Transfer Deadline Day: Coronavirus blocks player moves

As football clubs scramble to secure last-minute deals, an unforeseen element is making things difficult for some - China's coronavirus epidemic.

Marko Arnautovic

Marko Arnautovic is one of the players whose move away from China could be affected due to the coronavirus outbreak.   -  AFP

Manchester United and West Ham United are just few of the many clubs hastily trying to complete transfer deals as the January transfer window closes for the season.

The Red Devils are desperately in need of a striker with Marcus Rashford ruled out due to a double stress fracture in his back for up to three months. David Moyes' West Ham is on the hunt for reinforcements across positions - looking to reportedly sign a striker, a midfielder and a right-back on the final day of the winter transfer window.

Potential solutions to their problems lie in China. However, China is the biggest roadblock too - courtesy the spread of the coronavirus epidemic. The deadly virus has killed at least 213 people so far, with as many as 7,711 confirmed cases in the country. The infection has spread to every region in mainland China and to 16 other countries, including the USA, Australia and India. The WHO has declared the Wuhan Coronavirus an international emergency.

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Many high-profile names from Europe feature in the lucrative Chinese Super League. However, the recent outbreak of coronavirus has led to the start of the league being postponed indefinitely. This has forced players to reconsider their course of action, with some wanting to head back to Europe. These potentially include the likes of Yaya Toure, Marko Arnautovic, Mousa Dembele, Odion Ighalo and Salomon Rondon.

According to The Mirror, Arnautovic, a former West Ham player, was hoping to move back to the Hammers. His move to Chinese club Shanghai SIPG six months ago was heavily criticised but the club seems to have been willing to have him back in its scheme of things. However, these plans have hit what looks like a dead end as flights from China have been grounded because of the virus, which means Arnautovic cannot make it to Europe on time to sign on the dotted line.

With the side battling to avoid relegation, Sebastian Haller will have to continue operating alone upfront. Meanwhile, according to Sky Sports , West Ham has won the race to secure Hull's Jarrod Bowen in a move rumoured to be worth £20m.

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Another transfer affected by the flight restrictions in China is United's effort to sign Ighalo on loan. The former Watford striker played a pivotal role in getting the Hornets promoted into the Premier League. According to the Express, the Nigerian, who plays for Shanghai Shenhua, is ready to fly back to Europe to try and make his way to Old Trafford. However flying restrictions dampen Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's attempts to flesh this one out.

The Red Devils are also being linked to Salomon Rondon. The former West Brom and Newcastle forward currently plays for Dalian Yifang and could have been an easy choice for United in circumstances that didn't involve the epidemic.

Hong Kong has imposed travel restrictions to and from China with European countries making on-arrival screening more stringent. Besides the transfer window, the World Indoor Athletics Championships, which China was to host in March, has been postponed. There is a cloud of doubt over the Shanghai GP, the men's alpine Skiing World Cup races in February have been cancelled and Olympic qualifiers scheduled to take place in the country have also been moved.