Yesterday we looked at ten players signed in the January window by clubs as diverse as Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea, Stoke City, Birmingham City and Fulham who have had a real, tangible and positive impact on their clubs since signing. They are the glory boys, the players who made the best of their January transfer window move by grasping it with both hands and repaying the faith the club had in them by signing them at a time of the year when most sane managers try and avoid it like the plague.
Why do sane managers avoid it? Because of ten deals like this, that’s why…
1. El Hadji Diouf (Sunderland – Blackburn Rovers) Undisclosed, January 2009 – I can see the meeting now. Big Sam sat in his chair while his assistant says to him; “What we need at this club is an underachieving, petulant, expensive, arrogant winger who spits at fans and is generally loathed by pretty much everybody in football.” Big Sam smiles “I know just the man!”. And he did. El Hadji Diouf. The man who makes Joey Barton or Paul Gascoigne seem a preferable alternative to marrying your daughter. Diouf’s come to Rovers, cost a lot in wages, spat a lot, argued a lot and done pretty much little else. Surprised? No, thought not.
2. Jari Litmanen (Malmo – Fulham), Free, January 2008 – Ten years ago, there is every chance this transfer would have been in the other list. The wonderfully gifted Litmanen had been one of Europe’s finest in the 90’s and 2000’s. By the time Fulham got him in 2008, he was so far past his best that he was being outpaced by continental drift and his gargantuan head had grown so big around his body that his legs were struggling to keep him stood upright. Litmanen came, did three back heels as a late substitute and then needed a rest. Even for a free transfer, it wasn’t ideal. One of Roy Hodgson’s very rare mistakes.
3. Felipe Caicedo (FC Basel – Manchester City), Undisclosed, January 2008 – This is an example of one of these moves where the player can have justifiable complaint that he wasn’t really given a fair crack of the whip. Caicedo signed just as City’s investment was growing and Mark Hughes was signing. As such when he signed he was, at best, second choice and subsequently slid down the list after expensive signing after expensive signing joined the club. He isn’t a bad player Caicedo, he just never did enough to convince Mark Hughes he could cut the mustard at Premier League level.
4. Jonathan Woodgate (Middlesbrough – Tottenham), Undisclosed, January 2008 – Normally when you are signing a defender who can list Real Madrid as one of his former clubs, you know you are getting something special. Tottenham may well have done in Jonathan Woodgate. He doesn’t lack any ability in footballing terms, even if he shares an uncanny resemblance to Frankenstein. What he does lack, and has always lacked, is the ability to stay fit and since he spends most of his time sat discussing the latest betting news with the Physio most weeks, this hasn’t proved to be a good deal for Spurs. Yet.
5.Adem Ljajic (Partizan Belgrade – Manchester United – Partizan Belgrade), Undisclosed, January 2008 – Ring Ring! Ring Ring! “Hiya Fergie! Look I’ve found this great Serb, Adem Ljajic!” “Really? Not like that duffer Tosic?” “No! Course not! Ljajic is a world beater!” “Ok, I’ll sign him and then loan him back to them to be bought outright in a couple of years…” Two years later. Partizan ask for the money. United’s owners take a look at the bank balance and have a quiet word with Fergie who suddenly decides he doesn’t want the youngster anymore. Strange that. The January deal that never was.
6. Rade Prica (Aalborg – Sunderland), £2m, January 2008 – With his Sunderland team struggling for goals, Roy Keane snapped up Rade Prica for £2m. The Swedish striker who had scored 28 goals in 48 games for Aalborg. A year at the Stadium of Light, six appearances as a substitue, just one goal and with Roy Keane about as likely to give him an extended run in the team as he would be to welcome Mick McCarthy as a brother-in-law, Prica was sold on 14 months later to Rosenborg where he has netted 17 goals in 28 games. In such circumstances, it is hard to know who the biggest Prica was.
7. Alan Hutton (Rangers – Tottenham), £9m, January 2008 – Juande Ramos persevered with Rangers to land the exciting Hutton, who had shone for Rangers in Europe and also for Scotland internationally. Adept at right back and centre back, he looked an ideal fit for Spurs. Well, that was until he played and the rampaging right back from Rangers looked more like a man out of sorts. He’s struggled to make it into the team under new boss Harry Redknapp and is perpetually on the fringes looking in while Harry seeks to ship him out. Not quite the return you would want from a £9m investment.
8. Marlon King (Watford – Wigan Athletic), £4m, January 2008 – Wigan owner Dave Whelan has let it be known this week that he had “reservations” about Steve Bruce signing Marlon King. Who wouldn’t? When you know the striker you’ve just signed is named after a clownfish from the film “Finding Nemo”, has an overblown sense of self-importance that is totally disproportionate to the abilities he possesses and goes around hitting women ensuring you are going to spend the next 18 months in the clink, then I’d have reservations too. That Dave Whelan eh? He makes Nostradamus look like an amateur.
9. Savio Nsereko (Brescia – West Ham United), £9m, January 2009 – West Ham fans needed some cheering up after the departure of Craig Bellamy to Manchester City. This supposedly came by the £9m signing of the next Hammers superstar, Savio Nsereko from Brescia. His unparallelled record of 3 goals in 22 games proving that this striker was obviously the next Geoff Hurst. Sadly, he was the next Florin Raducioui. 10 games for West Ham, 0 goals and the vast majority of the time spent in the reserves, he was shipped off to Fiorentina and has since been sent to lower league A.C Bologna on loan. He made Corrado Grabbi look like an unmitigated success.
10. Afonso Alves (Heerenveen – Middlesbrough), £12.7m, January 2008 – What I loved about this signing was the fanfare which greeted it. Samba dances at the Riverside, Gareth Southgate beaming as he’d brought the next Brazilian genius to the North East. Alves had a great scoring record in Dutch and Swedish football. Averaging almost a goal a game. At Middlesbrough however it evaporated. He did score 10 goals, but his workrate was questionable and the player that Boro fans had believed would take them to the next level, simply turned out to be a flash in the pan. Flashes of inspiration weren’t enough to save Middlesbrough from the drop and Afonso left the club for £7m to join Al Sadd. A salutory lesson in how even the deals that seem great at the time, can turn out to be an utter waste of money.