January 2023 winter transfers: Will million-dollar signings bear fruit in the long run?

The winter transfer window saw several youngsters, who shone at the FIFA World Cup, move for big-money signings to Premier League clubs.

Published : Feb 15, 2023 09:30 IST

When Bruno Fernandes joined Manchester United in 2020, the club was sixth in the Premier League table. By the end of the season, the Red Devils had risen to third, with Bruno contributing 20 goals.

The impact of winter signings — from Bruno Fernandes to Luis Suarez — has seen teams historically trying to get the final push in climbing up the table, and at times, winning titles.

Fernando Torres, who joined Chelsea as its then most-expensive signing in January 2011, scored the decider against Barcelona in the Champions League semifinal, as The Blues went on to win the UCL that year.

Torres’ former club, Chelsea, is now under a new owner and in the January transfer window, had a spending splurge similar to Real Madrid’s summer transfer window in 2009. It bought nine players in the winter window, including Portuguese striker Joao Felix on loan from Atletico Madrid.

Some deals failed at the very last moment (Julian Araujo to Barcelona, Hakim Ziyech to Paris Saint-Germain), while some made it to the most expensive list.

Here is the list of the five most expensive moves in this transfer window.

Enzo Fernandez — Benfica to Chelsea — £106.8 million

The FIFA World Cup has had a history of finding new stars — from James Rodriguez in 2014 (who joined Real Madrid after the WC) to Kylian Mbappe in 2018 (who joined PSG for a world record fee for a teenager).

After Qatar 2022, the new star is 22-year-old Enzo Fernandez, an Argentine who won the World Cup and also scored in the tournament. Chelsea pounced for his signature, but Benfica — which Enzo had joined in June 2022 — stayed put about the transfer fee.

In the final hours of the window, Todd Boehly and Co. struck a deal, breaking the British transfer record of 100 million pounds (Jack Grealish to Manchester City) as Enzo made his way to London.

Enzo tops the list in terms of passing in the Portuguese league and may well be the missing piece of the puzzle in the midfield after Jorginho left for Arsenal and N’golo Kante struggles with injury.

Enzo’s passing stats for Benfica this season (source: Opta)

Passes completed 1446
Progressive passes 105
Successful switches of play 130
Successful long passes 161
Passes into final third 248

Mykhailo Mudryk — Shakhtar Donetsk to Chelsea — £88.5m

Graham Potter may have looked like a struggling manager with Chelsea, but he had earlier helped Brighton and Hove Albion to be a difficult side to break under him.

The role that Leandro Trossard used to play at Brighton (under Potter) may have inspired the signing of Ukrainian youngster Mykhailo Mudryk to Stamford Bridge.

With seven goals and as many assists in 12 matches, the 22-year-old had the most goal contributions in the Ukrainian Premier League this season and in his first match at Chelsea, he became the fastest player in the Premier League so far at 36.63 kilometres per hour.

Though the winger has not won a game in his first two matches for the Premier League side, it will be interesting how he fits into Potter’s plans, as the manager has transgressed the side from a 3-5-2 formation to a conventional 4-3-3 counter-attacking one.

Anthony Gordon — Everton to Newcastle United — £45m

The second in the list of fastest Premier League players this season is Anthony Gordon (36.61 km per hour). The winger, at 21, already has 78 Premier League appearances, scoring seven and assisting eight goals for Everton.

Gordon joined Newcastle United as part of Eddie Howe’s rebuild. The Magpies have lost just once in the league so far — the only side to do so, this season.

The youngster can play both as a midfielder and a winger, adding bench strength to a squad that prides on forwards such as Alexander Isak, Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron.

But his most probable position would be a shift between him and another Englishman, Joseph Willock, in the midfield, creating attacks and making opportunities to score if the frontline is heavily marked.

Cody Gakpo — PSV Eindhoven to Liverpool — £37m

Liverpool saw one of its most feared trios — Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino — break when Firmino became inconsistent with injuries and Sadio Mane left for Bayern Munich.

Jurgen Klopp signed two expected solutions in each window, Darwin Nunez (from Benfica) and Cody Gakpo (from PSV Eindhoven).

Gakpo scored 21 goals and provided 25 assists in 41 Dutch Eredivisie games since the start of last season, becoming the only player in Europe’s top 10 leagues with over 20 goals and assists each, since the beginning of 2021-22.

In the World Cup too, he impressed with three goals in five matches, scoring one of the fastest goals of the tournament. While Manchester United and Liverpool were both interested in him, it was the latter that secured his signature eventually.

Gakpo is expected to fill the void left by Mane, along the left wing, while his 193cm frame will also be an added advantage for aerial chances and set-pieces.

A misfiring Firmino had seen Mane step up as Liverpool finished as the Champions League runner-up last year.

While Gakpo has come into the Premier League with great numbers, it will be interesting if he can prove his worth in England, and more importantly, lift Liverpool from mid-table to a Champions League spot.

Benoit Badiashile — AS Monaco to Chelsea — £35m

Chelsea saw its Champions League-winning centre-back Antonio Rudiger join Real Madrid while Thiago Silva, at 38, is no more a formidable first-choice defender.

The solution that arrived is a 21-year-old France international, who had impressed with AS Monaco and the Blues were very quick to notch him up. Badiashile, with a height of 6’4”, imposes himself physically on forwards, thwarting runs, while his height gives him an advantage in the air.

He fits into Chelsea’s plans perfectly because the Premier League side was looking for a left-footed centre-back to strengthen its three-back system and had Josko Gvardiol (RB Leipzig) and Badiashile on its shortlist.

However, the latter’s deal was quickly sealed by Chelsea in a window which saw it sign nine players in January, spending nearly 260 million pounds.

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