For many people who follow football, the end of a season is something of a downer, and summer is alleviated only by one thing: transfer gossip. Although many of the top teams arrange their transfer business well in advance these days, transfer windows have become entertainment in and of themselves, with pages of coverage given over to alerting us to who is signing whom, who has issued a “Come and get me” plea, and who has been made surplus to requirements by a major move.
The winter window, for its part, is often a more idiosyncratic affair. Teams who have made a less than promising start to the season will scour the world’s leagues to find a player who will help them reignite their form. Players who have been out of favour at their clubs will look for at least a loan move to get their stalled career going again. And the sense of desperation that surrounds it all is now a part of following football. This season, that window comes hot on the heels of a World Cup, which means we could be in for perhaps the most frenetic January in recent football history. Let’s look at what could be in store.
At least one relegation-threatened club will sign multiple World Cup players
When a team starts the season in shaky form, the winter window represents a final roll of the dice to try and change the picture. There is a certain degree of difficulty in pulling this off – the best players out there aren’t going to move to a team that could be playing in the lower divisions within six months. There’s a good chance that Leicester City, who are believed by almost every betting resource to be in the relegation fight already, will take the tough decision to sell either Youri Tielemans or James Maddison, or both. This will fund a squad overhaul, which is likely to see a few defenders or midfielders fresh from a few impressive games in Qatar arriving at the King Power.
Mutliple players from a “dark horse” country will get big moves
There’s next to no chance that Kylian Mbappe or Harry Kane will cash in on an impressive World Cup by changing their clubs in the middle of a potentially successful season. However, a World Cup is always a chance for players from mid-tier nations to announce themselves to a football world and its player agents. Romania’s wonderful cameo in 1994 saw Gheorghe Hagi, Dan Petrescu and Ilie Dumitrescu, among others, make big moves. Although many “lesser” national teams already have players at top clubs these days – scouting is more extensive than ever – it would be no surprise to see Ghana, for example, go on a run to the last eight and several of their players win moves off the back of it.
Someone will get a move solely on World Cup performance and it won’t go well
Harking back once more to 1994, the Golden Boot in that year’s tournament was shared by Hristo Stoichkov, who played for some of Europe’s top clubs across the decade, and Oleg Salenko, who didn’t. Salenko scored six times during the tournament, with five of them coming against an ageing Cameroon side. These exploits won him a move to Rangers, where he barely featured before moving away just as quickly to Istanbulspor. It’s always tempting to move for someone off the back of a breakout tournament, but when most of that breakout happened in one game, it might not be the smartest move.
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