As the above image indicates, January signings can be hit and miss. While Luis Suarez became a hero at Liverpool, almost firing the club to an unlikely Premier League title in 2013/14, Andy Carroll struggled to live up to his (significant) price tag.
Both men found the chance to join the Reds too good to turn down in 2011, with former club Newcastle suggesting Carroll handed in a transfer request in order to force through a move – a version of events disputed by the towering centre-forward. With the mid-season market open for business once more, the following players would be advised to use any means possible to find a new employer…
12. Danny Ings (Liverpool)
If a badly timed transfer can put the kibosh on a footballer’s career, a badly timed injury can do so with double the cruelty. Ings managed to endure both at once, signing for Liverpool after an impressive season with Burnley and, after a promising three goals in his first nine outings, promptly shredded his knee ligaments which sidelined him for seven months.
Weeks after making his comeback, his other knee buckled: he was out for another nine months, and has struggled to work his way back into the first-team reckoning since recovering. Still only 25, Ings would offer plenty to a whole host of top-flight clubs.
11. Jack Colback (Newcastle)
At first, Colback’s decision to incite the wrath of Wearside by jumping ship from Sunderland back in 2014 looked like a smart one. The midfielder was a fixture in Newcastle’s midfield during his first two years at St James’ Park, with his tidy ball-playing game showing a maturity that suggested he’d be at the heart of his side’s future.
Yet despite remaining central to Rafa Benitez’s set-up throughout last season’s promotion campaign, he’s been comprehensively bombed out in the months since. Assuming the 28-year-old gets on his bike this January – and provided he’s capable of the level he played at a couple of years back – there could well be a canny signing for a club willing to take a small risk.
10. Saido Berahino (Stoke)
From the vantage point of January 2018, it now seems like a bizarre trick of the memory that Tottenham once made a £25m bid for the hot young goalscorer Saido Berahino. Yet it did happen and, even more oddly, it happened for good reason.
Berahino is going through the sort of dry spell that would make a monk wince – ludicrously, it’s closing in on 700 days since he last introduced ball to net. Though the possibly imminent change of manager at Stoke may offer the forward a fresh start, the most likely way of ensuring that he gets one would be to cut his losses and move elsewhere.
9. Stefano Okaka (Watford)
Injuries have kept Okaka out of the Watford team at times in 2017/18, but he’s likely to play third fiddle to fellow frontmen Troy Deeney and Andre Gray when all are fit and available. The burly Italian has a contract until 2021 at Vicarage Road and the Hornets would probably seek to sign a replacement before sanctioning his departure midway through the season, but with his 29th birthday on the horizon Okaka would be wise to consider his options.
He certainly seems to be doing exactly that: the striker’s agent has dropped numerous hints about his client’s future, as well as hitting out at Marco Silva for sidelining Okaka.
8. Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
While it’s long been fashionable to accuse Walcott of stagnating, the truth is that he’s been a perfectly serviceable attacker during his 12 years at Arsenal, hamstrung largely by the over-inflated expectations brought on by Sven-Goran Eriksson’s ludicrous decision to take him to the 2006 World Cup.
This season, though, those accusations have turned into something of a self-fulfilling prophecy; his four league outings speak of a player who has faded badly into the background. While the uncertain futures of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil mean several of Arsenal’s second-choice attackers may suddenly find themselves with renewed hope, the cold, hard truth is that Walcott has fallen away so grimly of late that a change of scene may be the only way forward.
7. Yaya Toure (Manchester City)
It looked like Yaya Toure might be among the first victims of Pep Guardiola's Manchester City reign when the Ivorian was sidelined following irate comments from his agent. But after Toure's apology in early November, he flourished in the first season of the Great Guardiola Reboot: of the remaining 27 league games, he started 22.
This season, however, that figure has dropped rather starkly – to zero, in fact. And while Toure may have plenty to offer off the pitch, he surely has something to offer on it too – if only for a little while longer: he's 35 in May.
6. Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle)
Just as cult films are often bad films, cult hero footballers aren’t always the finest exponents of their craft. In that vein, Mitrovic is certainly a cult hero at St James’ Park, but how good a striker he is remains a much-debated topic.
Rafa Benitez appears far from convinced, having yet to grant him a start in the league this term, with Dwight Gayle, Ayoze Perez and Joselu all preferred in the lone-striker role. His nine top-flight goals two seasons ago are proof of the 23-year-old's ability to score at this level, although a wild temperament could dissuade suitors from taking a punt on the targetman in January.
5. Stephen Ireland (Stoke)
Ireland was named among Mark Hughes’ substitutes in the New Year’s Day defeat by Newcastle, leading to startled cries of “is he still at Stoke?!” up and down the country. The Irishman has just returned to full fitness after his recovery from a broken leg was delayed by several setbacks, but game time in the Potters isn’t likely to be forthcoming, particularly as the midfielder hasn’t started a Premier League match since April 2015.
Now 31, Ireland will be desperate for regular first-team football in the coming months, even if he has to drop down a division to get it.
4. Ahmed Musa (Leicester)
Leicester’s struggles in the first half of the 2016/17 campaign had much to do with their poor recruitment the previous summer. Musa was one of the post-title arrivals, costing the Foxes a club-record fee of £16.6m from CSKA Moscow but rarely convincing under Claudio Ranieri.
Minutes on the pitch proved even harder to come by once Craig Shakespeare took charge in February, and Claude Puel hasn’t exactly been accommodating either: in 2017/18 the Nigerian’s been included in a Premier League matchday squad just once. Given that Musa’s sole appearance since May came in a relatively insignificant EFL Cup tie with Sheffield United, a parting of the ways this month would be the best course of action for both player and club.
3. Matteo Darmian (Man United)
Darmian looked like an astute addition back in summer 2015, but things haven’t worked out for the Italian at Old Trafford. A full-back who can play on either the right or the left, the ex-Torino man has slipped behind Antonio Valencia, Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelof, Daley Blind and even Ashley Young in the pecking order, with Jose Mourinho having handed him just two Premier League starts this season.
A return to Italy looks most likely for the 28-year-old, but mid-ranking English clubs shouldn’t necessarily be put off by Darmian’s struggles at United.
2. Mathieu Debuchy (Arsenal)
A fun if often frustrating player at Newcastle, the French full-back has been frozen out in north London during the past year-and-a-half, with mooted moves to Nice and Brighton both collapsing last summer. “I am training with the professionals during the week and I am playing with the youngsters at the weekend,” he lamented back in September. “I am not the future.”
It's a remarkable fact that since joining the club for £12m in 2014, Debuchy has only played 13 Premier League games – which, once wages are factored into the equation, tallies up at over £2m per top-flight outing. Bad luck with injury accounts for much of that, of course, but Debuchy’s career needn’t be over just yet – he's still only 32.
1. Lazar Markovic (Liverpool)
The winger signed in that disastrous post-Luis Suarez splurge is, believe it or not, part of Liverpool’s squad this season. The fact that his sole involvement in first-team affairs so far came as an unused substitute for a single League Cup tie suggests, however, that he might not be for much longer.
As it stands, Markovic exists as an object lesson in how a badly judged move can derail a player’s career. The then-20-year-old was a thrillingly mercurial winger when snapped up for £20m four years ago, but his subsequent career has constituted three abortive loan spells and a despondent failure to make the most of the half-chances he’s been given at Anfield.
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