Winter is certainly not the best time to revamp a team, especially in England. With the season midway through, and most of the players having settled under new regimes, with new team-mates, fighting for a collective goal – titles, qualifications, avoiding relegation, or whatever target deem suited for `any` club, it`s best not to disturb the flow.
Probably, that`s why some of the wise men, like Arsene Wenger, have spoken against this seemingly ludicrous window, wherein money usually overshadows the importance of players. And rightly so, many clubs and players prefer to stay low in January, only focusing on the job at hand.
This January, in those 31 days, like the previous seasons, no earth-shattering transfer happened. But there was one man who hit the headlines for his transfer from Stamford Bridge to the Old Trafford. Juan Mata.
Interestingly, Mata`s move showed strength of current Chelsea squad under Jose Mourinho. Currently, the London club can afford to loan out not less than 23 players.
Besides the Spaniard midfielder, there were other notable moves of former Manchester United lead-man — Dimitar Berbatov moved to Monaco, on loan from Fulham. Newcastle United sold their hugely impressive Frenchman, Yohan Cabaye to high-spenders, Paris Saint Germain. Then, there was the arrival of experienced Italian pair of Marco Boriello, from AS Roma and Antonio Nocerino, from AC Milan at Boleyn Ground to help the relegation-battling West Ham United.
However, there have been exceptional signings during these cold days of the season too. These are ostensibly made possible by reality of a player or a team against the perceived notion, or a sudden change in the team climate of veritable notion – player behaviour, lack of playing time and future prospects, to mention a few. But in the past, cracking business has taken place in the January transfer window.
Who would have imagined the revelation of Luis Suarez at Anfield. The Uruguayan forward, who has so far scored 23 league goals in 18 appearances, was signed during the 2010-11 January window from Dutch power-house Ajax for the then Reds` club record of GBP 22.8 million. Even though the South American has so far failed to help his team win any major title, he is undoubtedly the club`s linchpin in their revival bid. Now, they are fighting for a top-four finish in the tightest league fight.
If Wenger is sceptical of the nature of the January transfer window, he was on the contrary, helped by a player signed during this window in him becoming the boss we all know today. Without Jose Antonio Reyes in their ranks, Wenger would have never been able to lead the Invincibles of 2003-04 season. The Spanish winger arrived in London from Sevilla in January mid-season, and scored two goals in the penultimate two games to the title. Unluckily, the Spanish international`s 13 league appearances weren`t good enough for his team to bag the Premier League title.
Other notable January-signing who has earned himself accolades and medals is Nemanja Vidic. The Serbian centre-back who arrived at Old Trafford during the 2005 January window from Russia has gone on to win five Premier League titles, besides one Champions League and other hosts of cup trophies.
The transfer of goal-keepers hardly drew interest from onlookers, but for the case of Asmir Begovic, whose movement led to furore over the contractual obligations involving three clubs – Portsmouth, Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur.
On the deadline day of the 2010 January window, the Bosnian signed for the Potters and went onto become the club`s Player of the Year in 2012-13 season, a rare feat for a goalie. Even more amazingly, this season in their game against Southampton, he became only the fifth goal-keeper in England`s top flight league to score a goal.
Famous as one half of the dreaded SS strike-force of Liverpool, the former Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge was loaned-out to Bolton Wanderers during the January window in 2011. There, the England international became the sixth player to score in his first four games of a club in the top-tier league. Then, after two seasons with the Blues, he finally moved to Anfield, where he now forms a formidable partnership with Luis Suarez. This season the duo has scored 26 of Liverpool`s 57 goals.
However, the most famous of any January transfer saga was enacted between Chelsea and Liverpool. As the rumours went, true or false, after scoring an almost improbable goal for the Reds against the Blues in London, Fernando Torres impressed enough to invite a record bid from Roman Abramovich. In fact, the Russian owner was marking Torres since the Spaniard`s salad days in Atletico Madrid. After rounds of bidding and rejections, finally Chelsea made an offer which couldn`t be turned down by the Reds, all within a month`s time. During the 2011 winter window, Chelsea bought El Nino for a record GBP 50 million.
Other notable winter signings include those of England international Jermain Defoe from Tottenham to Portsmouth in 2008, South African Steven Pienaar – again from Spurs to Everton in 2012, and Alvaro Arbeloa – who currently plies his trade amongst more illustrious company of Cristiano Ronaldo and his elks – joined Liverpool from Deportivo La Coruna in the 2007 window.
But for this season`s marquee transfer in Mata, we should at least wait for the end of the season before declaring the move a success or failure, especially considering 2014 – a World Cup year. Which player wouldn`t want to be a part of their national team, and given that that country is Spain, the reigning world champions!
Mata needed a reasonable playing time under his kitty to be considered for the national call-up. Probably, he was right to leave London for Manchester, all for the sake of game.