January’s transfer window spending in Europe was led by one team: Chelsea. The Blues splashed over €300 million on eight players including Enzo Fernandez (€121m), Mykhailo Mudryk (€70m), Benoit Badiashile €37m) and Noni Madueke (€35m), which blew the rest of the clubs out of the water.
Nobody else could compete with that level of investment — in fact, Chelsea ended up spending more in January than the combined total of all clubs in the Bundesliga, LaLiga, Serie A and Ligue 1 — but which clubs and players did well during the window and which did not?
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Though slightly ridiculed for the way Todd Boehly and others have gone about their transfer business with what has seemed like daily pursuits of new names — plus an unconventional and much-publicised hijack of Arsenal’s move for €70m winger Mykhailo Mudryk — Chelsea can still look back on a spectacular month.
In addition to landing their No. 1 target with a British transfer record €121m move for Benfica midfielder Enzo Fernandez in the dying minutes of the transfer window, the club have secured a fine blend of up-and-coming performers in the right age group. Badiashile and Mudryk have already impressed, while 18-year-old Andrey Santos in particular it has the potential to become a top player. Their problematic centre-forward dilemma ultimately wasn’t addressed, but Chelsea have invested heavily and wisely for the future and spread out the cost of the fees over long contracts to avoid financial fair play issues.
As a result of Moises Caicedo‘s outstanding performances this season, Brighton looked set to lose the Ecuador international to either Chelsea or Arsenal. But despite tempting bids of around £70m, the club turned the tables on both the player and his suitors by approaching the transfer market on their own terms. As Caicedo’s head was turned, Brighton stood firm and stuck to their guns. Whether their actions will prove an example for “smaller clubs” to follow remains to be seen, but their unwillingness to compromise was refreshing and keeping the 21-year-old could prove a determining factor as they fight for a European spot.
Though the German champions didn’t throw extraordinary money at the January window they did well by addressing immediate needs. Experienced Switzerland international goalkeeper Yann Sommer joined in an €8m move from Borussia Monchengladbach as cover for the injured Manuel Neuerwhile the free transfer of Daley Blind from Ajax offers head coach Julian Nagelsmann new options in defense and midfield. The loan (with a €70m permanent option) of Joao Cancelo from Manchester City — one of the best full-backs in the world when in form — was one of the most surprising deals of the entire month.
The Gunners wanted to sign Mudryk and Caicedo for big money, but missing out on the pair might prove a blessing in disguise as Arsenal ended up with fairly safe, but well-executed, January business. While the club have spent heavily in the last five years, the fact that they occupy the top spot in the Premier League is just as much to do with coach Mikel Arteta building a functioning collective and having trust in his current group than relying on individual star performers. The additions of Leander Trossard (£12m) and Jorginho (£10m) — with neither expecting to feature in every game — add experience and proven quality, while 22-year-old Jakub Kiwior (£22m) will give them much-needed depth in defence.
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While spending has hardly been lacking at Goodison Park over the past years, it is unthinkable that the 19th-placed side stayed inactive when investment was needed the most.
Appointing Sean Dyche to replace the sacked Frank Lampard just a day prior to the end of the January transfer window understandably didn’t the help the planning (though having a sporting director should have mitigated this to a certain extent), yet one has to wonder how the squad Dyche inherits in his fight for survival matches his style of football.
Everton’s unsuccessful last-minute chase for a centre-forward as a back-up or alternative to injury-prone Dominic Calvert-Lewin — with Fenerbahce’s Michy Batshuayi and Coventry City’s Viktor Gyokeres linked — was a clear sign that more firepower was desired. Neither did the club manage to come up with a replacement for young forward Anthony Gordonwho signed for Newcastle for £40m.
Coveted by several elite clubs, the 21-year-old had hoped his time to leave Brighton for Champions League football had arrived. In a seemingly desperate attempt to force a late move, Caicedo released a rather unambiguous written statement to try and pressure his club to accept bids from Chelsea or Arsenal.
The emotional appeal was quickly rebuffed by Brighton, who in turn ordered the player not to report to training before the transfer deadline had passed. Arguably one of the top central midfielders in the Premier League on the evidence of this season, it’s no belittlement to Brighton that Caicedo will outgrow them at some point, but that time was not now.
Despite being linked with some big names in European football, the Catalans ended up empty handed in the January transfer window (at least for the time being, with a €4m move for LA Galaxy right-back Julian Araujo still pending). With a mountain of debt and sharpened financial constraints imposed by the Spanish League still hanging over them like a cloud, Barcelona even needed a court ruling to approve the contract extension of midfield prodigy, Gavi.
While Barcelona may not have considered the January window as instrumental for success — they still sit fairly comfortably at the top of LaLiga — a couple of new faces to add their squad wouldn’t have gone amiss given the exits of Memphis Depay, Gerard Pique and Hector Bellerin.
Just a year after Juventus spent €70m to sign Serbia centre-forward Dusan Vlakhovicthe Italian league in its entirety spent a mere €28m in January 2023. Compromised by the on-going accounting scandal at Juventus — one of the traditional big spenders — a media deal dwarfed in comparison with the Premier League and a general economic post-pandemic downturn, Italian clubs find themselves in the unfamiliar position of making loan deals amongst each other or looking to their academies to shore up their first-team squads.