Gazing back over the January transfer windows of 2008 and 2009, it is striking to see which teams use the window frequently (Stoke City and Manchester City in particular have been busy) and those, like Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal for example, who use it sparingly. It also gives us a great chance to look at some of the signings made in the past two years which are proving to be fantastic January sale bargains, and which ones you are likely to see in the 10 players for a pound bargain bin dumped near the till.
So here’s our definitive list of the top 10 January signings of the past two years, players who are all still gracing the Premier League with their class and talent and in no particular order;
1. Nicolas Anelka (Bolton Wanderers – Chelsea) £15m, January 2008 – Chelsea needed a proven goalscorer at Premier League level to give Drogba support. Anelka had long been the class act at the Reebok and Avram Grant stumped up the £15m to bring him to Stamford Bridge, after a slow start under the Israeli (mainly due to Anelka being used down the flank), Anelka was the Premier League top scorer last season and has continued his fine form into this campaign forging a strong partnership with Didier Drogba and earning a regular starting place in the Chelsea first team.
2. Nigel De Jong (SV Hamburg – Manchester City) Undisclosed, January 2009 – Quite why Roberto Mancini has felt the need to bring in Patrick Vieira and is being linked with Matthieu Flamini is beyond me. Not unless he is planning some gigantic surprise at Eastlands for former Arsenal stars. De Jong has been superb at the heart of City’s midfield. Tough tackling, powerful, selfless and blessed with excellent touch, vision and passing ability, he was a vital cog in Mark Hughes’ Man City team. If he is not part of Mancini’s plans, then there will be no shortage of takers. If anyone can explain how Vieira is an upgrade on De Jong then I am a Dutchman.
3. Jermaine Defoe (Portsmouth – Tottenham), £15.75m, January 2009 – He’d left Spurs to join Portsmouth to get first team football. He got that at Pompey and scored a lot of goals. Tottenham fans said “Hang on Harry, why did we let him go in the first place?” so Harry thought “I know, Portsmouth haven’t got two ha’pennies to rub together, I’ll take him back.” So he did and since then Defoe has become the man at the Lane. He bagged five against Wigan earlier this season, has genuine aspirations of being a starter for England and if he misses out on the World Cup Finals squad again this summer, then Fabio Capello needs his head examining.
4. Tamir Cohen (Maccabi Netanya – Bolton Wanderers), Undisclosed, January 2008 – Tamir Cohen arrived with little fanfare at the Reebok after his signing from Israeli football. It took the son of former Liverpool star Avi Cohen, a little time to settle in England but this season he has been in superb form. Scoring several goals for Bolton early in the campaign and winning over fans with his workrate, endeavour and intelligent passing and as such earning a regular place at the heart of the Bolton midfield.
5. Brede Hangeland (FC Copenhagen – Fulham), Undisclosed, January 2008 – Hangeland arrived with a big reputation and even bigger boots. The giant centre half was viewed as something of a gamble by some critics. Not by Fulham boss Roy Hodgson who knew the player from his time at Viking. On his debut for Fulham, Hangeland won man of the match. Many more would follow as the centre half produced one commanding display after another at the heart of the Fulham defence. A commanding, powerful centre back who is now being strongly linked with a move to London rivals Arsenal.
6. Ryan Shawcross (Manchester United – Stoke City), £1m, January 2008 – It isn’t a case of Sir Alex Ferguson getting it wrong about Shawcross. Simply that he couldn’t offer the tall defender the first team action he merited. Stoke City could and Tony Pulis snapped him up for £1m, installed him at the heart of the Stoke City defence where he has been imperious ever since. It is rumoured that Liverpool want to buy Shawcross and there is even talk of Sir Alex wanting to bring him back to Manchester United. If he does, it will cost a lot more than the £1m Stoke paid to take him away from the Britannia stadium.
7. Gary Cahill (Aston Villa – Bolton Wanderers), Undisclosed, January 2008 – Bolton fans may not have much love for Gary Megson but they can at least thank him for being astute in the January window. He may have sold Anelka for £15m, but with it he signed Cohen who also appeared in this list, and Aston Villa centre back Gary Cahill. The defender settled in well at the Reebok and has been a class act in the centre of defence, earning England recognition for his performances and as a result being strongly linked with almost every top six club in the Premier league over the past few weeks.
8. Glenn Whelan (Sheffield Wednesday – Stoke City), £500,000, January 2008 – Sometimes, you see a transfer for a player that makes you rub your eyes in disbelief. When this deal happened in January 2008, very few people paid it much attention. A journeyman midfielder signs for a Championship side. So what? Well since then Whelan has emerged as a class act, forced his way into the Ireland team and become a fantastic player for Stoke City at the heart of midfield. All that for £500,000? You’d be hard pushed to find any better value in any transfer window.
9. James McFadden (Everton – Birmingham City), £5m, January 2008 – This is one of those deals that has worked out well for both clubs. Everton didn’t really want to sell their talented young Scottish star, but a lack of funds was a serious concern. Birmingham boss Alex McLeish came up with a £5m offer and the deal was struck. Everton got their much needed cash, Birmingham a player who almost singlehandedly kept them in the top flight, remained loyal to help earn them promotion back into the big time and continues to play a significant role for the club to this very day.
10. Matthew Etherington (West Ham United – Stoke City), £2m, January 2009 – Tony Pulis earns himself the title of King of the January Transfer window with this, his third entry into the top ten. Etherington had flattered to deceive at Tottenham and West Ham and many felt a move down the divisions looked likely. Pulis didn’t agree and snapped up the left winger for £2m in January 2009. Since then Etherington has found a regular place for himself on the left of midfield and has become a real weapon for Stoke, not to mention getting amongst the goals. £3.5m spent on Whelan, Shawcross and Etherington and currently a healthy 11th in the Premiership? There is no doubt at all that Tony Pulis is the January Transfer King.
Join me tomorrow when we will rifle through the ‘two for a pound’ bin and look at the worst transfer deals of the January transfer window over the past two years and believe me, there’s plenty to pick from…