complications with his medical at Stoke. Although he scored seven goals in just 12 appearances for the Hammers and was the club’s leading goalscorer, they were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2011-’12 season.
The 6’2″ hit man could clearly hack it in the rough and tumble world of the English top flight and when the Irons’ relegation triggered a release clause in his contract, a host of big name clubs chased his signature.
In June 2011 Ba signed a three year contract at Newcastle United and he has proved a revelation on Tyneside. Ba scored 15 goals in his first 20 appearances as the Toon Army rose to the dizzy heights of third in the Premier League table and the man capped 16 times by Senegal was voted onto ESPN.com’s Premier League Best XI for the first half of the season and named Premier League Player of the Month for December 2011.
By the time he left for the 2012 African Nation’s Cup he was second highest Premier League goal scorer (behind Robin Van Persie) and scored in the 3-0 win over defending Premier League champions Manchester United at the turn of 2012.
Upon Ba’s early return to the Premier League following Senegal’s first round exit from the African Nation’s Cup, he was moved to the left of a three pronged attack and scored just once more for the rest of the season.
Despite this late season slump, Ba was voted as the best signing of the 2011–’12 season by Premier League managers in March 2012 and finished the season as Newcastle’s leading goal scorer, with 16 goals.
Ba scored spectacular goals at the start of this season against Tottenham, Everton and Reading and at the start of 2013 has a total of 13 goals so far this season. He has a £7.5million release clause in his contract with Arsenal, Chelsea and Paris Saint Germain chasing his services. The Gunners don’t have the financial muscle of the two all blue clubs, but Ba would be certain to be a first team regular at the Emirates.
WILFRIED ZAHA (Crystal Palace): The 20 year-old winger cum striker has been on the radar of Manchester United since impressing during Crystal Palace’s shock League Cup win over the Red Devils in November 2011.
Both United and Liverpool made overtures for the then teenager during the last winter transfer window, but the two northern English giants were both unsuccessful in prying the youngster away from Selhurst Park.
In March 2012, Zaha was voted The Football League’s Young Player of the Year. At the end of the 2011–’12 season, Zaha was voted Crystal Palace Young Player of the Year for a second time in a row. During the season, he played a total of 49 games while scoring nine goals and contributing five assists.
Although Palace lost their first three league games of this season, Zaha often stood out with his lively performances. By November, Palace were top of the Championship after a 2-1 win against Leicester, a 2-0 win against Blackburn and a 5-0 trashing of Ipswich Town, with the man born in the Ivory Coast contributing four goals and three assists during that run.
Zaha scored a spectacular goal for Palace to open the scoring in the 1-1 draw with Huddersfield on 22nd December. Receiving the ball outside the ‘D’, Zaha charged into the box, sidestepped Terriers‘ defender Jack Hunt and lashed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net. Despite the fact that the visitors equalised later in the game, the goal came at an opportune time for Zaha as he hopes to make the step up to the top flight.
Arsenal and Manchester United are interested in his services with a fee of around £5million likely to be required to pry the young man away from the only club he has ever played for.
NANI (Manchester United): Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha (Nani) joined United from Sporting Lisbon in the summer of 2007 for a fee of €25million.
The Portuguese did well in his first season at Old Trafford and at the end of that season appeared in the Champions League final against Chelsea as an extra-time substitute. He took – and scored – the fifth penalty as United lifted the “Cup with the Big Ears” thanks to a 6-5 penalty shoot-out win.
The 2008-’09 season saw Nani fulfil a bit part role at Old Trafford but Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from the club during the summer of 2009 meant that the onus then fell on Nani to fill the shoes of his compatriot. Following several poor performances during the first half of the 2009-’10 season, Nani criticised Alex Ferguson for his lack of confidence in him. It looked like it was the beginning of the end of the then 23 year-old’s time at Old Trafford.
Nani recovered his form however and he signed a four year contract extension at Old Trafford in March of that season, which committed himself to the club until summer 2014. Nani’s third season with Manchester United ended with 34 appearances and seven goals in all competitions.
The 2010-’11 season was the winger’s best at Old Trafford as he was one of the leading lights guiding United to another Premier League title – his third at the club.
He was revealed as a contender for the PFA Young Player of the Year award in April 2011. However, many people, including the player himself, expressed their surprise that he was not nominated for the main award.
Nani lost out to Jack Wilkshere for the Young Player of the Year award but he was however included into the PFA Premier League Team of the Year for the first time. He was rewarded for his outstanding season as he was voted Players’ Player of the Year at Manchester United’s awards night at the end of the 2010-’11 season.
Following a stellar start to the 2011-’12 season, which included goals in wins over Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea, Nani was nominated for the prestigious Ballon d’Or award in December 2011.
Since then, and following the signing of Robin Van Persie and the emergence of Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young on the attacking flanks at Old Trafford, Nani has fallen down the pecking order at United with starting opportunities now becoming more and more limited.
There are plenty clubs who could use the now 26 year-old’s services and Arsenal are said to be interested in signing him. United are highly unlikely to re-coup anywhere near the €25million they paid for his him though.
STEWART DOWNING (Liverpool): The man signed by Liverpool from Aston Villa in the summer of 2011 for a massive £20million has not lived up to his price tag.
