They say you can't find value in the January transfer window, but for some players the winter fire sale offers a chance to resurrect seasons, prove doubters wrong and even make a late entry into an international tournament squad.
The players on this list each have their own reasons for needing a move this month, but they have one thing in common: they desperately need a fresh start and they need it now.
1. Jesse Lingard
After a sensational second half of last season which saw Lingard score nine goals in 16 loan appearances for West Ham, the player was brought back into the fold at Manchester United with promises of playing time. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spoke of his desire to keep the England international at Old Trafford and reintegrate him into his first team plans. Yet just 88 minutes of Premier League football have followed.
He’s scored twice in that paltry time-frame yet can’t buy a league start for the club he joined as an eight-year-old. He doesn’t appear to be in Ralf Rangnick’s plans either and will need to leave the club if he’s to have any chance of making England’s World Cup squad at the end of the year.
2. Donny van de Beek
Like Lingard, van de Beek was retained last summer with expectations of greater playing time. He’s barely featured again this term and is reportedly desperate for gametime in order to make the Netherlands’ World Cup squad. Rangnick insists the 24-year-old can play a part at Old Trafford, but it’s not hard to see why he’s losing faith. A short-term deal would suit all parties.
3. Bernd Leno
While playing backup for an elite club is enough to get most players a game for their national side, it simply isn’t the case with Germany. Bernd Leno faces stiff competition to go to the World Cup as an understudy to Manuel Neuer, with Marc Andre Ter-Stegen and Kevin Trapp currently ahead of the 29-year-old in the pecking order. Mikel Arteta doesn’t appear to trust him but Leno would still need to push hard for an exit at this stage of the season. Fail to do so, however, and his international career may slip through his fingers.
4. Ross Barkley
While it may be too late to resurrect his England career under Gareth Southgate – Barkley hasn’t featured for the Three Lions since October 2019 – the midfielder is at risk of letting a once-promising career fade into obscurity. Now 28, Barkley should be at the peak of his considerable talents, yet he’s made just five appearances (151 mins in total) for Chelsea this season and is nowhere near making their starting XI any time soon.
A loan spell at Aston Villa last season started promisingly before ending with a whimper, but there is still a quality player in there. A permanent move to get his career back on track must be taken at the earliest opportunity.
5. Alex Iwobi
Currently away at AFCON with Nigeria, Iwobi is able to take a break from a calamitous spell at Everton. The former Arsenal prodigy is one of many players brought to Goodison Park on big wages, only to flop under a conveyor belt of different managers. Iwobi has managed just one goal in 13 appearances this season and fans have grown tired of his inconsistent displays. The Toffees find themselves in yet another crisis after sacking Rafael Bentiez this week and Iwobi must realise he’s unlikely to recapture his best form in blue anytime soon. But would any other club be willing to match his big wages? It’s doubtful.
6. Neco Williams
It's difficult being the understudy to a footballer who's revolutionising the very position you're in. It's harder still when that player is only three years older than you.
Neco Williams has struggled to make an impact whenever he's played in Trent Alexander-Arnold's absence – and understandably, too. But there's a decent full-back in there, who's still only 20 and should he follow the routes that Tino Livramento and Tariq Lamptey made away from Chelsea, he might get a chance to shine a little more, out of that considerable Trent-sized shadow.
James Milner seems more favoured to step into Trent's shoes, anyway. He seems a sensible buy for someone like Crystal Palace.
7. Adama Traore
There's no one in the Premier League quite like Adama Traore. Nuno Espirito Santo seemed to understand that intrinsically in a way that Bruno Lage doesn't – not that it's in any way denting a solid Wolves season.
It's just probably that time for the Midlands outfit to cut ties with their oily Spanish winger. There are no shortage of teams in the league who could do with his bustle and brutishness – whether from the bench to turn games or from the start as one of the better players in their side. Tottenham are linked – really, Adama would be so much fun to watch at half a dozen Premier League clubs, though.
8. Freddie Woodman
Newcastle United have three goalkeepers. The third-choice is Gareth Southgate's godson, he's 24 and actually, he's had impressive spells on loan, most notably at Swansea.
The Magpies have had their keeper worries this season but you'd guess that third-choice rookie Freddie Woodman wouldn't be in the plans of a newly state-backed outfit and that a considerable upgrade on both Karl Darlow and Martin Dubravka is around the corner. Woodman would improve plenty of sides in the top tier (and a half) and it would be nice to see him get some minutes in before the summer.
You never know how thin England are going to be on the ground in terms of keepers, come Qatar…
9. Tanguy Ndombele
Tanguy Ndombele was a force of nature at Lyon. He's glittered at Tottenham in spells. It's sad to see such a technical, powerful and all-round brilliant footballer trudging off the pitch during FA Cup games, having failed to have made a difference, though.
Ndombele might not be suited to the Premier League – he might just be suited to a different side with a different manager. But Tottenham need to cut their losses this much, symbolically as much as anything, to distance themselves from the last two years or so of malaise. It's time to start a-fresh for both parties.
10. Todd Cantwell
Electric in the Premier League the first time around, static the second. Todd Cantwell is a difference-maker who could be key to a side staying up this season… though it seems more and more unlikely by the day that it'll be Norwich.
The attacker has the potential to have a Grealish-like trajectory in football. It would be nice to see him back on a pitch and thriving, whether a team like Burnley want to splash the Wood millions or a team like Arsenal bring him in as cover for the forward spots. Players that good are no fun left on the bench.
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Ed is a staff writer at FourFourTwo, working across the magazine and website. A German speaker, he’s been working as a football reporter in Berlin since 2015, predominantly covering the Bundesliga and Germany's national team. Key FFT features include an exclusive interview with Jude Bellingham following the youngster’s move to Borussia Dortmund in 2020, a history of the Berlin Derby since the fall of the Wall and a celebration of Kevin Keegan’s playing career.
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