Here are the ten best players that moved in the January transfer window to the EPL. I really could live that month, every month. (List was chosen based off current talent, potential, value of deal and team need)
10. Jack Butland (GK, Birmingham City to Stoke City):
This may be one of the most important moves for the future. With Chelsea and Man City, amongst others, all reportedly interested in getting this young goalkeeper it seems as though Stoke City have won the race to his signing. Butland is a young 19-year old who has made 29 starts for Birmingham City since joining in 2010. He has represented the England national team at all age levels including the senior squad as a back up to Joe Hart, but regardless Butland was the first choice goalkeeper for the Great Britain Olympic squad which is quite an honor to receive at 19. I see him having immense potential to one day be the England national goalkeeper as we’re talking about a guy with a 6’ 5” frame and a whole lot of upside.
9. Brek Shea (Winger, FC Dallas to Stoke City):
Arguably, Brek Shea is one of the brightest American stars for the national team and has the ability to make the transition to the EPL in Clint Dempsey-esque manner. Since 2008, in 98 appearances for FC Dallas he scored 19 times. 2011-2012 was his best season in which he scored 11 goals in 31 appearances. Shea is 6’ 3” but moves like a guy 5 inches shorter than him with his dribbling maneuvering ability. As an American, Shea gets me excited about the US national team with 15 appearances since he debuted there in 2010. Shea is only 22 years old, and I think will start to step into his prime for Stoke City.
8. Christopher Samba (CB, Anzhi Makhachkala to QPR):
I really like this move for QPR in an approximate 12.5 million pound transfer. Samba has five previous years of experience in the EPL with Blackburn in which he netted 16 times in 161 appearances. He was arguably the best player on a poor Blackburn squad and then moved to Anzhi in which he produced pretty well with 27 appearances and 3 goals to his name. Samba is an absolute workhorse and at 28, he can be a mainstay in QPR’s defense for at least 3-5 seasons. With a powerful head and awareness on corners, he gives you the best of both worlds. Not to mention his 6’ 4” makes him pretty intimidating to any forward who tries to get by.
7. Lewis Holtby (Midfielder, Schalke 04 to Tottenham Hotspur):
I really didn’t previously know that much about Holtby but he is a highly regarded German talent, enough so that Tottenham wanted him to transfer over during the January window instead of the summer which was initially agreed upon. In the 2011-2012 season, Holtby scored 6 times in 27 appearances, and had 4 goals in 19 appearances for Schalke 04 before departing this season. Holtby scored 12 goals in 20 appearances for the German U-21 national team and thus showcased his ability on the national stage. He seems to have a very exciting future and a certain stability about him that makes him a creative midfielder.
6. Philippe Coutinho (Attacking Midfielder, Inter Milan to Liverpool FC):
This was one of the more surprising transfers to go down during the January window. He’s only 20 years old and Inter Milan seemingly thought he was apart of the future core. Now, they sent Coutinho on his way for about 11 million pounds which has me wondering if they even gave the young Coutinho enough time to shine. He looks to be getting better every year, scoring 5 times in 16 appearances while on loan in La Liga last season. I think Liverpool got a bit of steal in him and he will definitely see time in the starting 11 under Brendan Rogers. He may get loaned out for next season or the end of this season, but ultimately I feel as though Liverpool valued his talent way more than Inter Milan. We will see where this Coutinho project goes.
5. Yann M’Vila (Defensive Midfielder, Stade Rennes to Rubin Kazan):
Wasn’t exactly a fan of M’Vila ending up in the Russian league and not the EPL, but nonetheless it seems like a great move for Rubin Kazan. In 110 appearances for Rennes, he netted 2 times but that’s not the impact that this move makes. He is a starting member for the French national team and may be one of the best defensive midfielders in the game. Rubin Kazan is getting a lot of experience from this guy who harnesses boundless potential as a young and budding 22-year old. Look for M’Vila to do well over there and then at some point make his rounds to the EPL.
4. Mateo Kovacic (Midfielder, Dinamo Zagreb to Inter Milan):
I have ranked this 18-year old so highly in my top 10 transfers because, simply put, he is going to become a game changer. He has been recognized as one of the best under 21 youths in the world and tagged as a Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney and Diego Maradona combination. In 43 appearances for Dinamo Zagreb, he scored 6 goals and was nominated for the “Golden Boy” award in October 2012, given to the top youths in Europe that are defined to be the most “impressive”. Real Madrid, Manchester City, Chelsea and all the top teams were trying to snap up this guy but Inter Milan beat them all to the signing with a deal worth 15 million pounds. MAKE SURE YOU REMEMBER THIS NAME.
3. Wilfried Zaha (Winger/Striker, Crystal Palace to Manchester United):
Zaha is a player with absolute class. One of the most highly regarded youths under 21 along with Kovacic and Sir Alex was determined to seal his signature at 15 million pounds. In 109 appearances for Crystal Palace he netted 12 times. Born in Ivory Coast, yet lived in England since young age, he has decided to play his national team football with England, and received The Football League’s Young Footballer of the Year award in 2012. He is certainly one to watch for the future Manchester Unicted project and should become a star under the watch of Sir Alex. Zaha makes me excited to have been a Manchester United fan for so long. as he will be one of the world class players in time.
2. Demba Ba (Striker, Newcastle United to Chelsea):
Ba is one of the more sensible signings that Chelsea has made to date as he has far more quality than Fernando Torres and should be getting the starts ahead of him. At 27 years of age, Ba is heading into his prime years and previously burst on the scene as on of the best strikers in the EPL with Newcastle United. In 54 appearances for Newcastle, he netted 29 goals and showed why he is for real. I think Ba is the answer up front for now but he probably won’t last past his contract obligations. He’s just not the type of player Chelsea usually has and in that way they may try to get as much as they can out of him before signing someone long term who can take over as a superstar. Also, they got Ba for his famous cheaply priced release clause, so above all else there isn’t a lot of liability.
1. Mario Balotelli (Striker, Manchester City to AC Milan):
Balotelli is world class. Whether we love him, hate him, think he doesn’t utilize his ability, he is still a superstar in the making. He cost only 20 million pounds and when you factor in his 22 years of age and astronomical talent, that large figure starts looking like a bargain. He has already been apart of three top tier teams and has produced massively when he hasn’t had off the field issues. Hopefully his transition back to Italy will make him understand that he needs to focus and cut out the ego that makes him a villain of all. In his last two stops, Manchester City and Inter Milan, Balotelli was pretty much consistent netting 20 times in 54 appearances and 20 times in 59 appearances, respectively. His production at AC Milan will be determined by his concentration and maturity. I think he is going to get it at some point and realize he isn’t fully utilizing the caliber that he has been given.
Note: David Beckham didn’t make my top 10 or overrated/underrated move. Shocker.
Most overrated move: Tie between Willian (Winger, Shakhtar Donetsk to Anzhi Makhachkala) and Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan to Galatasaray)
Willian cost 34 million pounds for his services, not sure about that one regardless of his skill. Sneijder has certainly lost his world-class capabilities since the 2006 World Cup.
Most underrated move: Didier Drogba (Striker, Shanghai Shenhua to Galatasaray
I like this move more than what Galatasaray did in signing Wesley Sneijder (obviously you can tell I’m not a fan). Drogba is a class act and while 34 years old, is a goal scoring threat and still one of the strongest forward in the world. Chelsea was even reportedly trying to resign him but he turned them down and rightfully so. They thought Drogba was done but the guy continues to produce and be a workhorse. Look for him to have a successful campaign in Turkey.
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