Deadline day saw no record-breaking transfer fees, inflatable dildos or unconfirmed sightings. It was, by all accounts, an incredibly mundane one.
Yet it may prove to have enormous consequences for the players who did quietly seal moves before the winter window slammed shut.
Here, we take a look at five players who could see their careers take a different path in the coming months.
Takumi Minamino (Liverpool to Southampton; loan)
Welcome to #SaintsFC, @takumina0116 😇February 2, 2021
The Japan international has taken the brave decision to leave Liverpool in search of regular playing time at Southampton. On the surface, it’s a loan which makes perfect sense. On the south coast, Minamino will be working with a coach who promotes a similar style of football to Jurgen Klopp’s Reds. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team are also hard working, high-pressing and look to hit teams on the break.
These conditions should give Minamino the best platform on which to build confidence and Premier League experience, without sacrificing his playing style. Hasenhuttl’s decision to let Shane Long join Bournemouth on loan also means there will be less competition for game time at St. Mary’s.
Since joining Liverpool for £8m 12-months ago, Minamino has managed only four goals and two assists in 31 appearances. It’s a far cry from the 98 goal contributions he managed in 199 Salzburg games; Hasenhuttl could be the key to helping him recapture that form.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Arsenal to West Brom; loan)
Welcome to the Albion, @MaitlandNiles ✍️🏴The @England international has joined us on loan until the end of the season from @Arsenal.February 1, 2021
What is AMN? A young and talented footballer, of course, but we really mean what position does he play? He’s excelled as a right-back, a right-wing back, a left-wing back and, occasionally, at central midfield too. His versatility has led to greater playing time so far in his Arsenal career, but it’s clear he wants to nail down a place in midfield.
He has all the attributes to succeed there; intelligence, work rate, technical ability, strength and speed. But he’s also had tough competition, and getting into the Gunners lineup ahead of experienced internationals has proved difficult thus far.
At struggling West Bromwich Albion, it should be easier to stake a place in the first team. The Baggies are in big trouble and will need their loan signing to bring his A-game if they’re to bridge the nine-point gap between themselves and safety. Sam Allardyce may have his detractors, but he has a clear blueprint for success.
Workrate, discipline and concentration are a must for any Allardyce midfielder - useful lessons for any youngster to pick up. Knuckle down, and he may force his way into Mikel Arteta’s plans for next season.
Josh Maja (Bordeaux to Fulham; loan with option to buy)
Rabbit out the hat! 🐇Here’s the #MAJIC @joshmaja! 🪄 pic.twitter.com/NXOIqXym5IFebruary 1, 2021
Fans will recognise the name Josh Maja from Netflix’s Sunderland Till I Die. The first series heavily centered around the striker’s refusal to sign a new contract and, eventually, transfer to Ligue 1 club Bordeaux in January 2019. Sunderland were relegated without his influence.
The 22-year old has always targeted a return to England, however, and now has an opportunity to prove himself at the highest level. His loan to Fulham includes an option to buy for £8m and Maja will know his goals could, again, be the difference between relegation and survival. The Cottagers are seven points from safety and Scott Parker desperately needs a reliable source of goals, with Aleksandar Mitrovic struggling with form and fitness.
Maja is lightning quick and has good composure - it could be a masterstroke signing if all goes to plan.
Joshua King (Bournemouth to Everton; £5m)
Welcome to #EFC, Joshua King! ✍️🔵 pic.twitter.com/LvSTScOsJaFebruary 2, 2021
Caught in a tug-of-war between Fulham and Everton as the deadline approached, Norweigian King eventually opted to join the Toffees in an alleged £5m deal. King was high on the wishlist of a number of clubs last summer, only to end up staying on the south coast. It was a poor choice for all concerned.
King is yet to score a league goal this season despite playing 12 games in the Championship. It’s a strange quirk of King’s career that he’s often struggled to find the back of the net in the second-tier but has proved lethal in the Premier League.
His 48 goals in 161 Premier League appearances is an excellent return for a support striker, and Carlo Ancelotti knows he now has a reliable goal threat to call from the bench when required. It’s unlikely he’ll replace either Richarlison or Dominic Calvert-Lewin in Ancelotti’s front line, but he shouldn’t be short of opportunities. King has never played for a dominant side in the Premier League, and this could be the start of a golden period for the 29-year old.
Joe Willock (Arsenal to Newcastle United; loan)
🗣 A message from our new signing! Great to have you on board, @Joewillock! 🙌⚫️⚪️ pic.twitter.com/YGHJSNPiphFebruary 2, 2021
Another talented Arsenal midfielder flying the nest in search of game time. Willock was a first team regular at the Emirates last campaign, making 44 appearances in Arteta’s first season at the helm. He’s found minutes harder to come by this term, however, and was made available for loan on deadline day. Arteta will be looking to see if his young playmaker can provide the creative spark sorely lacking at Newcastle United.
Steve Bruce’s side have been widely condemned for their cautious approach and insipid displays this season, and badly need a player who can produce an occasional moment of magic. Magpies fans had no doubt been hoping for a more seasoned conjuror, but will have to make do with the 21-year-old until the summer.
Three goals and three assists in five Europa League appearances this season are proof of Willock’s offensive qualities, mind, and Toon fans would do well to get behind him. He is desperate to make the grade at Arsenal, and could be an inspirational signing at St. James Park if that translates into good performances.
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