The highlight of his first season with Liverpool was being named man of the match in the League Cup final. Despite being a left winger he ended the season with no goals and no assists and missed a penalty in the FA Cup final as Liverpool lost to Chelsea.
Downing scored the winner in Liverpool’s first competitive game of this season, during the Europa League tie against Gomel. From early in the season, he became deployed at left-back under new manager Brendan Rodgers’ regime.
He scored his first league goal and contributed his first assist during the 4-0 win over Fulham, but is out of favour at the club and a drop down to the Championship – for a loan period at least – looks certain for the 28 year-old. A return to his home town club Middlesborough looks likely as they bid for a return to the top flight.
RADAMEL FALCAO (Atlético Madrid): Likely to be one of the hottest properties during this window, Falcao has been courted by Europe’s top clubs with Chelsea favourites to land his signature.
Falcao joined Atlético from Porto in August 2011 for a fee of €40million. The Colombian proved a revelation at the Vicente Calderón Stadium as he scored 36 goals in all competitions during his first season for the club. This was the highest total ever scored by one player for the club in their first season at the club as the 26 year-old led Atlético to a fifth placed La Liga finish as well as the Europa League title.
He was the top scorer in the Europa League last season and became the first player in history to win the Europa League in two consecutive seasons with two different clubs.
Falcao scored two hat-tricks at the start of this season; first in the La Liga game against 2012 Europa League finalists Athletic Bilbao, and the second in the defeat of Chelsea, winning the 2012 UEFA European Super Cup 4–1 at the end of August. His performance in that game gave hierarchy at Chelsea a first hand account of what he is capable of and a bid in excess of €50million will likely attain the striker’s services.
Falcao has gone from strength to strength during the first half of this season. He scored his 50th goal for Atlético in just 15 months at the club and became the first La Liga player in over a decade to score five goals in one game as Madrid’s second team overpowered Deportivo in mid December. If Chelsea are to gain his services, they will have to beat off a host of other would be suitors.
Falcao’s talents have also been seen at international level as he has scored winning goals in wins over Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay (two goals) as Los Cafeteros sit in second place in the highly competitive CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying section – one point behind Argentina.
MARIO BALOTELLI (Manchester City): The eccentric Italian has fallen out of favour with his fellow countryman Roberto Mancini at the Etihad and a January move looks almost certain for the 22 year-old.
In September, the ever patient Italian national team manager Cesare Prandelli appeared to have lost patience with the mercurial and mischievous Mario. Having been instrumental in guiding the Azzurri to the final of Euro 2012, Balotelli then scheduled an eye operation which coincided with the days Italy were to play the first qualifying games for the 2014 World Cup.
“WHY ALWAYS ME?” – actions such as those perpetrated in September might begin to explain why it is always you Mario.
In November, Manchester City fined him two week’s wages because of his poor disciplinary record. Balotelli decided to fight against the decision which was taken due to his poor disciplinary record the previous season by taking his club to a Premier League tribunal. Balotelli missed 11 games domestically and in Europe last season because of suspensions.
With less than a day remaining to the start of the hearing, Balotelli dropped his tribunal action and accepted the fine. It is an action which would have been pointless at best and it is thought Mancini has had enough of the headstrong former Inter star.
Balotelli’s future in the Italian national team had been brought into question following his September antics. His national team manager has forgiven however and that forgiveness has reaped rewards as Balotelli scored for Italy in the 3-1 World Cup qualifying win over Denmark in October at his former home ground – the San Siro. Whether his club manager is as forgiving remains to be seen and Balotelli could be returning to the San Siro as AC Milan are said to be interested in his services.
ASMIR BEGOVIć (Stoke City): The highly rated goalkeeper is said to be coveted by Manchester United as they bid to solve their defensive crisis which has seen the Red Devils concede an average of almost two goals per game this season.
A fantastic shot stopper, the 6’5″ giant is a commanding presence in his penalty area and is more than adept at organising his back four.
The Bosnian native has conceded just 12 goals from his first 15 league appearances this season. Statistics like that will bring Manchester United very close to a Premier League and Champions League double come the end of this season.
The 25 year-old is highly regarded by Stoke manager Tony Pulis however, and having signed a contract extension until 2016 at the Brittania, United will likely have to pay in excess of £10million to secure his services.
THOMAS INCE (Blackpool): Paul’s son has done more than live up to his illustrious father’s name.
Ince signed for Liverpool as a youth player in 2008, and was handed a first-team squad number at the start of the 2010-’11 season.
Having struggled to attain a first team role at Anfield, he moved to Blackpool at the end of the 2010-’11 season following a loan spell at Notts County.
Ince proved an instant hit at Bloomfield Field and was a leading light in guiding the Seasiders to the Championship play-off final at the end of last season. He scored in the final but ‘Pool were eventually undone in the dying minutes and were pipped for promotion as West Ham beat them 2-1 on the day to regain their place in the Premier League.
Ince score the only goals of the game in a 2–0 win for Blackppol at Millwall on the opening day of this season. Following the game, then Blackpool manager Ian Holloway stated that the Tangerines had received an offer from an unknown club, but that Ince had committed his future to the Seasiders after talking to his father. Holloway said: “There was interest in Tom last week. No one has heard about it but I’ll share it with you. His dad wants him to stay with us.”
The interest in Ince is thought to have increased and Liverpool are said to be set to table a multi-million pound offer for a man they must now wish they had never let go.