Mercifully, the January transfer window has closed, putting an end to yet another hectic month of wheeling and dealing across Europe. Though a number of sides did sensible business, the transfer period – as always seems to be the case – was highlighted by an onslaught of hilariously absurd rumors. Below, we highlight five of the most ridiculous January storylines.
Manchester United’s striker search
The granddaddy of January hilarity was undoubtedly Manchester United’s desperate search for attacking reinforcements. The Red Devils pulled off one of the winter’s more impressive deals when they inked versatile Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes from Sporting CP, but their inability to add a marquee striker could be the death knell in their Champions League chase.
Leading scorer Marcus Rashford, sidelined long term with a back injury, needed an interim replacement. It’s that simple. The likes of Mario Mandzukic, Edinson Cavani, and Krzysztof Piatek were all rumored to be options before things took a wild turn in the final 24 hours of the window. Having missed on the aforementioned trio, a deadline day scramble saw Salomon Rondon, Joshua King, and Odion Ighalo tipped as potential signings.
Incredibly, it seems as though the latter will indeed be moving to Old Trafford. Ed Woodward truly is a marvel.
Barcelona find cash out of thin air
Barcelona have been in a financial bind dating back to last summer. After the opulent signing of Antoine Griezmann, money was tight. Even reported bids for Neymar involved either initial loans or partial swap deals, where the Catalan club could defer payments or offload wages – or both.
So when rumors emerged of a mammoth £85-million approach for Everton star Richarlison, more than a few eyebrows were raised, a la Carlo Ancelotti. Barca, seemingly strapped for cash and looking at shrewd options to bolster their attacking ranks in the wake of Luis Suarez’s injury, were suddenly rolling in disposable funds? Unsurprisingly, the notion was quickly shot down.
Aubameyang linked with PSG
There have been plenty of rumblings that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is looking to leave Arsenal. The 30-year-old forward, who leads the Gunners with 14 Premier League goals this season, could very well be looking to engineer a move to a club that can guarantee him immediate Champions League action.
But of all the teams that fall into that category, Paris Saint-Germain easily make the least sense as a destination for the Gabonese star. Another forward is the last thing Thomas Tuchel needs in the French capital. With Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi, Angel Di Maria, and Edinson Cavani already in tow – not to mention Pablo Sarabia, who can slot into multiple attacking positions – where, exactly, would Aubameyang factor in?
At least make your rumors somewhat plausible, people.
Bale going back to Tottenham
Wales. Golf. Madrid. Silly transfer stories. In that order.
Gareth Bale’s future has long been a hot topic of discussion, with Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane flip-flopping his stance on the the winger’s value more times than we can remember at this point.
Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, has never been quite so conflicted on the matter and is seemingly at the ready with a remark whenever a transfer rumor involving his oft-injured client pops up.
“I won’t comment on made-up stories,” Barnett told Sky Sports when Bale was linked with a stunning return to Tottenham on deadline day.
Ignoring for a minute that it’s impossible to trust anything agents say during the transfer window, he was right to cast doubt on the speculation. Spurs are arguably overstocked with wide forwards already. Does it really make sense to bring another one aboard, especially considering his checkered injury history?
A nonsensical swap deal
A struggling winger going one way, and an aging midfielder heading in the other direction? On the surface, it’s not the most outlandish suggestion. When you consider the parameters of a Federico Bernardeschi-Ivan Rakitic exchange, though, everything starts to fall apart.
The left-footed Italian winger, who’s gifted physically but often struggles to make the right decision with the ball, prefers to play on the right wing, where a certain Lionel Messi typically resides at the Camp Nou. That’s a non-starter.
And while Juventus need to upgrade their midfield, the 31-year-old Rakitic no longer offers the dynamism of previous years. He’d be a rotational piece in Turin, not the bona fide star Maurizio Sarri needs in that area.
This deal doesn’t make sense for anyone – including the two players – and it’s not surprising that it never came to fruition.