The January bonanza ended on Friday evening. Here, playsarea ranks the worst pieces of business conducted over the winter transfer window.
10. Matteo Politano
Inter Milan ➡️ Napoli
Are Napoli not interested in being good? An aging squad advancing toward greener pastures and rife with issues requires an injection of youth, but the currently mid-table side is eyeing transfers synonymous with a mid-table club. In that sense, Politano is a perfect get, as he’s mid-table quality.
The 26-year-old agreed to a two-year loan with a €28-million obligation to buy, which is a bit rich considering the winger is an inferior player to Lorenzo Insigne, Jose Callejon, Hirving Lozano, and Dries Mertens – though Mertens appears set to leave in the summer. Underwhelming stuff from the Partenopei.
9. Gedson Fernandes
Benfica ➡️ Tottenham
On the surface, Fernandes’ 18-month loan move to Tottenham Hotspur from Benfica is a low-risk venture, especially since the deal doesn’t include an obligation to buy. That’s a good thing for Spurs, because his £56-million clause is expensive for a 21-year-old who has struggled to get into a game this season.
A debutant during the 2018-19 campaign, Fernandes played as a ball-stopping central midfielder. This year, he started just twice for Benfica, with Bruno Lage preferring Adel Taarabt in Fernandes’ revised attacking role.
Also, Benfica were happy to let him go. Please prove us wrong, Gedson.
8. Paco Alcacer
Borussia Dortmund ➡️ Villarreal
If only Villarreal could wrap Alcacer in protective gauze. A €23-million purchase (more than Borussia Dortmund paid for Erling Haaland) from BVB, the 26-year-old has been desperate to return to the form he showed while bagging 18 league goals in just 11 starts last year. Why loan striker Karl Toko Ekambi to Lyon?
Injuries haven’t helped, though Villarreal will realize that Alcacer’s returns were tethered to elite service from Jadon Sancho and others (something Haaland is experiencing now). Here’s hoping the Yellow Submarine get a new version of Alcacer, and not the injury-prone player who struggled at Barcelona.
7. Carles Perez
Barcelona ➡️ Roma
Spanish winger Perez’s move to Roma is a solid addition for the Italians. The 21-year-old’s loan plus €14.5-million compulsory buy option helps cover for Nicolo Zaniolo’s season-ending injury and Cengiz Under’s mercurial displays. Perez can also play as part of a two-man forward line, and become a needed reinforcement for Roma.
For Barcelona boss Quique Setien, Perez’s move isn’t a great sign. Following Luis Suarez’s injury, the club’s board told Setien that Perez could leave and a forward would be bought. Backtrack much?
Barca’s biggest problem remains its board. You’re canceled, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
6. Yannick Carrasco
Dalian Yifang ➡️ Atletico Madrid
Carrasco’s return to Atletico Madrid on loan from Dalian Yifang is similar to Odion Ighalo’s loan to Manchester United for a couple of reasons. Both moves are last-ditch admissions of failed pursuits for other players, and the result is a stopgap Chinese Super League recruit whose best football is almost certainly behind him.
Los Colchoneros boss Diego Simeone clashed with Carrasco during his first spell in Spain, leading to a shocking exit during the Europa League-winning term. However, with the breakdown in negotiations for Edinson Cavani, Atleti’s hand was forced. This is hardly a transaction that reflects Atleti’s stature.
5. Andrea Petagna
SPAL ➡️ Napoli
After nouveau riche Hertha Berlin, Napoli’s €65.5 million splash was the second-highest expenditure during the window. And for what? Defensive midfielder Stanislav Lobotka, center-back Amir Rrahmani, former Leipzig midfielder Diego Demme, and Politano. Cue the dismaying rebuild.
Those signings show a lack of ambition from a club that finished in Italy’s top three in six of the last seven seasons. Chief among them is barrel-chested striker Petagna, who was lured from SPAL for €14 million before being loaned back. Sure, that’ll cover for Mertens’ exit (it won’t).
4. Ashley Young
Manchester United ➡️ Inter
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. While that’s a bit harsh on Young, it’s hard not to chuckle at Antonio Conte’s latest move to bolster Inter Milan’s Premier League-heavy lineup. To Young’s credit, the 34-year-old did provide an assist for Lautaro Martinez on his Inter debut vs. Cagliari.
The peculiar thing about Young’s addition is the timing. With his terms at Manchester United set to lapse in the summer, Inter could have snagged the full-back for free then. Instead, the club paid €1.5 million.
Yes, left-back was an area of need for Conte and Co. But Ashley Young? Really?
3. Borja Baston
Swansea City ➡️ Aston Villa
Out of favor at the Liberty Stadium under Steve Cooper, Swansea City let Baston walk for free despite six months remaining on his current terms. The move makes sense for Swansea: After Baston bagged five goals in his first five Championship matches, the club-record £15.5-million signing scored just one in his next 16 contests. Ouch. That’s similar to his one goal in 18 Premier League outings with Swansea in 2016-17.
The 27-year-old fits the profile of a certain flop at Aston Villa. Wesley’s season-ending injury required reinforcements in attack, so Dean Smith lured Baston and Tanzanian Mbwana Samatta to Villa Park. Inspiring stuff.
2. Danny Drinkwater
Chelsea ➡️ Aston Villa
Drinkwater rivals Baston for the title of worst Villa recruit after joining on loan from Chelsea following a disastrous short-term spell at Burnley. Drinkwater played twice in all competitions for the Clarets, with one appearance coming before and another after suffering an ankle injury while getting beat up outside a Manchester nightclub.
This might be Drinkwater’s last chance to revive his career. That’s not a risk a team fighting for its top-flight life should be taking, and the early returns are not promising. The 29-year-old was awful in the 6-1 defeat to Manchester City, committing an error that led directly to a goal, and he wasn’t much better against Brighton or Watford.
1. Odion Ighalo
Shanghai Shenhua ➡️ Manchester United
If there was a transfer that elicited universal guffaws, it was Ighalo’s Premier League return. After failing to replace Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku, United were desperate for help up top. And since the Erling Haaland move didn’t come to fruition, the Red Devils opted for Ighalo.
Despite the 30-year-old’s sparkling form during AFCON qualifiers and the tournament, his loan signing is an admission of poorly planned transfer policies, and it shows the club misjudged its in-squad attacking depth during the preseason. However, United’s last 50 shots in the league haven’t gone in, so anything will help at this point.